Good cheer hunting for movies

Oz film confab fetes Molloy, peeks at pix

GOLD COAST, Queensland — The Aussie film industry hasn’t had a lot to celebrate this year, but execs will be saluting actor-writer Mick Molloy and pinning their hopes on 17 upcoming Oz pics when the Australian Intl. Movie Convention kicks off today.

Molloy, who starred in and co-wrote “Crackerjack,” whose A$8.6 million ($5.6 million) made it the highest-grossing local title of the past 12 months, will be feted as Aussie star of the year at the opening-night Australia on Show presentation at the Royal Pines Resort.

Confab, which runs through Saturday, is expected to draw more than last year’s record 880 attendees, including 296 exhibs, 133 distrib reps and 64 filmmakers and thesps.

Industryites hope at least some of the 17 local films being showcased will boost the industry, which has had a string of poor B.O. performers this year including “Bad Eggs” (also starring Molloy), “Danny Deckchair,” “Swimming Upstream” and “Horseplay.”

Comedian H.G. Nelson will host Australia on Show, sponsored by the Australian Film Commission, which will feature the talent from “Japanese Story,” “Love’s Brother,” “The Wannabes,” “Travelling Light,” “Peaches” and “A Man’s Gotta Do.”

The film industry will be scrutinized at a seminar Wednesday, where reps of the Film Finance Corp., the AFC and distribs are expected to speak.

The Australian Performing Rights Assn. campaign to boost cinemas’ payments to copyright owners of music in films will be discussed Thursday. APRA wants the levy, currently on film hire, to be applied to gross B.O., which would double the cost to exhibs, Hoyts’ Tony Murray said.

Four minutes of “The Passion,” Mel Gibson’s controversial pic about the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus, will be screened late this afternoon. Film is due for release Down Under via Gibson and Bruce Davey’s distrib Icon in late February.

Films unspooling at the confab previewed include “Seabiscuit,” “S.W.A.T.,” “Matchstick Men,” “In America,” “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,” “Mambo Italiano,” “American Splendor” and Oz titles “Gettin’ Square” and “The HonourableWally Norman.”