Fantastic Beasts blitzes Everything Everywhere All At Once

Could it be that family audiences are returning to the cinema just in time for the Easter holidays?
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore tops this week's Australian box office. Image: Image credit: Warner Bros

The blockbusters are stacking up for Easter, to make exhibitors very happy. Almost under the radar will be two niche documentaries that deserve to be noticed as well.

When the Camera Stopped Rolling is the personal documentary by Jane Castle about her mother, Lilias Fraser, a pioneer for both her gender and her ability to bring delicacy and poetry into the shouty olden days of official Australian true life filmmaking. We first discussed it before the AACTAs in 2021 (and look out for more on this film on ScreenHub soon!)

Read: AACTA finalists prove an extraordinary year for documentary

Also coming over Easter is Ithaka, which follows Julian Assange’s father as he tries to get his son out of Belmarsh Prison and the threat of extradition to the US. It is produced by Gabriel Shipton and directed by Ben Lawrence, who made indy feature Hearts and Bones and Ghosthunter, which starts as a kooky bit of fun and ends up as a deep study of trauma.

News of the week

The interesting news for this week is also a teaser for Easter. Everything Everywhere All At Once is about to launch, to take the slow motion Hollywood experiment with diversity just one tiny step further. Michelle Yeoh plays a Chinese-American woman who made a tax mistake around her laundromat business and is being investigated by the American IRS. She stumbles through a fortune cookie pack of family dilemmas to enter the metaverse, discover superpowers and save the world …

So we have a female heroine – indeed, an older person female heroine – and an Asian central character, all bound up in that dangerous genre mix of action film and pisstake.

On the straight fantasy level, Yeoh was in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ($580m worldwide), but she is versatile, as seen in the comedy Crazy Rich Asians ($320m) and Ang Lee’s gorgeous Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ($470m, and I bet you didn’t know that).

As a writer-director combo, the two Daniels, Kwan and Scheinert, were responsible for the extremely strange low budget Swiss Army Man, which was enough for the Russo Brothers Anthony and Joseph to give them this, their first high-budget film. The Russos normally direct, produce and write so they must have restrained themselves a lot at meetings.

Is their judgement sound? They are said to be the second most commercially successful directors of all time, with two Captain America films and one Avengers, along with TV series such as Arrested Development, so we guess the money for this was easy to find.

In the US, Everything Everywhere All At Once launched quietly two weeks ago to an opening weekend theatre average of $26,000. (all figures in AU$). That built interest from beady-eyed exhibitors and it is now on a modest 1,250 theatres, where it made $8.2m over last weekend. The budget is estimated at $34m, but it has plenty of presales so it is doing well.

We’ll have a review on ScreenHub very soon!

This weekend’s chart

Despite indifferent reviews, Fantastic Beasts: the Secrets of Dumbledore took top slot at its first encounter with 601 screens in 305 cinemas, in a classic blitz manoeuvre. 

Read: JK Rowling betrayed us but I’ll still watch Fantastic Beasts

It’s take of $5.24m beat Sonic the Hedgehog’s launch last week, which scored $3.66m off 476 screens. The blue bristler has since dropped 24% to make $2.77m last weekend to build a total of $7.24m. The Bad Guys made $1.58m in its second week, to reach $4.35m.

Morbius broke the pattern of positive figures and a small drop in week two as it bled 69% of its weekend take, dropped 176 screens to 413, and brought its total to $4.99m. The Batman dropped one slot and 52% to make an additional $675,000, to yield $36.21m over six weeks. 

Read: Morbius goes for bust with blood lust

In other words, The Batman is doing much better than any of the pictures it is competing against. 

Read: The Batman returns on a staggering scale

The first four films made around $10.8m, so this week is better than last by around 10% as the holiday mood takes over. And the exhibitors are relaxing a little more. 

Ambulance opened badly with $419,000 off 248 screens in 238 locations, so its semi-arthouse grown-up appeal is solid but unimpressive. Heist films are like that.

Indian anti-colonial pic RRR has washed through the system in three weeks to make $3.36m, down from 100 to 48 screens and losing 71% to make $171,000. For a minority political/ fantasy drama that is an impressive result. 

Dog has surprised us slightly, with $3.73m in three weeks, but it collapsed as the holidays took hold and the newer crowdpleasers filched half its 300 screens and  71% of its weekend take. 

Animated kids film Rabbit Academy took all of $107,000 in its first weekend. But we should remember that it could have been treated as a tot flick which only runs in the afternoon and could be doing well against expectations. But the quality of the animation suggested it was worth more than this – but young kids don’t bring a critical eye to a bunny’s fluffy tail. 

Punjabi film Galwakdi did pretty badly in its first weekend, with $84,000 off 37 screens, but may be a very limited release if Forum Films believes it is only a regional picture.

The Australian films 

It seems the Australian arthouse audience has gone deaf as the majestic River from Jen Peedom has slipped to $20,000 off 21 screens in week three – $140,000 altogether is just sad. 

Read: River director Jennifer Peedom: ‘Our attempts to control rivers have begun to backfire’

A Stitch in Time has a tiny thread in the system woven through six cinemas, down from 20, to make $1,500 in week eight, which is down 76% on last weekend. The total so far is $205,000. Ruby’s Choice has taken $161,000 in six weeks, is now running on three screens and made $631 last weekend. 

Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow has taken $60,000 in five weeks, has rolled down to a single cinema and took $622 last weekend. 

Australia: The Wild Top End is on one IMAX screen in 3D. It has been around since 2019, and was the last appearance of Aboriginal elder and actor Balang T.E Lewis who passed away in 2018.

Read: The Wild Top End is an expedition worth taking

Chef Antonio’s Recipes for Revolution is still chewing faintly at the edge of the market as an on-demand project, which has now take $7,400 in six weeks. On two screens last weekend it made $318 so it was in the smallest cinemas in the building.

How can we forget Loveland? $36,000, four weeks – see it now or never…

Read: Loveland – more an experience than a plot-driven narrative

Around the world

Sonic The Hedgehog opened a week later in the US, to make $95m in its first weekend, so it has done twice as well in North America compared to here on a per capita basis. That is very rare.

Impressive in itself, the figure also suggests that the timid family market has finally arrived. That would be confirmed if Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore blasts out of its pen in the US on April 15; both these pictures come from Paramount which has given the hedgehog a clear week to grab its audience.

It has taken $3.4m in China, despite the heavy Covid lockdown which has crippled the cinema market. It did slightly better than our result in the UK, which is low given that the franchise is so English. Maybe it is just pumping up.

Ambulance died horribly, just like here. Morbius came out on $53m and took $94m by the end of the second US weekend, topped up to $170m worldwide. Those numbers too suggest that the Australian market is slower than the US.

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.