The enthusiasm shown by local audiences for new Australian film Lantana has buoyed the already high expectations by Palace Films, which is distributing the psychological drama in association with Beyond Films. The film opened on October 4 and took $215,348 (A$430,696) in four days from 15 screens, giving it an extraordinary $14,357 (A$28,713) screen average. Not since the release of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon back in January has a film on limited release opened so well. Crouching Tiger scored $159,494 (A$318,988) from 11 screens for an average of $14,499 in its first four-day weekend.

Palace Films' strategy is a traditional platform release: prime mainstream exhibitors and audiences with a limited specialist release, then increase print numbers and hope word of mouth and favourable comment kicks in. Palace's radio and television spend took effect from week two, and 40 additional screens are being added in week three, many in multiplexes and regional centres. Lantana should also grab attention during Australia's upcoming award season which will help maintain interest.

Footprint films has been using a similar strategy for another local picture, The Bank. It opened on September 6 and has now grossed $600,000 (A$1.2m) half way into its fifth week. It debuted on 14 screens, is now on 40, and will rise to 66 by its seventh week. Had it opened wide from the outset, the competitive market may not have allowed it the breathing space to find audiences. Particular attention is now being paid to regional markets where the anti-bank storyline will have plenty of resonance.