Due out on wide release this weekend, Upgrade is doing fine in the US as a specialty release taster for VOD.
Image: Oceans 8.
Upgrade, Leigh Whannell's sci-fi film about body augmentation and surrender to digital technology, starts this week in Australia on a wide release. It opened in the US on June 1 in 1500 theatres, which is a wide specialist release branded to BH Tilt. The BH is for Blumhouse, of which Jason Blum is owner and producer. Behind BH in this is Universal and its marketing punch.
This is important because it is a rare release of an Australian written and directed film in the full US market with no apologies. In eleven days it has made $12.8m, though the site average has now dropped to $3170/per. It cost $5.3m to make, and had very low advertising support, so it is close to paying for itself before it leaves the cinema. However, that low budget is achieved by giving key creatives a percentage of returns and they won't be seeing much back before it moves to the smaller screens.
BH Tilt was launched in 2014 as a vehicle for theatrical release of films which would then go to VOD, so it is a strategy to extract whatever is available in cinemas and provide maximum push into the digital realm. Billed as a small release strategy, it seems to have evolved into something larger and grown beyond horror into sci-fi.
The blurb for the picture emphasises body horror and violence but it contains almost none of either.
The most successful BH release is The Darkness in 2016, which ran for fifty days and made about $16m, in current value. So Upgrade is on track to become the best BH Tilt title. However, the original Saw, written by Whannell and directed by James Wan took over $20m in its first weekend in 2003, so Upgrade is not in that league.
Can Breath make $4.5m? It looks like it as it has made $4.14m so far and grew by $176,162 this weekend. It is still on 114 screens a $1545/screen.
Peter Rabbit is still burrowing away, now on $26.7m, sadly too far from the fabled heights of $30m. It made $91,000 last week, which makes it a persistent beast.
Gurrumul is still around and has reached $778,845, which is pretty good for an Australian music documentary. The Go Betweens: Right Here took $111,000, 20,000 Days on Earth $410,000, Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man $300,000. Picking up on the Indigenous theme, Warwick Thornton's We Don't Need a Map made $8521.
But Cargo continues to be dismal. $75,000 in four weeks. Wyrmwood made $153,000.
Oceans 8 hit the world this weekend and immediately racked up $6.036m off a moderate 488 screens, guided by Roadshow. Indeed, Village Roadshow Pictures co-produced with Warner Bros Pictures. The screen average of $11,374 is impressive.
But Avengers: Infinity War is on $61.05m, Deadpool 2 has $32.744m and Solo trundles along on Stars Wars sentiment with $15m in three weeks.
Oceans 8 is an amiable caper comedy drama with women protagonists off an elderly franchise, and cost $77m to make. Avengers cost at least $400m to make. Deadpool 2 was $150m. Solo was around $330m. So, the per dollar return for Oceans 8 is looking pretty good so far. What is more, it took $55m and the top slot in the US without a single superhero in sight.
Again, the message is out there: lead women are a powerful force in tentpole productions. This one has a classy, classy cast having fun, including Cate Blanchett, Ann Hathaway and Helena Bonham-Carter.
Small but powerful
Hereditary has a reputation as one of the most genuinely scarey films in the last few years. Our interest centres on Toni Collette, whose performance is said to be stunning.
It came out here in the number four slot, modestly propelled onto 214 screens at $5337/screen. Total take was $1.42m. But in the US it has taken $20.2m, off a $13.2m budget.
A Quiet Place took $66m in the US on its first weekend and $2.42m here, and Get Out took $44m and $1.9m.
The Australian audience is said to resist horror films, though we ultimately fell for A Quiet Place. So far, we are doing better on a per capita basis compared to the US for Hereditary by almost a factor of two. Presumably that is the Toni Collette factor.
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