Australian Films Crash and Burn

When I say Aussie film, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Wolf Creek? Crocodile Dundee? Australia?

And which actresses and actors do you think of?

Hugh Jackman? Nicole Kidman? Cate Blanchett?

Australia movie image Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman

There’s a certain stereotype that surrounds Aussie films. But in 2014, this generalisation could not be more wrong.

We all love Australian television. As Garry Maddox from the Sydney Morning Herald stated,

“At a time when Australians are watching so much local television –with House Husbands, Offspring and Winners & Losers all having more’ than 1.3 million viewers last week – a series of local films have failed to work at the box office this year.” 

winners_and_losers_2014_19edo4e-19edo4m

With Australian television rates better than ever before, what is it that makes us cringe when we hear the words Aussie movie?

Fingers of blame are being pointed at the Australian audiences that choose to view the Hollywood movies at their cinema instead of choosing a homegrown movie.

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason asserts that “There’s a fundamental Australian issue here that we almost don’t recognise our own talent,’’ says Mason.

However I don’t think this is the problem. I think the stereotype of Australian movies – bad accents/generalisations of Australians/the use of the word Sheila can be blamed at the types of movies that were being produced in Australia decades ago. With all the phenomenal technology of the 21st century, Australia can now produce works such as The Great Gatsby – a movie that 20 years ago never would have been pegged as an Australian work.

According to 2011 analysis by Screen Australia, only nine per cent of all viewings of Australian films occur at the box office. The other 91 per cent are spread across TV and DVD.“But while local films perform poorly at the cinema, they do pick up large numbers of viewers on secondary platforms.” news.com.au,’September’2014′

And why exactly is this? It’s because the Australian movie industry that once was left a lasting impression in our minds. With Australian’s now wanting more Hollywood movies/drama/gossip than ever, Australian film is a risk. With the ever-increasing price of movie tickets, of course people would rather see a movie produced in Hollywood over Australia because it has a better reputation.

There is therefore clearly a huge need to do something to improve this gap, and that is to:

Improve the stigma attached to Australian movies.

As a researcher, I would be very interested in conducting some qualitative research on Australian film audiences. This could be done by undertaking research to find out why Australian’s are picking Hollywood productions over Australia’s. This could include questions regarding the lack of advertising, lack of times and locations that the movie is screening at, and qualitative information such as where they would best respond to advertising for Australian films being aired.

Currently, Australian films are very limited in distribution, with 82% of Australian films being released on less that 100 cinema screens, and 39% are distributed to less than 20 cinema screens (Screen Australia 2009, p. 3). Boosting these numbers would automatically increase sales; people now are busier than ever, and if they have time to go to the movies they aren’t going to travel to Surry Hills to watch an limited edition Aussie production, but they are going to go to their closest Event Cinema or Hoyts.

Andrew Traucki, the writer/director of  Australian movie The Reef, acknowledged that a big problem – one too common with many local films – was that his potential audience didn’t know the film existed. Asked what kind of movie he would have made with double the budget, Traucki said: “My initial impulse would be to say (that) I’d just make the same movie and spend three million on publicity.” From this statement alone it is very evident of the reason behind the lack of Australian ‘box-office hits.’

Put simply, Hollywood can afford bigger budgets and in turn have a ridiculously larger amount of advertising than Australian producers are investing.

References

– 2011, ‘Flop films bring funding into focus’, Sydney Morning Herald, April 7, accessed 14 September 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/blogs/cinetopia/flop-films-bring-funding-into-focus-20110407-1d5d9.html&gt;

– Screen Australia 2014, Top 100 Australian films of all time, ranked by total reported gross Australian box office as of January 2014, Screen Australia, viewed 27 September 2014, <http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/research/statistics/mrboxaust.aspx&gt>

– Screen Australia 2009, Australian films in the marketplace: analysis of release strategies and box office performance, Screen Australia, viewed 27 September 2014, <http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/cmspages/handler404.aspx?404;https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au:443/getmedia/f78eb112-340e-4760-96c0-ad4d436f8a8e/Release_boxoffice_20Nov09.pdf&gt>

– 2014, ‘Local audiences snub Australian filmmakers yet Hollywood loves them’, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September, accessed 14 September 2014, <http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/movies/local-audiences-snub-australian-filmmakers-yet-hollywood-loves-them/story-fnk853hr-1227057559133&gt;

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