The staggered roll-out strategy is paying dividends for Wayne Blair’s feel-good movie. 
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9 Apr 2013 - 10:38 AM  UPDATED 9 Apr 2013 - 10:38 AM

It may be too early to proclaim The Sapphires is a hit in the US but the Australian musical comedy-drama has chalked up impressive results so far and faces its biggest test this weekend when it expands further and launches in Canada.

After platforming in New York and Los Angeles, Wayne Blair's film debuted in five other cities in its second weekend and went even wider last weekend. The film raked in $US292,000 on a total of 60 screens, for a healthy per screen average of $4,876, bringing the cumulative earnings to $444,000.

This weekend the North American distributor, the Weinstein Co., is launching the film in a further 40 markets, including Canada. “We're very happy with the performance to date and the solid screen average,” producer Rosemary Blight of Goalpost Pictures tells SBS Film. “If you look at the figures, plus social media, you can see there's tremendously positive word of mouth building for the film. We keep reading of great audience feedback including reports of audiences clapping at the end of the film. It's a huge pleasure working with The Weinstein Co. who are continuing a brilliant campaign for the film and are the masters at this kind of platform release.”

The 1960s-set saga of the Aboriginal songbirds looks certain to out-gross David Michôd's Animal Kingdom, which ended up earning $1.04 million in the US, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, in 2010.

A less-heralded success in the US currently is Cate Shortland's Lore, which has amassed $719,000 in nine weekends, now on 50 screens, a commendable result for boutique distributor Music Box, especially for a sub-titled film.

The most successful independent Aussie film released in the US in the past few years is Bruce Beresford's Mao's Last Dancer, which rang up $4.8 million, handled by the Samuel Goldwyn Co.

Shortland, Blair, Tony Krawitz (Dead Europe) and Kieran Darcy-Smith (Wish You Were Here) have been nominated for best feature film direction in Australian Directors Guild awards which will be presented in Sydney on May 3.

The documentary nominees are Madeleine Parry (Meatwork), Russell Vines (The Man Who Jumped), Cathy Henkel (Show Me the Magic) and Steve Peddie (The Bombing of Darwin: An Awkward Truth).

Jeffrey Walker (Jack Irish: Bad Debts), Rachel Perkins (Mabo), Glendyn Ivin (Beaconsfield) and Robert Connolly (Underground) are nominated in the telemovie category.