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Oz B.O. hits record highs

Annual ticket sales exceed 90 mil, reverse 2000 trend

SYDNEY — The Australian B.O. soared to record heights last year, reversing a rare decline in 2000. For the first time, annual ticket sales exceeded 90 million and B.O. receipts topped $A800 million ($416 million).

Industry-wide grosses in Oz surged by 17.8% to $422.3 million and admissions reached 92.5 million. That is a welcome turnaround from 2000 when the B.O. fell by 2% — the first decline since 1987 — hit by the distraction of the Sydney Olympics and the introduction of the 10% goods and services tax.

The rebound takes the average cinema-going rate to nearly five visits per person per year, which puts Australia in the top echelon of international movie patronage.

Distribs are especially pleased at last year’s peaks, given the rate of cinema-building has slowed dramatically as the market approaches saturation.

It was also a banner year for Aussie films, which brought in $32.9 million — a market share of 7.8%, about even with the previous year. The break-out Oz hits were Fox’s “Moulin Rouge” (the year’s No. 3 title, which fetched $14.2 million), Palace’s “Lantana” ($5.1 million) and BVI’s “The Man Who Sued God” ($4.2 million).

The calendar year’s top-grosser was “Shrek” ($16.6 million), just ahead of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” ($16.2 million).

Mike Selwyn, chairman of the Motion Picture Distributors Assn. and managing director of UIP, called the B.O. figures “very positive in a difficult economic climate.”

But he noted distribs are faced with “increasingly heavy media costs which are a heavy burden to all of us.”

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