AUSSIES flocked to see Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in Baz Luhrmann's Australia at the weekend, making it the No. 1 film in the country.
Australia grossed $6.37m at the box office on its opening weekend (Thursday to Sunday), bumping the latest James Bond movie Quantum of Solace to second place with $4.22m.
Including its opening day and preview ticket sales, Australia has notched up $7.78m to date, figures from Nielsen EDI show.
It is the most successful local film of 2008, easily beating the $2.3 million The Black Balloon pulled in during its entire cinema release.
But it failed to reach the $11.8 million benchmark set by Quantum of Solace in its first five days.
While Australians appear to have embraced the outback romance, the film failed to ignite much interest over a busy Thanksgiving long weekend in US and Canadian theatres.
Australia managed to scrape into fifth place at the North American box office, with $US20m ($30.4m) in earnings.
Audiences instead filled cinemas showing the Reese Witherspoon-Vince Vaughn comedy, Four Holidays, which took $US46.7m ($71m) from Wednesday to Sunday, easily claiming first place.
Four Holidays, with Witherspoon and Vaughn playing a yuppie couple forced to spend Christmas with their four divorced parents, opens in Australian theatres on Thursday.
The uninspiring US opening for Australia will likely damage the Oscar prospects for Kidman, Jackman and director-producer-screenwriter Luhrmann.
It has also left industry analysts wondering if the Hollywood studio backing the film, Rupert Murdoch's Twentieth Century Fox, will make money on its huge, four-year investment.
The studio will be hoping the film performs strongly in Europe and Asia.
The epic opens in most European countries on Christmas Day, and in Japan in February.
"Given the cost of the massive production - the studio kicked in $US78m ($118.6m) of the $US130m ($197.6m) budget - the Baz Luhrmann-directed film will need strong legs and spectacular international grosses in order to break even,'' Hollywood box office analyst Gitesh Pandya, of boxofficeguru.com, wrote in his weekly report.
Australia's weak opening also adds to the string of flops Kidman and to a lesser extent, Jackman, have had in recent years.
Kidman's recent box office misses included last year's sci-fi remake, The Invasion, which cost $US80 million and earned Kidman a reported $US17 million pay cheque, but collected a dismal $US40 million worldwide in theatres.
Jackman also had a sci-fi flop last year with The Fountain, a $US35 million film that made just $US16 million.
The actor and Australia received huge publicity a week before the US opening when People magazine named him Sexiest Man Alive, but it did not seem to help sell movie tickets.
"For Nicole Kidman, this is more bad news for a career that has paled since the early 2000s," another US box office tracker, John Hamann, of boxofficeprophets.com, wrote.
"Jackman, on the other hand, should look at this as a success, as his last two films, The Fountain and Deception, hardly saw the light of day.
"Australia isn't dead yet, as it should see some big foreign grosses, but domestically, it will need a very good hold next weekend to keep its head above water."
The new Disney-animated film Bolt, about a dog that thinks it has superhero powers, barked its way to second place on the North American box office, third was teen vampire film Twilight while fourth was the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace.
Haven't yet seen the movie and will do so but the international reviews are mixed at best. How unfortunate that the Government has committed millions to a tourism campaign based on the movie before it's even released. Money which now appears to have been wasted!Posted by: Arun of Brisbane 8:18am today
loved every minute of it Kidman is great so is hunky Jackman forget the critics it is a must see take the tissues.Posted by: p davis of a hills 1:39pm December 04, 2008
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