Oz pic biz probed

Report calls for code to foster competish

SYDNEY — A wide-ranging government probe concluded what many had said privately for years: that Australia’s film biz is highly concentrated and potentially anti-competitive. As a result, Oz’s exhibition and distribution sectors are poised to operate under a code of conduct administered by a committee, Daily Variety has learned.

That’s according to a summary and a discussion paper of a yet-to-be-released report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) obtained by Daily Variety. ACCC reps declined to comment until the paper is formally released early 1998.

No radical action

But while the ACCC expresses concern about big players like Village Roadshow and UIP, it is shying away from radical action and instead is proposing a self-governing committee.

The paper says Village Roadshow, Greater Union and Hoyts garner 70% of Oz box office revenue and control 70% to 75% of Oz screens. It takes a dim view of a long-standing pact between nominal rivals Village and Greater Union (with Hollywood’s Warner Bros.) for suburban multiplexes, which it says “has led to considerable decrease in potential competition in exhibition.”

Concentration of clout

As for distribution, the paper implies the 60% market share commanded by Roadshow Film Distributors (owned by VR and GU and the distributor of Warner Bros., Disney and other local and imported product) and UIP (which distributes Universal, MGM/UA and Paramount fare) gives them power to refuse to supply prints to indie cinemas on reasonable terms and to discriminate in favor of the big three exhibs.

But despite this assessment, the paper recommends a “code of conduct” to be followed.

The draft code, upon which players are presently commenting, calls for:

a code administration committee, comprising reps from the Motion Picture Distributors Assn. of Australia, Australian Independent Distributors Assn., major and indie exhibs and an ACCC observer;

distribs to give all new releases to all exhibs except where they can demonstrate print numbers are limited or providing them is uneconomical;

new cinemas competing against existing sites to be given guaranteed access to prints for their first year, presumably to encourage more exhib competish;

a dispute-handling body to resolve scuffles through conciliation.

Many distribs were seeing red over the guaranteed access proposals, but all parties — including indies — are eager to avoid the industry being subjected to government legislation and intervention and are therefore hoping to agree with the ACCC and each other on a code.

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