More screens in Oz, but fewer seats

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The number of cinema screens in Australia reached a new high in 2008 of 1,980, an increase of 36 screens over the previous high in 2006. But seating capacity has gone down. There are now 455,580 seats in those 1,980 screens, a drop of around 12,000 from a peak of 467,210 in 2006. This puts the average cinema size at 230 seats.

One reason for the shrinking cinema size is the popularity of “Gold Class” cinemas with reclining seats and food service. These often have less than 60 seats, but sell at a premium price.

In 1985, 23% of the screens were in suburban locations. But there has been a strong trend over recent years to build multiplexes in suburban areas where parking is easier and cheaper (usually free). Now there are more screens in suburbs (55%) than there are in city locations.
Hoyts is currently the largest exhibitor with 333 screens. The full list is as follows:

Exhibitor and Number of Screens

Hoyts: 333
Greater Union: 251
Village: 219
Birch, Carroll & Coyle: 210
Reading: 151
Palace: 73
AMC: 44
Grand (Western Australia): 37
Wallis: 27
Dendy: 26
Independents: 609
*Birch Carroll & Coyle is a subsidiary of Greater Union

The top ticket price at Australian cinemas remained at A$20 (US$16) in 2008, the same price as in 2007, but the average ticket price increased from $10.57 in 2007 to A$11.17 (US$9) in 2008. The prices include those charged at IMAX cinemas.

Exhibitors are moving to digital screens, but at a very cautious rate. Only two cinemas had digital projectors in 2005. By 2007, the number had reached 30, and by the end of 2008, there were 54 digital projectors in Australia. That represents a mere 4% of screens.

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Many overseas commentators were surprised at the Cannes “Camera D’Or” win for the Australian film Samson & Delilah. Locals were not at all surprised. It opened here in early May with some of the best reviews that a local film has achieved in years. The film has taken a most impressive A$1.22 million in its first four weeks at only 19 screens and continues to improve each week.

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