Sanskrit superheroes invade: Box Office

While home-grown magic realism goes phut, Indian filmmakers are charging in with the full Hindu pantheon.
Fierce Indian woman with glowing eyes

How have the Australian films been doing?

George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing dropped 42% in ticket sales after losing 10% of its screens, to make $246,000 on the way to $838,000. Yet another week of mediocre results, sadly. It has now made $13.5m around the world, with $10.2m from the US and only $3.5m outside, though those figures won’t be current. Here is one simple part of the explanation: it looks like a family fantasy but is rated M15+ here and R in the US, all for nudity. It looks too rude for kids and too juvenile for young adults.

Read: Three Thousand Years of Longing – Screenhub review

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is motoring along to $244,000 in four weeks to reach $2.70m – a satisfying result for an Australian director with a small film. In fact, Sophie Hyde’s film is doing better than George Miller’s, though it will be a long time before another antipodean makes the massive amount of money that Miller has made with films he has truly authored. 

Read: Leo Grande – Screenhub review

Franklin, the gorgeous documentary about the Franklin River and the opposition to the dam, opened on 35 screens and made $52,000 and $92,000 with previews. The producers know this is a specialist film, though it shouldn’t be.

Del Kathryn Barton’s Blaze has made $81,000 in three weeks, is down to 15 screens and took $2,000 last weekend. The disgrace which emerged last week continues.

Generally speaking, our audiences are turning their noses up at daring and fantastical films, but that is not true in one humungous filmmaking society that is out and roaring over pure unadultered kitsch-fuelled imaginative excess.

Hindi films triumphant 

For the third week in succession, the top earner in the Australian box office made less than $1m over the weekend, which means it was seen by maybe 70,000 people. While that number is pretty sad for the exhibitors, it is also a remarkable achievement for one surprising film. 

We didn’t even bother to list it last week as a new release. I am talking about Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva from specialist distributor and Bollywood expert, Mind Blowing Films.  It made $904,000 off 136 screens. 

According to Wikipedia, this film is a Hindi fantasy action-adventure which took five years in principal photography. It is episode one in the Astraverse storyworld, based on Hindu mythology and is a romp through pyrokinetic superpowers, dark forces and the Brahmastra itself, a universe-destroying weapon controlled by graduates of the secret Brahmansh training school. As Gotham Chopra, an Indian visual arts activist who is also the son of Deepak Chopra, once told Screenhub, ‘You want superheroes? We have thousands of them.’

This picture is a treasure for Mind Blowing Films, although Australia is a minor market and pirated DVDs will probably be infesting the Asian groceries. I am pretty confident it had the highest take last weekend in the world with $38.5m. [All figures converted to AU$]. $27.5m came from India.

It was the second highest for the US, with $6.4 million from 810 screens, beaten only by Barbarian which took 2,340 screens to make 14.5m. Meanwhile, North America had its second worst weekend for 2022, with a grand total of $58.6m, beaten by the UK with the highest total of $77.6m, followed by South Korea and China.

Variety reckons Brahmastra cost $58m to make, way under the $105m estimated for RRR, the Teluga thriller which has made around $230m around the world so far. 

Here is another nifty touch – in the production mix is Fox Star Studios, owned by Disney as part of Disney International Operations. Dharma Studios, the Indian side of the production, is firmly focused on the international superhero market, for which Disney and Disney+ is a fine springboard. 

Number two in our own tired domestic list is the teen romance film After Ever Happy, which arrived on 321 screens to make $781,000, comparing badly to its franchise predecessor After We Collided, which made $922,000 in September 2020, exactly two years ago and still deep in Covid restrictions.

Number three takes us to Bullet Train, still making $604,000 after six weeks, with $11.01m in its pockets. Surprisingly, horror film Orphan: First Kill is at number four in week two, with a total of $1.63m, while Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is at number five. 

Read: Bullet Train – Screenhub review

We really don’t like Beast, the lion-eating thriller which has made $43m in the US and $76m around the world. Here, big cat enthusiasts have given it $1m in a terrible waste of screens over three weeks. 

Some small, tempting films 

The Quiet Girl opened last weekend on 43 screens, via Madman. $91,000 for the weekend to build $157,000 with previews is not so horrible, given the current figures. It is a very modest film, made in Irish Gaelic, about a child sent to a farm to get away from a claustrophobic penniless family. David Stratton gives it a boost in The New Daily with this: ‘It is a small, perfect, and very moving film told with an unerring hold on its subject, and it reminds us how much art and power there can be in simple storytelling.’

It has done better than Crimes of the Future, the Cronenberg body horror, also from Madman, which has given that company a rare disappointment with $90,000 in four weeks. 

Last week we noticed the arrival of Flux Gourmet, which turned out to score all of 18 screens to make $7,600 altogether. It has esoteric written all over it, but the picture is actually made by Peter Strickland, a zany high art director well described in Melbourne’s Senses of Cinema. Peter Bradshaw’s review in The Guardian opens with this: ‘Peter Strickland is cinema’s elegant poet of fetish and rapture and oddity, creating movies that are like double-gatefold electro-pop concept albums full of deadpan not-exactly-comedy and strange mitteleuropaïsch pastiche.’

The Lost City of Melbourne has made $67,000 in two weeks from 14 screens, which rose by six in the second week. Audiences must be liking it. Unsurprisingly, Karl Quinn is a fan: ‘The documentary, made by cinema entrepreneur Gus Berger, began almost as an act of desperation, but stands as something proud, celebratory and hopeful. It is, in a sense, a perfect relic of the age of COVID and all it forced upon us, and its debut at the grand Capitol Theatre as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival is a moment of triumph – for Berger, for the festival, and for Melbourne as a whole.’

Read: The Lost City of Melbourne documents demolished ‘ghost cinemas’

No-one will gallop towards it in Byron Bay, but Melbourne is a cineaste’s city and Gus Berger is an underground hero, Don Quixote with brains and modest ambition. 

Next Weekend 

DC League of Super-Pets is one for the kids, just in time for the school holidays. It has not stormed the citadels of art around the world but will be amusing enough to stack up some loot in such an empty season. 

Bodies Bodies Bodies is a satirical slasher film, always a temptation to the morbid.

But Moonage Daydream is most likely to grip the Screenhub audience, because it is Brett Morgan’s documentary about David Bowie. The sound is said to be extraordinary and best viewed in true IMAX. It only has a few screenings. 

Read: Moonage Daydream: David Bowie film depicts a life well loved

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.