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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Australian Film Industry

One thing I'm becoming more aware of as I get older and the world shrinks ever more is how much of my perspective is an illusion of circumstance.

 Take, for instance, this article about the Australian film industry in the Sydney Morning Herald.  It's an interesting read, but it contains some sentences that floored me:
Homegrown films are likely to account for less than 3 per cent of the domestic box office in 2014.
To translate that into American, that means that Australian films account for less than 3% of the Australian box office.  What the hell?

I thought they had a film industry down there.  All these Aussie actors, all these big movies being filmed down there.  But I had it wrong. The Aussie actors move to America because there's no work back home, not because they're cultivated from a thriving film culture.   (You know, like our beloved Brits.)  

The big Hollywood films being produced down there?  It's not because their film infrastructure is cheaper, per se.  It's because their film infrastructure doesn't exist.  It's an untapped resource, the tar sands to L.A.'s depleted oil pump.

The article has more:
It has become a truism recently to say Australians are staying away from Australian films at the cinema.
As an American, this is almost inconceivable to me.  I mean, I've seen a lot of foreign films, but for every film you see...wow.

Hollywood has truly colonized the planet.

The article goes on to explain some of the reasons Australians don't like Australian films.  They're too dark, they're too stereotyped (or the wrong stereotype), too critically disdained, too limited in their release.

But eventually it gets to, for me, the most interesting part:
Australian films generally hit the cinemas, garner whatever scant attention they can, then disappear. Around 120 days later, they crop up on DVD, Blu-Ray or on iTunes or video on demand (VOD) platforms. But by then, the audience has moved on. For many in the industry, closing this release "window" so that titles are available to view at home on or very close to the day they hit cinemas is the best, perhaps only, chance many Australian films have to succeed. Expect to see some major developments in this area soon.
The ultimate point there....don't go long on Australian theater stocks.  I can be honest about this:  That release window is the only thing keeping theaters alive.

As a business, they are too stuck in their ways, unwilling to change, or --like so many other businesses struggling in this day and age-- unable to change.  Oh, they make a good show of it:  building all the 24-screen multiplexes in the 90s, introduced flashier sound systems, better seats.  Now we have digital projection and, more importantly from a business perspective, digital film distribution.

The release will inevitably shrink, and when it's gone...the multiplex theater will follow.


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