Down Under production rises with fall of Aussie, N.Z. dollars

Columns

The falling Kiwi and Oz dollars mean more film production coming Down Under. During early 2008, the Australian and New Zealand dollars increased in value against the U.S. dollar, almost reaching parity at one stage. Hollywood studios were thrilled, as this meant they were taking in around 30% more in film grosses from Down Under. Local production houses were not as thrilled, as the increased costs meant overseas productions dried up. A few, such as the continuing U.S. production Power Rangers, stayed on in New Zealand.
Despite economists saying that the Australian economy was more robust than many other international economies, the Australian and Kiwi dollars plunged more than 30% in the last few months. Production companies are smiling, as overseas producers are again looking Down Under to save money on big-budget productions.

One of the first to be announced is the all-dancing, all-singing sequel, Happy Feet 2. This production will waddle into the new Dr. D digital production facility in Sydney and stay there for the next three years, employing an average of 438 people over the period. Other films are expected to be announced in the coming months.

The Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards have just been announced and the year's highest-grossing local film, The Black Balloon, has emerged on top. The Black Balloon grossed A$2.1 million at the local box office. Altogether, the four nominated films grossed less than A$4 million. Local producers and commentators were up in arms over the poor box office of these movies and compared them to the American comedy Step Brothers, which was critically panned in Australia but still took in $8.7 million. The story of a family coping with an autistic child, The Black Balloon has just opened in the U.S.

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