Arm-twisting in Oz

Gov't threatens biz with tougher regs

GOLD COAST, Queensland — Australian exhibitors and distributors were warned Thursday to make their voluntary system of settling disputes work or face the prospect of regulation.

“Should problems persist then mandatory regulation may be the only alternative,” Ross Jones, a commissioner at watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission told the Australian Intl. Movie Convention.The ACCC is reviewing the 3-year-old film exhib-distrib code and aims to present its report to the government and code administration committee in about a month. That would give the government ample time to make legislative changes to the code if it believes regulation is needed before the federal election due at the end of this year.

Exhibiting concern

While major distribs and the three big circuits Village, Hoyts and Greater Union support the code, many indie exhibs — especially those in provincial towns — claim distribs demand excessively high rentals from rural cinemas that don’t get films until weeks after they debut in cities. They also say the distribs demand unrealistically long minimum seasons.

They have complained to the ACCC about the terms sought for some major films and have lobbied government ministers to make the code binding and to introduce sanctions.

“There is some evidence that minimum seasons have been increased. They should be falling rather than rising,” Jones said, citing the fast burnout of many titles in Oz (mirroring the U.S. pattern).

Jones acknowledged that if the code conciliator’s recommendations were made binding and sanctions were introduced, some form of appeal process would be needed.

While he was careful to say the ACCC had no role in deciding whether the code should be prescribed, he noted that the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and some European countries have regs that impose rules on seasons and session times.

It emerged at the convention, which runs through Saturday at the Royal Pines Resort, that the government is prepared to toughen the code if the industry can’t make it more effective in solving disputes.

Enforcement plan

The code committee’s annual report distributed here quotes Minister for Small Business Ian McFarlane as telling a recent meeting with the code committee, “The government will not hesitate to make the code mandatory if the government forms the view that the voluntary code is not working.”

Jones was asked if the ACCC still advocates the unrestricted importing of DVDs after similar reforms for CDs, despite assurances from Arts Minister Peter McGauran, who indicated he will tell the convention today that the government will exclude films and videos from its parallel import reforms ( Daily Variety, Aug. 14).

Jones’ answer was an unequivocal yes, saying the ACCC’s inquiry into DVD prices was sparked by the commission’s belief that the regional zoning system for DVDs enables distribs to extract anticompetitive prices.

More Film

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Steven Spielberg Remembers 'Friend and Early Mentor' Stanley Donen

    As news of the death of prolific director Stanley Donen spread Saturday, the industry was quick to remember the helmer of so many classic musicals. Donen directed such hits as “Singin’ in the Rain,” co-directed with and starring Gene Kelly; “Funny Face” with Audrey Hepburn; and “Charade,” with Hepburn and Cary Grant. “Stanley Donen was [...]

  • Aubrey Plaza Spirit Awards

    How to Watch the 2019 Spirit Awards Online

    The Spirit Awards are taking over television Saturday from Santa Monica, Calif., but viewers don’t need a TV to tune in. Hosted by “Parks and Recreation” star Aubrey Plaza, this year’s Spirit Awards are set to air on IFC at 2 p.m. PT and again on Feb. 24 at 9 p.m. ET. However, indie lovers [...]

  • Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

    Oscars, After Repeated Tumbles, Take Center Stage in Hollywood

    At least the weather will be sunny for Sunday afternoon’s Oscars ceremony following one of the stormiest —  and strangest — awards seasons in memory. Expectations have been turned upside down in key categories amid a historic lack of consensus among guild and critics groups. The 91st Academy Awards will be the first in three [...]

  • Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his Night

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Speeding to Series-Best Debut With $58 Million

    Universal’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is far and away the box office champ for Academy Awards weekend with an estimated debut of $58 million from 4,259 North American locations. Three holdovers and an expansion will make up the other top four spots, with the sophomore frame of sci-fier “Alita: Battle Angel” [...]

  • Stanley Donen

    Stanley Donen, Director of Iconic Movie Musicals, Dies at 94

    Stanley Donen, the director of such stylish and exuberant films as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Funny Face” and “Two for the Road” and the last surviving helmer of note from Hollywood’s golden age, has died at 94. The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips tweeted that one of his sons had confirmed the news to him. Confirmed [...]

  • '2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live

    Film Review: ‘2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action’

    The Academy skewed dark in its choice of live-action shorts this year, selecting four films to slit your wrists by — each one featuring child endangerment in a different form — and a fifth, about a diabetic on her death bed, that finds a glimmer of uplift at the other end of life. If that [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content