Local films struggle at the Australian box office

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Although figures are not final yet, 2014 has not been one of the best years box-office-wise for Australian films locally. Hopes are higher for 2015, with Russell Crowe's war drama The Water Diviner having opened wide on Boxing Day after a strong publicity campaign. Crowe has been doing a great deal of publicity for the film and interest is very high.

Two examples show some of the problems that local films have had in the current exhibition market, where a large-budget Hollywood film opens just about every week. Distributors of The Babadook were keen to have the film open wide, but some of the major chains were not as convinced about its potential. The result was a release through art-house chains, which gave the film an aura of being a "art-house style" film, which it is not. For its limited release it did respectable business. In the U.K., some major chains did play the film and it performed much better there in mainstream cinemas. The Babadook has an amazing 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The distributors of the new local Ewan McGregor film Son of a Gun were a bit wary of the spend required for a wide release, so they opted a the middle ground, about half a wide release and about half the marketing budget to test the waters. This strategy did not work as well as expected, as many patrons complained that they did not know the film was on and did not know where it was playing. Distributors are carefully analyzing their release plans for 2015.

IBISWorld recently released some forecasts for the Australian exhibition market. They predict that the total box-office gross will be pretty steady for the next five years at between $1.6 to $1.7 billion a year. They also predict that profits at cinemas will continue to grow due to continued savings from cheaper digital distribution and from anciliary profit areas. Australian cinemas earn 68% of their income from the box office, 18% from food and beverage, and just over 5% from screen advertising; the rest comes from other sources.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.