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The Force is strong but family films also prove popular on Boxing Day

On top on Boxing Day … Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Photo: Jonathan Olley / Lucasfilm Popular … Bryan Cranston and James Franco in the MA-rated comedy Why Him? Photo: Supplied
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Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in the musical La La Land. Photo: Dale Robinette

As rain interrupted the Test cricket, yachts powered towards Hobart and shoppers flocked to the sales, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was all the rage in n cinemas.

The spin-off to the sci-fi saga was the top film on Boxing Day, with ticket sales of $2.2 million.

On the biggest movie-going day of the year in this country, Rogue One was well ahead of the Hollywood animated movies Moana ($1.5 million) and Sing ($1.26 million).

It proved to be a strong day for family movies, with solid though not spectacular results for the n film Red Dog: True Blue ($466,000) and continuing business for the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them ($170,000).

A spokesman for Event Cinemas, Stephen Howard, said Rogue One was expected to be the top film as it continued to draw both long-time Star Wars fans and younger viewers to the sci-fi series.

“Clearly both The Force Awakens and this film have attracted new people to the Star Wars movies,” he said.

Rogue One’s results were boosted by its popularity in premium sessions – Gold Class and giant screen V-Max at Event – for fans wanting a more upmarket or immersive experience.

The MA-rated comedy Why Him?, about a father played by Bryan Cranston​ protecting his daughter from an internet billionaire played by James Franco, did well with $818,000.

And despite mixed reviews, the Brad Pitt-Marion Cotillard​ spy thriller Allied opened with a solid $765,000.

While the prequel Red Dog: True Blue was seventh, Mr Howard said it was “performing well” and was a strong enough family film to be popular right through the holidays.

While Rogue One has raced to $27 million in ticket sales in just 12 days, it has been nowhere near as popular as The Force Awakens, which charged past $50 million on the way to $93.8 million in roughly the same time last year.

The surprise was the Hindi-language film Dangal, about a father who trains his daughters to be wrestlers, which took an impressive $278,000 from just 39 cinemas.

Mr Howard said this showed the growing popularity of Indian films in n cinemas.

Of the new releases that opened on Boxing Day, the flop was the British-African historical drama A United Kingdom ($78,000) on limited release.

The Christmas special Doctor Who: The Return Of Doctor Mysterio took $150,000 even though it was broadcast on ABC TV the same night. It screened in cinemas with two featurettes, attracting die-hard fans of the Time Lord.

“That shows the strength of the cinema experience as opposed to TV and streaming,’ Mr Howard said.

The chief executive of Palace Cinemas, Benjamin Zeccola​, said Rogue One continued to be popular but the Ryan Gosling-Emma Stone musical La La Land was the chain’s top film on Boxing Day.

“It’s a really lovely film,” he said. “People are singing and dancing their way out of that one.”

The weekend before Christmas, the country’s annual box office was 4 per cent up on the same period last year.

But given the popularity of The Force Awakens at the end of last year, it is likely 2016 might end up just marginally ahead – possibly 1 per cent – of last year’s record $1.22 billion.

Boxing Day at the movies

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, $2.2 million

2. Moana, $1.5 million

3. Sing, $1.26 million

4. Why Him? $818,000

5. Allied, $765,000

6. La La Land, $596,000

7. Red Dog: True Blue, $466,000

8. Dangal, $278,000

9. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, $170,000

10. Doctor Who: The Return Of Doctor Mysterio, $149,000