The Australian industry was quick to celebrate its haul of Oscar 13 nominations for “Lion” and “Hacksaw Ridge” and a first ever nomination in the foreign-language category, for “Tanna.” But new data shows that Australian-made films are struggling at their local box office.
The overall theatrical box office in Australia grew by 2.7% in local currency terms in 2016, according to figures from the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia. Revenue grew from A$1.23 billion in 2015 to A$1.26 billion.
In U.S. dollar terms the gain was greater – from US$845 million in 2015, using end of 2015 exchange rates, to US$955 million using end of $2016 rates. That reflected the gradual strengthening of the Australian currency over the past year.
But Australian films saw their share of their home market crumple from 7.2 % in 2015 to just 1.9% in 2016. In 2015 they accounted for a record A$88 million. But last year they managed just A$24 million, with “Hacksaw Ridge” the top scorer with A$8.60 million.
The new year may hold out brighter prospects. “What a perfect way to end the opening week at the Australian box office for this remarkable film! ‘Lion’ is truly a film that Australian and international audiences have fallen in love with and it is thrilling to see it getting the critical acclaim it deserve,” said Richard Payten of distributor Transmission Films. The film enjoyed an A$5 million start at local theaters, the largest opening ever for an Australian independent film. “Lion”collected six Oscar nominations, including one for best picture, and a fourth acting nomination for Nicole Kidman.
Australia has previously put forward other films in the foreign-language category. “Tanna,” a Nauvhal-language film directed by Bentley Dean and Martin Butler on Vanuatu island, is the first to have been shortlisted by the Academy.
At the top of the 2016 Australian box office it was Hollywood all the way. The highest scoring movie of 2016 was “Finding Dory” with A$48.6 million, ahead of “Deadpool” with $43.2 million. The tenth placed film, “The Secret Life of Pets” scored A$29.6 million, more than the combined total of all Australian–made titles. A new streaming video service, showing only Australian-made movies will launch tomorrow on Australia Day.