Australian box office running 16% ahead of 2014

Columns
Day and Date Down Under

Australia is looking towards a record box office in 2015 that is expected to shatter the 2010 takings of A$1.13 billion, the year of Avatar. At the mid-year point, the box office was running around 16% ahead of 2014 thanks to hits such as Jurassic World ($50 million plus), Fast and Furious 7, Mad Max: Fury Road and Fifty Shades of Grey, plus Cinderella and Pitch Perfect 2, which had a stronger female appeal. Adding to the totals is the $15 million-plus of adult-targeted The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Woman in Gold ($6 million plus). Cinemas are also expecting strong results from a range of upcoming films including the new Mission: Impossible, Spectre, the reawakened Star Wars and the final Hunger Games.

A percentage of the box-office increase is due to a rise in ticket prices. For the first quarter of the year, box office was up 18% while attendance was only up 11%. In 2014, the average ticket price for Australian cinemas was $13.68, but it is now over $14. However, the ticket prices are on a par with most OECD figures. In Australia an average person must work 40.7 minutes to earn enough to buy a movie ticket. The OECD average is 41.9 minutes.

There are three Wurlitzer organs in New Zealand, and the only one of those three that is in a cinema is facing a bleak future. It is housed in the Hollywood Cinema in Avondale, Auckland, a cinema that has just been put up for sale. This 1926 organ was originally in the Regent Theatre in Auckland, but has been in the Hollywood Cinema for the last 35 years, entertaining patrons on many occasions. The organ itself is owned by the Wurlitzer Organ Trust of Auckland and they have been told to remove it from the cinema by Sept. 30. The Trust hopes that any buyer would want to keep the cinema going and retain the organ, but a demolition of the building and redevelopment of the site is a strong possibility. Moving the organ to a new building is a mammoth task that could well take over a year before the Wurlitzer would be working again.

Two Christchurch cinemas won the main prizes at the recent New Zealand Motion Picture Industry Awards. Reading’s multiplex The Palms was awarded Best Mainstream Cinema, the third year in a row it has won that honor. The Alice, a 38-seat boutique cinema built in 2012, was named Best Independent Cinema. The awards are voted on by the New Zealand public.

The Alice is a small theatre that was built at the back of the popular Christchurch DVD shop, Alice In Wonderland, a store that suffered in the Christchurch earthquake and was closed for a year. Managing director Jeremy Stewart has a two-plex currently under construction at The Tannery, with this cinema due to open before the end of the year. Stewart also runs the Town Hall Cinema in suburban Rangiora, which is a renaming of the previously closed Rangiora Regent. It reopened earlier this year.

That Sugar Film has become Australia's biggest-grossing documentary ever. The film focuses on Australia's increasing love affair with sugar and the health impacts of a sweet tooth. It has earned over A$1.7 million and is still screening.

Ned Kelly was the Australian outback version of a Jesse James or Billy the Kid, and, like them, film producers keep returning to his story. He is Australia's most famous outlaw and first appeared on screen in 1906 in The Story of the Kelly Gang, and his tale was told again in 1910, 1921 with sequels following, and 1951. Mick Jagger appeared in the 1970 film Ned Kelly and in 2003 Heath Ledger starred as Ned with Orlando Bloom and Naomi Watts. Director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown) is about to revisit the character as he prepares to film the acclaimed Peter Carey book on the outlaw, The History of the Kelly Gang. We await the new casting with interest.