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The Dry breaks Australian box office drought

Australians are flocking to locally produced films as Hollywood puts the brakes on new releases.

After a year of Covid-19-enforced shutdowns, the Australian film industry has entered 2021 in a strong position – with The Dry grossing almost $13m at the box office since its opening on 1 January.

The Robert Connolly film – financed though Screen Australia – had the fifth-highest Australian opening day for a local film in history and has outperformed Hollywood blockbuster Wonder Woman 1984 and animated family film The Croods: A New Age for the third weekend in a row.

Another Australian film, Penguin Bloom, directed by Glendyn Ivin and starring Naomi Watts, also recorded a strong opening result, grossing $2.5m since its release six days ago.

Screen Australia’s CEO Graeme Mason said the commercial success of The Dry was a heartening start to the year.

“It’s one of those titles that comes along where Australians see themselves and respond incredibly well,” he said.

“We have one or two of them a year and I think The Dry is definitely one of them. And it’s the first time in a very long time Australia has had the No 1 and No 2 films at the box office.”

It could outperform Australian classics such as Muriel’s Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and The Man from Snowy River.

Although cinemas in most states are still operating at less than full capacity, The Dry’s commercial success has not happened in spite of the pandemic, Keogh said, but partly because of it.

“It’s an excellent film, but there’s definitely not as much competition as there would generally be around January, so it’s getting more screen coverage,” he said.

“Because of Covid, Hollywood is holding back a lot of films at the moment, which is putting some pressure on our industry – so these great Australian movies are very welcome for us right now.”

Australian films took $22.6m at the local box office in 2020, with The Invisible Man, which was shot in Sydney between July and September 2019, accounting for more than one third of the total.

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