Anyone reading the media’s coverage of Australia‘s US opening weekend box office figures reaction may conclude that Baz’s latest offering is both the most appallingly acted, written and directed movie since Gigli and a financial flop of Waterworld-esque proportions. In a continuation of their gloomy narrative on the Australian film industry, the local press has cited weekend US takings as irrefutable evidence that the movie is already a “flop”, that Baz Luhrmann’s Oscar hopes are over and that American audiences just don’t care.

But a fifth-placed opening weekend for a movie of the nature of Australia shapes as a decent platform for a long run in North America. Variety notes that  Australia‘s $14.8 million in takings is higher than Luhrmann’s previous US successes, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge , while movie tracking site Box Office Mojo compares Australia’s opening weekend favourably with other Kidman Thanksgiving epics Cold Mountain and Far and Away (… and Colin Farrell vehicle Alexander , while we’re at it). While it’s in Fox’s interest to spin these figures wherever possible, industry standards Variety and Hollywood Reporter have a pretty good track record of finding the truth in the takings.

So what’s going on here? It seems the combination of an unwillingness to break a decade-old tradition of Oz film bashing and an obsession with Nicole Kidman’s forehead may be infecting some Australian reporters’ abilities to sensibly interpret a simple list of figures. Perhaps, as the Huffington Post noted over the weekend, we cynical locals just need to open our heart and let the magic wash over us:

The takings according to local media:

Vince and Reese killing Nic and Hugh  Australia has opened poorly in North American cinemas, possibly torpedoing the Oscar chances of director Baz Luhrmann. Australia opened in 2600 theatres across the US and Canada on Wednesday for the lucrative Thanksgiving long weekend, but audiences have largely snubbed the movie — The Herald Sun

Baz Lurhmann epic flops as America ignores Australia Baz Luhrmann’s epic starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman has had a mediocre opening in its homeland and in North America … Anecdotally at least, the film is not filling cinemas, with several art-house cinemas reporting less than stellar business and an antipathy among younger audience members to the film’s mass-marketing and media campaign — The Australian

Americans turn back on Baz Luhrmann’s Australia The uninspiring opening for Australia will likely damage the Oscar prospects for Kidman, Jackman and director-producer-screenwriter Luhrmann and it also raises the question if the Hollywood studio backing the film, Rupert Murdoch’s Twentieth Century Fox, will make money on its huge four-year investment in the project — The Canberra Times

The takings according to US media:

‘Christmases’ wraps up box office After a soft Wednesday debut, Australia noticeably picked up the pace as adults were sprung from holiday duties. Film logged a 96% bump Friday — considered the biggest single moviegoing day of the year — the largest uptick among non-family titles … Fox is confident Australia will at least match the domestic gross of Moulin Rouge , based on good word-of-mouth. On Saturday, when the overall box office dipped 6% over Friday, the Fox film declined only 1% — Variety

Chris Aronson, a senior vice president with the studio, said he believed the opening promised a strong run through the holiday season, when movies tend to remain in theaters for many weeks. “These are great numbers for an adult film,” Mr. Aronson said – The New York Times

‘Four Christmases’ takes Thanksgiving b.o. Fox’s relatively well-reviewed Baz Luhrmann-helmed action adventure Australia , starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, has registered $10.9 in opening coin through Friday. That included a $5.7 million Friday gross – Hollywood Reporter

Peter Fray

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