SYDNEY — The most unassuming Aussie movie since “The Castle” is on track to become the highest-grossing film of the year so far.
“Kenny,” a little laffer about a bloke with a lisp who runs a portajohn company, was entirely privately funded by Splashdown, which itself supplies portable toilets to public events.
It was lensed over 30 months by nonpros, brothers Clayton and Shane Jacobsen and features some of their family members in a story of a hapless divorced man raising his son who is devoted to his job despite derision.
Pic is distributed by Madman Entertainment, a DVD shingle making its first foray into the risky business of theatrically releasing a broad-appeal domestic title.
After six weeks, “Kenny” is playing on 110 screens, has taken in A$3.8 million ($2.8 million) and is on track to gross about $3.5 million.
“Jindabyne,” Ray Lawrence’s sweeping relationship drama with Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney, is also likely recoup that amount.
But where “Jindabyne” cost $11 million and received a big push from distrib Roadshow, “Kenny’s” budget was negligible.
“It would be unfair to put a dollar figure on it,” says Madman co-topper Paul Wiegard. “Kenny” is a genuine guerilla film, he says, cobbled together by the Jacobsens, with Clayton behind the camera, Shane in front of it.
“Kenny” is among a trio of films — and with “Caterpillar Wish” and “Ten Canoes” — to come from nowhere this year to dazzle auds. These small-budget titles worked, while numerous others with big budgets, experienced directors, international leads and hefty P&A failed to live up to expectations.
“Caterpillar,” a smalltown family drama starring Susie Porter, returned $375,000 on a very limited release.
Rolf de Heer’s Yolngu-language “Ten Canoes” dazzled auds at Cannes before taking in $2.3 million (and notching considerable foreign sales) from a platform release that eventually expanded to about 60 screens.
Despite some good reviews, Neil Armfield’s junkie drama “Candy,” starring Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish, struggled to earn more than $1.2 million. Gillian Armstrong’s doc on wallpaper designer Florence Broadhurst “Unfolding Florence” returned $260,000.
New pics by helmer Ana Kokkinos (“The Book of Revelation”) and Geoffrey Wright (“Macbeth”) tanked. Palace Films director Ben Zeccola says “Revelation” was too challenging for even a narrow audience, while “Macbeth” jarred.
“I don’t think people are ready for broad Australian accents in iambic pentameter,” he told Variety.
Too many films were released during the last two months, jockeying for inclusion in the Australian Film Institute Awards after vying for selection in various local and foreign fests.
Palace took the biggest gamble, releasing seven Aussie films this year. Zeccola says the company won’t make that mistake again; it will unspool pics throughout the year.
Nineteen homegrown titles have tumbled into cinemas since late April, when battle-movie “Kokoda” splashed wide and grossed $750,000 in its opening weekend before stalling at $2.5 million.
Since then, another 18 films have been released, capturing $14 million for a slender 3% of total B.O, which at the end of September will be about $472 million.
A handful of Aussie titles are still to be released. The Sam Neill/Susan Sarandon relationship drama “Irresistible” opens Oct. 12, patricide drama “Suburban Mayhem” unspools Oct. 26, niche doc “Hunt Angels” is pegged for Nov. 23, Toni Collette murder mystery “Like Minds” for Nov. 9 and Mick Molloy’s boy band comedy “BoyTown” goes wide Oct. 19.
But midterm vacation begins this weekend (Sept. 29), and that spells competition for screens from a rash of tyke titles and heavyweights like “The Devil Wears Prada.”