'Australia' disrupts 'Solace'

Release date showdown shakes up Australian Movie Convention

The Australian International Movie Convention is usually a wonderfully laid-back event where exhibitors and distributors can relax, play golf, and get sneak peaks at upcoming film footage and films. But this year the calm was destroyed early on at the convention following the Fox presentation. Hugh Jackman was present to promote both the Baz Luhrmann epic Australia and the X-Men Wolverine feature. At the moment, Australia looks to be around two-and-a-half hours long and has many echoes of Gone with the Wind. There is the beloved homestead, a war breaking out (World War II) and, of course, the romance. Cast and crew returned to the set last week for some additional filming.

Fox Australia managing director Marcus Oliveira predicted that Australia would overtake Titanic’s (also Fox) 1997 A$57.65 million box-office record in Australia. He also said that they were changing the release date to Nov. 26, one day before Sony’s James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. Exhibitors were up in arms against having two of the year’s biggest films open on the same weekend, and both Fox and Sony came under intense pressure to change the date. Sony had already locked in a tour by star Daniel Craig and was unwilling to change. Finally, just as the convention was about to end, Sony moved Quantum forward a week, and everybody left a fair bit happier.

The 3D sessions at the convention were well-attended and there is strong hope for much of the product. Some old hands view 3D as a passing phase, but others expect it to stay around longer this time. Research released by Nielsen EDI showed that 22% of serious moviegoers are prepared to pay A$3 to $5 more for 3D, while 4% are willing to pay more than A$6 extra.

There were no surprises at the box-office awards event on the closing night. The Dark Knight carried off the Gold Award for the top box-office film of the past 12 months in both Australia and New Zealand. Roadshow had the largest number of A$10 million films for the period with seven, followed by Fox with six and Paramount, Universal and Disney each with four. The only independent to score an A$10 million film was Icon with Death at a Funeral. While the Icon/Dendy distribution business has been sold to Stewart Till, the Dendy cinema chain remains with Icon.

Note: A $10 million grossing film in Australia is considered the same as a US$100 million grossing film in the U.S.

E-mail your Australia/New Zealand news items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.