Global Box Office Report: Australia

Not even ‘Superman’ is a shoe-in

Hollywood studio pix typically gross 10% of their domestic U.S. haul in their Down Under release. This year was no exception.

Locals refute, however, the belief that Australia is the 51st state.

Rather, the market is distinctive in its appreciation of British and foreign-lingo fare. (Non-Hollywood films make up 20% of the market). Roger Donaldson’s Kiwi film “The World’s Fastest Indian” triumphed as did Brit film “Mrs. Henderson Presents” with Judy Dench.

Also, unlike many other non-English lingo territories, Aussies disproportionately love Hollywood romantic comedies like “The Break Up.”

What they don’t like are urban films or unjustified hype: A “Cars” doesn’t romp home just because it comes from Pixar.

The Pixar animated film grossed just $14 million, rather than its expected $19 million despite a media tour by John Lasseter. Car culture is just not as strong in Oz. “Talladega Nights” was impacted by a similar issue.

“Superman Returns” should have performed well Down Under because it was lensed in Sydney but film did not even make the top 10, returning $11 million, well shy of the $15.5 million indicated by the 10% rule.

Films featuring the Aussiewood thesps, Kidman, Crowe, Jackman, Ledger, Watts, Blanchett do disproportionately well Down Under, though there’s no solid example from 2006.

“The Da Vinci Code” outperformed its projected haul off the back of immense media coverage. So too did “Ice Age 2,” whose release coincided with Easter school vacation and no competition in the market.

Meanwhile, local films ended the year with something of a bang: Domestic share of the B.O. is tracking at 4%. That’s the second successive year of growth, though the figure is still below the 13-year average of 5%.

Micro-budget portajohn comedy “Kenny” — from tyro helmer Clayton Jacobson, starring his brother Shane Jacobson — came from nowhere to flush out $6 million, the highest-grossing Oz film of 2006.

“Kenny” was wholly-funded by a toilet company and was the debut domestic theatrical release from former DVD distribber Madman Entertainment. Its success has lifted optimism in an industry that had not produced a hit for three years.

The Australian Film Institute kudos Dec. 7 honored Rolf de Heer’s aboriginal language drama “Ten Canoes” with six awards including best picture. Numerous key awards went to a variety of other titles, indicating a diversity of output in contrast with just two years ago when “Somersault” collected every film award.

“This year was more successful than last year both critically and commercially and it looks good for next year as well,” Australian Film Commission topper Chris Fitchett says.

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Main story: Hollywood vs. home movies