Paul Hogan may be a waning force in the U.S., but he’s still a big drawing card at home, as “Lightning Jack” had a terrific opening in Australia over Easter.

Roadshow Film Distributors estimated the five-day gross at $ A1.8 million ($ 1.26 million) at about 140 screens.

Perfect timing

“We’re absolutely delighted,” Roadshow managing director Alan Finney said. He projects a seven-day tally of $ 1.5 million-$ 1.68 million. Australian schools are on vacation this week.

Finney, who believes the five-day figure will earn Simon Wincer’s comedy a place among the top five highest openers of all time in Australia, was busy crunching the numbers to work out the precise ranking.

The result was a pleasant surprise for some exhibs who feared the public’s expectations would be soured by the negative reviews from Australian critics.

There has also been a barrage of publicity about the film’s fading U.S. performance and the gyrations of its funder’s stock price on the Australian exchange.

Finney argues that “Mr. and Mrs. Australian Moviegoer” don’t read the financial sections of newspapers and don’t know that the film was financed via a stock issue.

One national exhib said the pic is strong in the capital cities, “huge” in provincial areas and is attracting a predominantly old (40 plus) audience.

Something for everyone

Finney disagrees, saying the results are excellent “across the board” geographically and demographically.

But one exhib noted the film was No. 2 in some multiplexes behind “Cool Runnings” (a big draw for kids) in its fifth weekend.

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