"Australia" another letdown for Nicole Kidman

Tue Dec 30, 2008 6:07pm EST
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Maybe Crocodile Dundee should have starred in "Australia."

Twentieth Century Fox appears to have given up on director Baz Luhrmann's latest period epic in North America, and is hoping that foreign sales will rescue the costly picture.

The movie has sold just $44.3 million worth of tickets at the U.S. and Canadian box office after five weekends, and is shaping up to be the latest in a line of disappointments for its star, Nicole Kidman.

The News Corp-owned studio says it hopes "Australia" will reach $50 million domestically. The project cost $130 million and movie theaters generally keep about half of the gross.

"We were hoping to do more in the U.S., but it's tough. There's a lot of competition," said Bert Livingston, Fox's senior vice-president of domestic distribution.

Adding insult to injury, "Australia" failed to get any nomination for the Golden Globe, Critics Choice and Screen Actors Guild awards. Fox had counted on the recognition to boost its Oscar hopes and to expand the movie beyond its core audience of older women.

This past Christmas holiday weekend, one of the busiest of the year, "Australia" tumbled 10 places to No. 19 with four-day sales of $1.3 million, according to tracking firm Media By Numbers. It played in 711 theaters, down from 2,212 the weekend before. The top film was Fox's canine comedy "Marley & Me," which opened to $50.7 million.


<p>Nicole Kidman arrives for the British premiere of "Australia" at Leicester Square in central London December 10, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Parsons</p>