Lee Kernaghen, Archie Roach – how music fares at the Oz box office

Lee Kernaghen: Boy From the Bush ventured into the fraught music documentary space this weekend on 134 screens.
Country guitarist dancing at dus

Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow, which came out in March 2022, is now a memorial to perhaps our most potent and honest Indigenous voices. Their music changes us all.

Read: Vale the great songman Archie Roach

The film, from Philippa Bateman, made all of $81,000 in cinemas though it bounced around for eight weeks. 

As the production company said on Facebook: ‘The film is streaming on Stan Australia but there will be some special screenings in cinemas, in memory of Archie Roach. Please check in with our Instagram account.’ 

Meanwhile, Lee Kernaghen: Boy From the Bush ventured into that same fraught music documentary space this weekend on 134 screens. Directed by Kriv Stenders, in another of his low budget attacks on the conventional industry, it is produced by unflappable veteran Queenslander Chris Brown, along with Diana Le Dean. It made $154,000 in its first weekend.

The team has already made Slim and I, which came out in 2020 on 118 screens, to a smaller debut of $96,000. The film explored the lives of Joy McKean and Slim Dusty the first family of Country, through the lens of their marriage, to the delight of local critics. It arrived on 118 screens, and took $437,000 over eight weeks in defiance of peak 2020 Covid, and we can bet it is trundling quietly along on Netflix along with Google Play, Apple TV and Prime Video. 

Read: Slim and I spotlights country music’s unsung legend

But Australian popular music lovers are not necessarily cinemagoers, as you might guess from the indifference to Archie on the big screen. Kriv Stenders also made The Go Betweens: Right Here, which made $120,000 in 2017, while Love in Bright Landscapes: The Story of David McComb of The Triffids, written and directed by Jonathan Alley, produced by Tait Brady and Danielle Karalus, made $134,000 early this year.

These prosaic numbers are not a new phenomenon – Paul Kelly: Stories of Me from Ian Darling with Susan McKinnon and Mary Macrae joining him as producers, took $542,000 in 2012, after launching on $67,300.

Elvis continues to be the current jewel in the Australian film manufacturing firmament, with $28.84m in six weeks. Internationally, it has made $333m, with $185m from the US and $27.3m from the UK. The Bazz brigade are (almost) heroes of both the commercial and artistic domains.

We need to keep relishing success, such as it is, because the top ten at the Australian box office continues to fall, from $13.39m to $9.422m. That is a pretty grim number for exhibitors. 

In Australia, Falling for Figaro has made $711k in three weeks, and $948,000 internationally, where it is pleasing its older audience on Netflix/Hulu/Apple TV and so on. How to Please a Woman continues to inch forward, with $2.38m in 11 weeks; again it has a variety of non-exclusive streaming deals.

The Drover’s Wife: the Legend of Molly Johnson is trembling on the edge of $2m, with just $13,000 to go which is the amount it made last week. So it is probably about ten days out. 

Blockbusters 

Even though Thor: Love and Thunder lost nearly half its audience last weekend for the third time in succession, it still won the box office competition with $2.41m, to reach $40.03m.

Top Gun: Maverick is at number three, with $1.25m, to score $85.28m in ten weeks. 

Between the two, Where the Crawdads Sing enticed $1.68m from around one million customers to bring $5.58m after two weekends.

Read: Where the Crawdads Sing – ScreenHub review

Minions, at number five, is still declining quickly after the holidays, though producers can skite about its $40.34m in six weeks, all leading to a total of just over a billion dollars around the world, of which 54% comes from outside North America. Standout figures are $52m from the UK, $30.25m from Germany, $48m from Mexico and $18m from Japan. The original Minions made just over $2 billion from the whole planet, so The Rise of Gru will be a more modest success. 

But still, a success. The first film made $120m from China and $53m from Russia, both now unavailable. 

Approaching now…

Sony’s Bullet Train, with Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock, is a dark comedy about multiple linked assassins on the same form of transport derived from a popular Japanese novel by Kōtarō Isaka. The New York Times explores the non-Japanese cast of the adaptation, while producer Kelly McCormick talks nuts and bolts for Variety.

Katie Holmes has a Covid relationship drama out called Alone Together, NZ writer/director Matthew J. Saville will see his film Juniper arrive through Transmission. Produced by Desray Armstrong and Angela Littlejohn, it travels with high hopes bolstered by Charlotte Rampling and Martin Csokas as the stars.

Boutique outfit Limelight, covering both Australia and New Zealand, has a subtitled reboot of a beloved Swedish series of crime capers, called The Jonsson Gang.

Maslow Entertainment, set up last year by ex Australasian Managing Director of 20th Century Fox Film Distribution Marc Wooldridge and Marketing & Partnerships Manager Alex Taylor, has been growing happily. They are already behind Lee Kernaghen: Boy From the Bush, added a restored version of Korean bloodfest Oldboy last weekend, and are pushing French film Employee of the Month from 4 August. The film stars its director Jérôme Commandeur, and is clumsily described as, ‘A hilarious comedy à la française that will make you cry with laughter and take you on a long overdue journey around the world, from South America to the North Pole!’

The DC League of Super-Pets is about to launch in the US but won’t get here until mid-September, for the next school holidays. You will just have to control yourself.

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.