Rob Sitch-directed The Dish has crashed through the record barrier with the highest weekend opening gross for an Australian film at the local box office. The Roadshow release grossed $1.56m (A$2.985m) from 281 prints on its four-day opening weekend - more than any other Australian film in history. Including its three days of pre-opening previews prior to its Oct 19 release, the film has pulled in a total gross of $2.25m (A$4.3m).

Roadshow Film Distributors chairman Ian Sands believes that this initial audience response means The Dish will to do at least $10.5m (A$20m) - an exclusive Australian box office benchmark - and could reach the same numbers of Babe ($20m).

The comedy drama, starring Sam Neill, is woven around the part played by Australia in delivering the pictures of the first man walking on the moon to the world. It is production company Working Dog's follow-up to The Castle, which grossed $5.4m (A$10.3m) to become the hit film of 1997. Summit Entertainment recently picked up rights for selected territories.

Sands said the film initially appealed to a demographic that was older than the most active group of filmgoers. But the longer a film runs, the more it reaches out to the reverse of it demographic, which is expected to happen with The Dish. The film was runner up in the People's Choice Awards at the Toronto Film Festival.

This year's biggest local hit, The Wogboy, which also had extensive previews, did just over $1m (A$2m) in its opening weekend from 198 screens. Its final tally hit $6m (A$11.4m).

Only four local films have ever grossed more than $10.4m (A$20m). They are: Crocodile Dundee $25m (A$47.7m), Babe $19.3m (A$36.8m), Crocodile Dundee II $13m (A$24.9m) and Strictly Ballroom $11.4m (A$21.8m). A total of 34 films (of all nationalities) have grossed over $10.4m (A$20m) in Australia.