‘Australia Day’ ready to test the premium VOD model

‘Australia Day’. 

Kriv Stenders’ drama Australia Day will open in 11 cinemas around Australia on September 21, seven days before it’s available to rent online – the first title to test the premium VOD window in Oz.

Exhibitors have agreed to a minimum season of two weeks, with at least two daytime and one evening session each day for the first week and one per day and night the second week.

Icon/Dendy CEO Greg Hughes, who is partnered with Foxtel on the distribution model, tells IF he secured one or two more independent screens for Australia Day than he’d hoped for originally.

He said the partners aim to release two titles in October and three in November/December, a mix of Australian and international features and documentaries.

He has been approached by several Aussie producers who see the model as preferable to the traditional theatrical release.

“You can build movies for this model,” he tells IF. “It is not a fall back or for films that did not make the grade (for a conventional cinema release).”

Foxtel Store and Dendy Direct won’t reveal their premium VOD pricing until the title is available online.

Scripted by Stephen M Irwin and produced by Hoodlum Entertainment for Foxtel, Australia Day stars Bryan Brown, Shari Sebbens, Sean Keenan, Matthew Le Nevez, Daniel Webber and Elias Anton.

Set in Brisbane, the plot interweaves the stories of three Australians from diverse backgrounds on Australia Day: 14-year-old Indigenous girl April Tucker (Miah Madden), 17-year-old Persian boy Sami Ghaznavi (Elias Anton) and 19-year-old Chinese girl Lan (Jenny Wu), each of whom is alone and terrified for his or her  life.

The film had its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival and also screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival and CinefestOZ.

Hughes said: “We think the distribution model will work best for movies that have an established fan base, either from the title or genre. As a drama Australia Day is a bit more challenging because there is no built-in fan base, but the festival reviews have been encouraging and there is a TV advertising campaign.”

Apart from Dendy’s locations, participating cinemas include the Classic, Lido and Sun cinemas in suburban Melbourne, Adelaide’s Trak and Perth’s Grand.

The initiative will go into hiatus for the holiday season from December 14, when Disney launches Star Wars: The Last Jedi, until early February.

Hughes said he and Foxtel will share some data on Australia Day’s results to demonstrate how the model is working.

The Foxtel Store/Dendy Direct deals are non-exclusive, meaning other platforms could acquire titles if they want to adopt the premium VOD window.