Kath & Kim come out on top ... despite our best efforts

The little ABC comedy that became the big Seven comedy has now become the even bigger cinema hit.

Kath & Kimderella, the adventure of the Fountain Lakes mother and daughter Kath and Kim (and Kim’s second-best friend Sharon) taking a fairytale trip to Italy, took in a fraction under $2 million at the Australian box office over the weekend (Thursday to Sunday) as fans flocked to see the fil-um.

This comes despite a litany of lukewarm to vitriolic reviews from critics, which clearly were of little concern to the film makers or to the audience.

The film’s distributor, Roadshow, released an almost flippant press release [announcing a higher figure based on a lengthier definition of weekend] to announce the achievement. That statement read in its entirety:

“Get out the Tia Maria & pop on the footy franks! Kath & Kimderella The movie remains the number one ‘filum’ in the country, grossing in excess of $2.1 million in its first weekend on screens.

Kim commented ‘I told you I looked great on the big screen mum!’. ‘Well I agree with the BIG part of that Kim,’ replied Kath.”

This continues a campaign to promote the film which has been light on analysis and high on shine. Interviews were only conducted in character, but not in costume, so they could not be filmed. There were no media screenings – though media were allowed to attend the red carpet events.

And it worked. Kath & Kim are demonstrably critic-proof. They have their fans and those fans have spoken with their feet.

This goes against the accepted “wisdom” about local films too as it means Australians are actually heading to cinemas to see an Australian film. What’s more another Australian film, The Sapphires, is ranked in third position. If we’re not careful, we’ll have to stop writing off the local industry.

Here is last weekend’s top 10:

1. KATH & KIMDERELLA $1,998,684
2. THE EXPENDABLES 2 $1,677,671
3. THE SAPPHIRES $919,001
4. THE BOURNE LEGACY $813,639
5. TOTAL RECALL $670,013
6. HOPE SPRINGS $547,112
7. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES $374,662
8. MOONRISE KINGDOM $315,395
9. FINDING NEMO 3D $278,797
10. HIT AND RUN $259,385
SOURCE: Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia

When The Sapphires took $2.32 million at the box office on its opening weekend in August it recorded the best opening for an Australian film in almost two years, then Tomorrow When the War Began opened with $3.86 million in September 2010.

In the mean time Red Dog took $1.78 million on its opening weekend, on the way to becoming the eighth most successful Australian film ever at the local box office, and despite an even harsher critical reception Stephan Elliott’s A Few Best Men took $1.8 million earlier this year.  To put this in perspective, if you go back a few more years, in 2008 Baz Luhrmann’s Australia grossed $6.37 million on its opening weekend.

So a handful Australian films are opening very well, though admittedly not as well as their overseas competition. Kath & Kimderella's opening is shaded by the previous weekends No.1, The Expendables 2, which took $2.9 million.

Still, there are some Australian films succeeding. In part this is due simply to cinemas actually putting them on screens. Kath & Kimderella opened on 285 screens over the weekend nationally, which meant more people could see it. In August The Sapphires opened on 275 screens, slightly wider than Mao’s Last Dancer ($2.75 million off 266 screens in 2009) and Red Dog (which at its height was showing on 268 screens). Last weekend The Sapphires played on 276 screens, up one!

The real proof, the word-of-mouth test (especially given the lack of media screenings) will come in the next few weeks. Unlike a word-of-mouth winner like Red Dog, James Cameron’s 3D cave-diving thriller Sanctum opened to a $1.6 million weekend before tailing off to a disappointing $3.9 million total box office. A Few Best Men ultimately only just got past $5 million.

On the other hand, in the four weeks since its release The Sapphires has had the best audience response possible and has made more than $10 million to rank as the most successful Australian film of 2012.

The story Kath & Kim come out on top ... despite our best efforts first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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