‘The Dry’: Eric Bana Indie Makes A Splash At Australian Box Office

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While the domestic box office was hammered over the holidays, over in Australia, it’s been quite alive.

A leading example of this last weekend was Roadshow Films’ Eric Bana thriller The Dry, based on Jane Harper’s bestselling and award-winning debut novel, which has minted $3.5M since its New Year’s Day release.

I’m told that’s the best debut for an Australian-made feature at the country’s B.O. from an independent studio, and the 5th best debut for an Australian filmmaker down under after Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby ($6.5M U.S.), George Miller’s Happy Feet ($6.1M), Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road ($5M), and Luhrmann’s Australia ($4.1M). The Dry was directed and co-adapted by AACTA Award winner Robert Connolly (Balibo, Paper Planes).

Australia, by and large, is operating at 75% capacity theatrical auditorium restrictions during the pandemic, while some areas are capped 50%. There’s been a recent spike in Covid cases there, and I hear masks are being mandated again. Nonetheless, a fantastic result for The Dry. 

“Australians are desperate to go back to the cinema,” beamed The Dry producer and Primetime Big Little Lies Emmy winner Bruna Papandrea, “They’re going in droves and in big demographics. To see audiences embrace this in a massive way, that’s a big deal.”

With book sales of 1M worldwide, The Dry from Macmillan Publishers, follows federal police agent Aaron Falk, who returns to his drought-stricken hometown to attend a tragic funeral. However, his return opens a decades-old wound: The unsolved death of a teenage girl.

“It’s Eric Bana’s first Australian movie in over a decade, and that’s a big draw for Australians as well as the fact that it’s a beloved book here, and an amazing mystery. Similar to what I saw with the series The Undoing, people want to participate in the mystery genre; they want to have that connection and The Dry has those tenets as well,” added Papandrea whose Made Up Stories production company also produced the recent HBO Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman thriller series The Undoing. Papandrea’s next feature release is the Naomi Watts drama Penguin Bloom on Jan. 27.

Also working to The Dry‘s advantage is the lack of Hollywood tentpole product in the market over the weekend. Nonetheless, the pic gained big exposure by trailoring on Wonder Woman 1984 which opened over Christmas weekend to $4M (and eased 20% this past weekend to $3.2M).

“The box office results on The Dry are truly extraordinary and absolutely confirm that Australian films can deliver blockbuster results alongside their Hollywood counterparts,” said Joel Pearlman, CEO Roadshow Films “This result is an incredible example of just how willing Australian audiences are to support their own cinema and stories and how important it is for the local filmmaking community to continue to be provided with opportunities to create great works of cinema for Australians to delight in.”

Filmed in Melbourne and throughout the Wimmera region of rural Victoria, The Dry also stars Genevieve O’Reilly, Keir O’Donnell and Miranda Tapsell alongside newcomers Joe Klocek, Bebe Bettencourt, Sam Corlett and Claude Scott-Mitchell. The pic is also produced by Jodi Matterson (Little Monsters) and Steve Hutensky, alongside Bana and Connolly.

Endeavor Content is currently selling domestic rights for The Dry.