Victoria’s re-opening on Nov. 8 after months in a secondary lockdown brought a small but important boost to Australia’s recovery progress this week. On Saturday (Nov. 14), 95% of Australian cinemas (by market share) were reporting business – the highest level since the country’s first lockdown in March.

Weekend business was up 40% week-on-week at A$3.95 million headed by Blumhouse’s FREAKY, just narrowly ahead of TENET in week 12. TENET received a 495% week-on-week boost at the weekend since the Christopher Nolan film was actually in week 1 in Victoria. The film will also finish the week at #1.

Box office across the week has not challenged the highest post-lockdown levels, recorded during late September-early October school holidays (see below), but this boost has come even as Victoria’s return has been handicapped by a 20-person per auditorium capacity limit. This is due to expand to 100 people from Monday (Nov. 23).

However, a new high alert in South Australia this week following newly reported cases, which has led to a new 6-day lockdown from Wednesday, could result in further changes to the recovery map.

Australia’s Road

When the Australian government ordered all cinemas to close from March 23, box office was already down 6% year-on-year. It is now tracking nearly 68% behind 2019 and is currently projected to finish the year at approximately A$400 million – a 67% drop from 2019’s A$1.23 billion.

The first venue to re-open was the Yatala Drive-In in Queensland on May 2. Traditional cinemas in the Northern Territory re-opened at the start of June, followed by cinemas in South Australia and Queensland and then most of the country by early July. By July 4, 83% of cinemas (by market share) had re-opened and the same day the market only narrowly missed out on achieving Stage 2 of our Blueprint To Recovery (a daily box office equivalent to the lowest grossing day of the past two years).

However, before nationwide box office recovery could take hold virus cases surged in Melbourne and suburban Victoria, causing cinemas to have to re-close in the southeastern Australian state. This meant that by July 11 only 66% of cinemas (by market share) remained open in the country.

It would not top 69% until this past weekend.

Despite this the market did claw it way up to the Stage 2 level on August 15, thanks not to a single big-hit title but a gradual rebuild through a slate of titles on offer appealing to different demographics. The Aug. 13-16 weekend was headed by UNHINGED in its third week of play, but the Russell Crowe thriller was supported by a re-release of the original STAR WARS and multiple new openers including: Liam Neeson-led comedy-drama MADE IN ITALY; action film FORCE OF NATURE, starring Mel Gibson; South Korean zombie film TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS PENINSULA; and French romantic comedy LA BELLE EPOQUE.

Without Victoria in play Australia has been unable to come close to hitting the Stage 3 level of recovery (a weekly box office equivalent to the lowest grossing play-week of the past two years). TENET’s launch headed a A$4.9 million Aug. 27 play-week that delivered just shy of 40% of the Stage 3 goal (A$12.4m).

As had been seen with Stage 2, Australia would rely on a variety of titles to build consumer confidence rather than a single big release. The releases of YA romantic drama sequel AFTER WE COLLIDED and nostalgic comedy sequel BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC combined with TENET in week 3 (still at #1), the re-release of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and previews for TROLLS WORLD TOUR, to deliver a A$5.4 million Sept. 10 play-week (43% of Stage 3).

School holidays (Sept. 26-Oct. 11) would bring further boosts, with the Sept. 24 play-week delivering nearly 58% of the Stage 3 goal and the Oct. 3 play-week managing just over 60% – the highest grossing weekly box office since lockdown. While our Blueprint To Recovery measures only official play-weeks, there was also a 7-day period during the holiday window (Sept. 16-Oct. 2) which would have achieved 65% of Stage 3. Family titles including THE SECRET GARDEN, CATS & DOGS 3: PAWS UNITE, PAW PATROL: JET TO THE RESCUE and Chinese animation JIANG ZI YA all played through the holiday period in support of TROLLS WORLD TOUR.

Gower Street’s International Road To Recovery tracks all the latest changes occurring in 30 Global markets, including Australia, as well as a Global box office and theater overview every week. Individual territory-specific reports, including our Global summary, are also available. Click here to subscribe.