Distribution reports: Australia

Locals pin hopes on domestic lineup

Local distribs in Oz have mixed feeling about the market. They’re upbeat because of the booming box office — total gross is tracking about 7% ahead of 2008 — but the once-almighty DVD sideline has softened, giving rise to talk about digital distribution.

“(The dropping DVD market has) really affected the bottom line,” says Hopscotch topper Troy Lum. “We’ve had our best theatrical year ever, profitability has grown as well, but (as an industry) we haven’t figured out how digital distribution is going to replace DVD. Australia is behind most parts of the world on account of our (limited) bandwidth.”

The federal government’s national broadband network — due to begin rollout in early 2010 — should bring Australia up to speed, literally, with the rest of the developed world. Only then will distributors discover how deep demand is for direct digital distribution.

On the domestic front, distribs are optimistic auds will return to Oz films in 2009 after a dismal few years. “Mary and Max” opened conservatively but is holding well due to strong word of mouth. Roadshow and Hopscotch are giving Bruce Beresford’s adaptation of blockbuster Chinese ballet novel “Mao’s Last Dancer” an almighty push. Jane Campion is back with “Bright Star,” which screens in competition at Cannes, while Warwick Thornton’s “Samson and Delilah,” which presents a glimpse into Outback indigenous Australia never seen before, has crix swooning. Pick will screen in Un Certain Regard at Cannes

CINEMA STATS

Total 2008 box office: $679 million

Total 2008 releases: 301

Biggest indie hit: “Twilight” ($10 million)

Local breakout for 2009: “Bright Star”

PICKUPS:

  • “Nowhere Boy” (Icon)

  • “An Education” (Transmission)

  • “Centaurian” (Hopscotch)

  • “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” (Hoyts)

  • “The Secret River” (Palace)

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