Wonder Woman tops weekend box office but takings were significantly down

A sequel to a 2017 superhero blockbuster and a prehistoric cartoon family have dominated the Christmas weekend at the box office, drawing back cinema goers who haven’t been to the movies in nine months.

Wonder Woman 1984, starring Gal Gadot, has topped the weekend box office.Credit:Clay Enos/Warner Brothers

Wonder Woman 1984, the second in the series of films about the female superhero from the magical island of Themiscyra, topped the weekend with $5.24 million tickets sold, playing on 808 screens.

The Croods: A New Age was the next biggest hit, earning $1.75 million at the weekend when swaths of Australia's largest capital city were urged to “stay home” due to an outbreak of the coronavirus.

The two films represent 87 per cent of Hoyts' takings at the weekend. Chief executive Damien Keogh said it was unusual to have only two major films opening on Boxing Day (last year there were four or five).

In total, cinemas took more than $8.3 million at the weekend, a well-needed boost to cinema revenue after nine months of hell for the film industry in which productions shut down, movie theatres closed for several months and cinemas that have reopened have been restricted to strict social distancing measures.

Wonder Woman's box office haul was easily the biggest for the Boxing Day weekend, but it pales in comparison with last year's biggest film – Jumanji: The Next Level – which opened on December 26 last year and took more than $13 million on its opening weekend alone, more than the entire collection of films this year. The fact that people are still attending the cinema at all provides some hope that the blockbusters from 2020 that were delayed until next year will still find an audience in front of the screen.

Despite the comparatively low revenue this year, Keogh said it was “still a positive result given everything that has happened this year”.

Overall, crowds were down by 70 per cent across the country due to social distancing measures in Melbourne and the outbreak in Sydney.

“We were really counting on Boxing Day to rejuvenate the industry,” said Adam Vumbucca, manager of United Cinemas Katoomba. “But the second [COVID-19] outbreak in the northern beaches has scared a lot of people.”

However, Melbourne cinema goers have been using their new freedoms to return to the big screen. “Our Melbourne rooftop cinemas were sold out every night this weekend,” Eddie Tamir, owner of four independent cinemas in NSW and Victoria, said.

Cinema executives hope that a vaccine in the United States and Europe will release a backlog of Hollywood blockbusters.

“I think it will start springing back after Easter and the new Bond film,” said Ben Zeccola, Palace Cinemas' chief executive. “It’ll be hit after hit with a backlog of great titles being released.”

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