'Three Billboards' is a hit in Australia

Columns
Day and Date Down Under

The Australian film industry has long had a benchmark figure for box office set at 10% of U.S. grosses, but in Australian dollars. Thus, if a film makes US$100 million at the box office, the local distributor is aiming for A$10 million. A recent survey put the figure at closer to 11% but with wide fluctuations. Films that seem rather like American flag-waving do less well locally, as do films centered on American sports and faith-based films. Films from Britain normally do better than the 10% norm compared to U.S. box office for these films, and there are always films that break out here and capture the public's imagination.

The recent release of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has been one such example. As of Feb. 21, the film had taken US$48.7 million at the U.S. box office. At 10% that would mean around A$5 million locally, but the British movie, set in the U.S. has taken almost double that with A$9.4 million and will certainly surpass A$10 million or more. By comparison, the rather pro-American gung-ho Clint Eastwood film The 15:17 To Paris, which was at US$25 million from ticket sales in the U.S. as of Feb. 21, has not gained the interest of local filmgoers. Locally, it opened at a very disappointing A$440,000 and will not make A$1 million, well short of the A$2.5 million hoped for using the 10% rule.

With the move to digital projection, the wait between U.S. release and Australian release has shortened, especially for bigger-budgeted films, with many now opening day-and-date, But art-house and independent films often lag in their release dates, as distributors attempt to find the best date for films with smaller advertising budgets. Many of these arrive up to 60 days after a foreign release. And the resulting difference in competing films at release time can certainly also affect the final box office and make international comparisons harder.

***

Outdoor cinemas operate in most Australian cities over the summer period, but they are at the mercy of the weather. The Moonlight Cinema in Sydney's large Centennial Park fell victim to the elements on Valentine’s Day. The movie was The Greatest Showman and a large storm descended on the site, ripping out most of the screen, so that it hung loosely from the top and blew in the wind. The night's screening was cancelled.

***

Westfield is expanding their shopping center at Newmarket in Auckland from 30,000 square feet to 73,000 square feet, and including a new event cinema complex in the upgrade. Completion is set for the end of 2019.

***

The musical play Daffodils has been a strong success on stage in New Zealand, playing at venues around the country. The romance is set against classic Kiwi songs written by Neil Finn, Dave Dobbyn, Chris Knox and Bic Runga and centers around a field of daffodils where several members of one family found true romance. Kiwi director and producer David Stubbs is about to make a film of the production, in what is said to be New Zealand's first movie musical. Casting is now being finalized.

***

When two women discover that they are being two-timed by the same man, they join together and form The Breaker Uperers, a group that accepts payment to break couples up. Executive produced by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), the film is written, directed by and stars Madeleine Sami and Jackie Van Beck. After a premiere at SXSW, the movie opens in New Zealand in May. World rights are currently being sold.

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