Elvis tops box office to become Australia’s second-biggest film opening ever

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis left cinema executives all shook up over the weekend with the second-highest opening for an Australian film in box office history.

The Elvis Presley biopic, which stars Austin Butler as the King and Tom Hanks as manager Colonel Tom Parker, took $6.74 million in Australian cinemas.

Austin Butler as Elvis, Helen Thomson as Gladys, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Richard Roxburgh as Vernon in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis.Credit:Hugh Stewart

That was just shy of the record opening weekend of $6.79 million, which Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby took in 2013.

Elvis also opened impressively in the US, with a higher-than-expected $US30.5 million ($44 million) – equalling Top Gun: Maverick at the top of the box office as the resurgence of cinema-going continued.

The managing director of distributor Universal Pictures International Australasia, Mike Baard, said he was “absolutely thrilled” by the opening in this country.

“People came out in big numbers,” he said. “There were a lot of other distractions: State of Origin on Sunday night, Minions opening, Top Gun, Jurassic World, Lightyear – a lot of other movies in theatres.

“So we’re chuffed that it was seen and loved.”

Luhrmann shot Elvis in Queensland with the backing of Hollywood studio Warner Bros and Australian federal and state filmmaking incentives.

Baard said tracking surveys of just over 400 patrons leaving Australian cinemas showed 91 per cent rated Elvis either “excellent” or “very good”. That matched the result for the 2018 musical hit A Star Is Born, featuring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

Fifty-six per cent of the film’s weekend audience were female and, despite expectations the film would largely appeal to older viewers who are fans of Presley’s music, 50 per cent were aged under 44.

Baard said Elvis took almost as much on the weekend as the biggest musical biopic of recent years, Bohemian Rhapsody, which opened with $6.8 million before making $55.4 million all up.

While that total is considered unrealistic, Elvis could easily pass Luhrmann’s Gatsby ($27.4 million) and Moulin Rouge! ($27.8 million).

His biggest hit in this country is the romantic epic Australia ($37.6 million) which is the second-biggest Australian film hit behind Crocodile Dundee.

According to American entertainment website Deadline, Elvis had a rocking start with a $50.5 million debut around the world.

“It shows these adult skewing movies can still open on the big screen to very good numbers,” box office editor Anthony D’Alessandro wrote. “Everything that’s non-tentpole doesn’t have to be sent to streaming.”

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