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Hollywood Increases Domination of Australian Box Office in 2017

Hollywood, and Disney in particular, dominated as theatrical box office in Australia dropped by 5% in 2017.

In local currency terms, Australian theaters saw A$1.20 billion (US$960 million) of business, down from A$1.26 billion (US$1.01 billion) in 2016, which had been the second successive record year. According to data from the Motion Picture Distributors’ Association of Australia, published Monday.

Australian-made films accounted for 4.1% of the market, with a combined total of A$49.4 million (US$39.5 million,) double the 2016 score of A$24.1 million (US$19.3 million). The largest component of the Australian total was “Lion,” which alone accounted for A$29.5 million (US$23.6 million). That is the fifth highest score ever by an Australian movie.

Disney-released films took the top four chart places in the annual ranking. “Beauty and the Beast” was the year’s top film with A$48 million (US$38.4 million,) ahead of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Universal’s “Despicable Me,” with A$32.9 million (US$26.3 million,) was the top non-Disney title. “Lion” ranked seventh.

The number of films getting a theatrical release rose to a record 696 million, of which 55 were Australian. The data, however, shows just six Australian films cracking the A$1 million (US$800,0000 mark at their home box office, and only 25 exceeding A$100,000 (US80,000).

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason, nevertheless lauded the Australian films’ performance. “2017 was a great year for Australian film and Lion in particular deserved not only its critical success, but its commercial success, which was derived from a well-planned, global strategy,” he said in comments on the Screen Australia website.

“The decade-long trend of indie films being squeezed into smaller releases continues, resulting in these films earning less at the box office. In 2007, (Hollywood) blockbusters took around 23% of the Australian box office, but ten years later they took over 50%…it’s not just Aussie films, but indie films from all countries that are feeling the pressure.

“For example, looking at the non-Australian best picture Oscar nominees in the period, you had “Manchester by the Sea” do A$3.1m (US2.48 million) in Australia, “Fences” did A$1.2m (US$960,000) and the category winner “Moonlight” on A$2.5m (US$2 million). All critically acclaimed, remarkable films doing significantly less box office than they would have a decade ago.

“These are the new rules in which we must compete, so at Screen Australia we’re not only looking for exceptional Australian stories, but stories with a considered path to audience at the cinema, and then beyond the cinema.”

“From an annual perspective, the 2017 Australian Box Office results have revealed that cinema-going is still one of the most popular forms of entertainment in this country and, despite economic flux and in the face of ever increasing leisure options, remains resilient,” said Mike Baard, chair of the MPDAA and MD of Universal Pictures Australasia.

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