Oz biz spins big box office dropoff

After a strong New Year week, admissions have sunk

The Australian box office registered a 10% drop in 2005 to A$819 million ($613 million) — the first significant decline since 1987 and the biggest reversal of fortune since 1984.

The figure was announced by the Motion Pictures Distributors Assn. via a posting on its Web site that read, “The National Film Industry today released results which reflect another successful year at the box office.”

A statement from MPDAA chairman and BVI Oz topper Alan Finney read, “Whilst indicating a slight drop in box office, these results continue to reveal that Australian cinemagoing is still in a healthy state.

“All international markets faced challenges in 2005, including the ongoing impact of piracy, but the very strong December ’05 and January ’06 trading indicate strong and broad-appeal product will attract audiences to cinemas in large numbers.”

After a strong New Year week, wherein the national box office topped $26 million, up 17% from the same week last year, admissions have sunk almost to last year’s levels.

Last weekend was down 18% from the previous weekend, which was off 9% on the one before.

“Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” was the highest-grossing pic in 2005 with $26.5 million. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” chimed in at No. 2 with $23 million, and strong business in the new year has pushed cume to $26 million.

“Madagascar” came in third with $19 million.

In fourth place was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” with $18.3 million, followed by December 2004 release “Meet the Fockers,” which earned $18 million when it played into January 2005.

“War of the Worlds” took $16 million Down Under for the sixth spot, followed by “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” at seventh with $15 million. In eighth, “The Incredibles” with $12.7 million nudged ahead of “Wedding Crashers” with $12.5 million and “Batman Begins,” which earned the 10th spot with $12 million.

Roadshow and its partner Warner Bros. claimed four of the top 10 pics, UIP repped three, Fox had two and BVI tallied one. Sony did not have a top-10 pic in 2005.

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