Australian screen count nears the 2,000 mark


The number of screens in Australia continues to rise. Ten years ago there were 1,872 screens, and the latest count shows an increase to 1,997 screens. The number of cinemas has declined as the screens have increased. Ten years ago there were 547 cinema buildings and now we have 478. More than half these cinemas have only one to three screens. Only 48 have ten or more screens.

Australasian cinemas are looking forward to the U.S. summer movies opening here from mid-May onwards. The box office has been in a bit of a trough, with ticket sales running about 7% behind the first four months of 2012. January started off well, but business flagged in February and March. In April and May, ticket sales picked up with Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3 and there are hopes that they will continue to grow.

I have written before about Melbourne's wonderful single-screen Astor Cinema. At that time, a nearby school had bought the building and planned to turn it into a multi-purpose performance space with a cinema component. Things appeared to look up last year when Ralph Taranto bought the building and announced plans to renovate the heritage-listed structure. George Florence, who has operated the cinema for 20 years, was said to be very pleased with the purchase and looked forward to working with Taranto, an old friend of his. However, relations have become strained between the two men, and the future of the cinema and its operations is uncertain at the moment.

New Zealand has its first local hit of the year with Mt. Zion. Written and directed by Te Arepa Kahi, the film follows the problems of a rural potato farmer and musician who wants his band to be selected as the support act for Bob Marley's 1979 tour of New Zealand. His farmer father is not too keen on the idea. The film grossed around NZ$1.3 million following its release in February and has also had a limited release in Australia.

In recent years, the rising Australian dollar has caused a reduction in the number of U.S. films being made in Australia. The government is keen to see large productions continue to use Australia as a base and Disney has been promised an Australian government subsidy of around US$23 million to film its upcoming remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in Australia.

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