2009 Box Office Review - Australia - Part 3
With an average ticket price of almost A$12, admissions rose to 4.6 million tickets sold led by Bruce Beresford's adaptation of Li Cunxin’s best-selling memoir "Mao's Last Dancer" which took A$15m over the last three months of the year. There were five 100+ print Australian film releases including “Mao” and box office holdover “Australia” that screened during the year and these 100+ print films accounted for 71.5% of the total box office earned by Australian films in 2009.
Baz Luhrmann’s “Australia” became the second highest grossing Australian film of all time by adding a further A$10.6 million this year to its cumulative box office total of A$37.6 million.
Science fiction feature “Knowing,” directed by Alex Proyas placed third with the top performing domestic releases with a A$7.6 million gross.
Paramount/Transmission’s comedy “Charlie and Boots” was next at A$3.9m, though considering US studios had a hand in “Australia” and “Knowing,” the disparity in gross between “Mao” and “Charlie and Boots” illustrates the difficulty locally produced films have finding an audience here.
Warwick Thornton’s Oscar-nominated feature debut "Samson & Delilah," grossed A$3.2m which was also a Paramount/Transmission release and opened on a relatively small 12 screens, capturing the highest per screen average of all Australian films for the year at almost A$17K. Australian films with up to 20 prints earned 17.8% of the overall box office.
Experienced director Jane Campion’s newest release “Bright Star” provided A$2.6m in grosses with a 66 print release for joint distribution efforts by Roadshow and Hopscotch. Roadshow/Hopscotch’s joint distribution venture for “Mao’s Last Dancer” and “Bright Star” achieved a 1.5% overall market share for the combined efforts on the two films. Specialty release strategies of up to 100 prints earned 13.3% of the Australian film box office.
Veteran filmmaker Scott Hicks introduced his feature book adaptation “The Boys are Back” and earned A$2m as the fifth best grossing Australian title of the year.
Government support for the industry is a recurring debate in the Australian film industry. One viewpoint maintains that a viable film industry is only possible with government support while the other opinion is that the industry will become stronger if increasingly globalised market forces are allowed to thrive in an unrestricted manner.
This year the Australian government implemented building a national broadband network across the country, thereby potentially enabling more than just the core cinema-going Australians access to feature film content. This will have a tremendous positive effect on companies wanting to download films direct to homes such as Quickflix, Australia’s largest independent online movie rental company, but also may serve to broaden the cinema going audience in the territory.
Upcoming Australian projects for the year include Zack Snyder’s animated owl movie “Guardians Of Ga’Hoole,” produced by Sydney-based Animal Logic. It will be the country’s first 3D project and will be released worldwide by Warner Bros.
Russell Mulcahy’s “Bait 3D” is the first Screen Australia–funded 3D action feature. It imagines what happens when a tsunami hits a sleepy seaside town on the Gold Coast and strange things start to occur.
Critically acclaimed writer/director Jonathan Teplitzky’s new feature “Burning Man” is the story of a father and son’s struggle to deal with the unimaginable.
A feature debut by “Animal Kingdom” writer/director David Michod secured US distribution and much attention for the newcomer at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival for his crime drama. Local distributor Madman will release in 2010.
Picking up on Greek culture theme for its comedy, “Wog Boy 2” will be released this year as well. The 2000 release of “Wog Boy” grossed A$11.45m in when it was released by Fox, though Transmission/Paramount will release this installment. The story follows best friends from Melbourne’s western suburbs to the villages of sunny Mykonos after one discovers he has inherited a beach on the island worth millions, from an uncle he has never met. The popularity of the first film gave birth to a live show.
Rachel Perkins’ aboriginal musical “Bran Nue Dae” is an upbeat indigenous story that releases this year and hopes to push up local box office share as the play on which it is based has been a real crowd pleaser.
With more than 30 new Australian films on release this year from popular filmmakers like Philip Noyce’s “Dirt Music”, Nadia Tass’ “Matching Jack”, Bill Bennett’s “Uninhabited”, Stuart Beattie’s “Tomorrow, When the War Began” and Shirley Barrett’s “South Solitary,” the Australian box office should continue to grow.
Ellen Pittleman, http://hybridentus.com, is a veteran studio executive based in Los Angeles. Most recently, she served as SVP, International Co-Productions and Worldwide Acquisitions for Paramount Pictures. She also launched the DVD Premiere group there, with films including Jonathan Demme’s “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and the sequel to the $100MM+ “Save the Last Dance.” Working from a marketing and distribution perspective, she consults on strategic planning, deal negotiation, acquisitions, film library valuation and feature development with clients from Rio to London to Beijing. She’s also currently developing a feature on George Foreman’s comeback years, among other projects.