Box Office: We have Nitram while the world has Venom

Nitram hits Covid while Bond and a creature feature galvanise the world exhibition scene.

Nitram, embodying the horror of mass murder and Justin Kurzel’s wise exploration of evil, opened at number 11. It made $68,000 off 41 screens in 39 cinemas.

A niche hero in action

Snowtown, Kurzel’s first film, opened in 2011 on 16 screens, took $169,000 in the first weekend and went on to take $1.13 million.

His version of Macbeth arrived in 2015, on 31 screens with $83,000 on its opening weekend and $505,0000 altogether.

The True History of the Kelly Gang, released in 2019, used 16 screens to make $93,000 and ultimately $116,000 and went online to Stan.

Outside his arthouse passions, he also made Assassin’s Creed, which opened on 276 screens, took $2.63 million on its first weekend and finally crammed $9.6 million into its box office soxses. He is a fine filmmaker and the audience knows it.

We know that Kurzel’s arthouse films will be niche and their returns bounce around, but they do have decent audiences in their space.

Read: Film Review: Nitram is hard to pin down

Stan hangs in

Besides his consistent artistic vision, these figures tell us he can take mainstream audiences with a tentpole project. The True History of the Kelly Gang was a Stan project, which meant those cinema figures are part of the publicity budget rather than a revenue source on their own. Stan did well enough out of that to support Nitram as well; in both cases streaming cuts into the box office, though Stan is not the exhibitors’ biggest enemy.

International sales agent Wild Bunch sold the UK-Ireland distribution rights to Picturehouse Entertainment, which also bought The True History of the Kelly Gang and made AU$500,000 before Covid hit the cinemas. Again, faith in Kurzel abounds.

A Covid anomaly in Punjabi

Nitram was up against formidable problems. Without cinemas in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, the picture is available in Queensland, WA. SA and the Northern Territory. It is due to open in 13 cinemas in NSW on October 11, one cinema on October 14, while Victoria and the ACT are still hanging out for the picture palaces to open.

But these barriers were also faced by Chai Mera Putt 3 which also launched this weekend and came in at number 7, on 31 screens and took $172,000.

That figure tells us the South Asian diaspora audience is stirring, and the picture was tailor-made to tempt them out. An Indian-Pakistani franchise made in Punjabil set in Birmingham and Lahore, it is described as a comedy-drama about illegal immigrants in a kind of cross-cultural share-house beset by immigration agents.

Sector recovering?

Internationally, Venom: Let There Be Carnage has set Hollywood hearts a pitter-patter. Variety describes the reason succinctly:

The Sony Pictures supervillain sequel sunk its teeth into the box office with $90.1 million, a debut that’s impressively reminiscent of opening weekends prior to the global health crisis. It’s the biggest three-day haul for a pandemic-era release, ranking ahead of “Black Widow” ($80 million), “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” ($75 million) and “F9: The Fast Saga” ($70 million). The follow-up film also surpassed its predecessor’s $80 million launch in 2018, which set an October box office record at the time. It now stands behind “Joker” ($93.5 million) as the second-biggest opening weekend ever for the month of October.

In $AU, that adds up to $125m in the US. BUT, on the exact same weekend, the last Daniel Craig Bond film, No Time to Die, made $165 million from various international territories, mostly in Europe where $40 million came from the UK. That is the best release of any picture outside China and the US since Covid arrived.

The film opens in the US next weekend so we will see the true state of the energised sector as Venom and Bond go head to head in their biggest Western market.

China sees Dune from October 22, which is the same date as the US, and No Time to Die from October 28, while Venom is likely but still undated.

Feeling left behind

Australians will hear the distant sound of US execs writhing across their albino yeti carpets with delight as they figure the good times are rolling again while we wait for Venom and Bond to collide on November 11 and a shambly wander into the picture houses by Dune on December 2.

It is not that the studios don’t care about the lucrative Australian market, or even that they have given up fretting about piracy – it is just that same old, same old problem that Australian voters are less likely to throw their oldsters and hospital staff under the bus than most places in the world. Among a lot of other places, the fiscal consequences show up in the cinema exhibition sector.

Meanwhile, let’s taunt each other with the trailer…

Read: Madeline Miller: from Screen Australia to Production Attorney on No Time to Die

David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.