Australia had its peak in box office revenue in 2001 with films like Moulin Rouge, Lantana, The Man Who Sued God and Crocodile Dundee in LA. These four Australian films and others, made the record amount of $63.4m and a share of 7.8% (AFC 2001). According to Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA 2016), 2015 has been the best year for Australian film cinema attendance and has surpassed the 2001 record with a high $88m in box office revenue, taking a 7.18% share. The attendance share for 2015 is much different from what we saw during the crisis of the mid-2000s where it reached its lowest in 2004 with a 1.3% share. So what happened to cinema attendance during that time? Is there something wrong with Aussie films or is it the audience?
The first issue with Australian films and cinema attendance is that Aussie films are becoming completely drowned out by American ones. The US had 183 films in Australian cinemas in 2013, compared to 44 from Britain and just 26 from Australia (Dow 2014). We could create more films or stop screening so many international films. But will this work? I don’t think so. People want to see what they’re watching in the US. Maybe, as actor Anthony LaPaglia says, “don’t release the film in Australia first. Release it overseas. Take it to overseas festivals. And then, if it gets overseas attention, it will get Australian attention” (Dow 2014). This is not a terrible idea and could possibly work but should be tested first.
Promotion and marketing is an aspect of Australian film, which I think is lacking and also relates to the dilution of Australian films amongst others due to international films marketing campaigns being so large due to budgets. In Kaufman’s (2009) article, she quotes Susan Hoerlein who talks about the need for rebranding of Australian film. She says, “people recognise the brand, and if they don’t really connect with it, the brand has failed, and it would take an extensive marketing campaign to turn this around.” Currently with Screen Australia’s Producer Offset funding, it excludes the ability to use this money towards any marketing expenses therefore Australian films marketing plans are very limited in size and scope.
Dow (2014) points out that Australians are not watching Aussie films at all but it’s just that that 9 in 10 people wait until is comes on DVD or VOD. But does access to these films also play a part in viewing? In 2012, 43 Australian films screened at Australian cinemas and spent an average of 8 weeks in cinemas. They averaged 75 screens across the country, with a median of 17 (Mostyn 2014). To me, this number seems incredibly small and I would argue that the issue is with the release and marketing of Australian films and not the audience. It is possible there may be an issue with the audience but only because of the lack of information received through promotion and access, so ultimately it’s the industries move on whether or not to try and rectify the issue.
Australian Film Commission 2001, Australian Films- 2001 Box Office Share, AFC, viewed 2nd Feb 16, http://afcarchive.screenaustralia.gov.au/downloads/policies/2001bos.pdf
Dow, S 2014, ‘What’s Wrong with Australian Cinema?’, The Guardian, viewed 2nd Feb 16, http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/oct/26/australian-film-australian-audiences
Kaufman, T 2009, ‘Shortcuts: finding Australian audiences for Australian films’, Metro: media & education magazine, no. 163, pp. 6-8
Mostyn, R 2014, ‘Explainer: where’s the audience for Australian films?’, The Conversation, viewed 2nd Feb 16, http://theconversation.com/explainer-wheres-the-audience-for-australian-films-20945
Motion Pictures Distribution Association of Australia 2016, MEDIA RELEASE 2015 Australian Film Industry Box Office Statistics, MPDAA, viewed 2nd Feb 16, http://www.mpdaa.org.au/customers/mpdaa/mpdaa.nsf/(PressReleasesByDate)/21-1-2016/$FILE/MEDIA%20RELEASE%20Year%20End%202015.pdf