Australian films 2019 BO scorecard: a respectable result amid falling ticket sales


‘Ride Like a Girl.’

The Australian films and feature docs released in cinemas last year, including minor contributions from holdovers, generated more than $40.2 million.

While that trailed the 2018 total of $57.4 million, there are several positives for the screen production industry.

The not-so-good news for the broader screen sector is that the 2019 calendar year B.O. seems certain to fall below $1.2 billion for the first time since 2014.

Ten titles including three feature docs – Damon Gameau’s 2040, Richard Lowenstein’s Mystify: Michael Hutchence and Daniel Gordon’s The Australian Dream – each grossed more than $1 million.

Rachel Griffiths’ Ride Like a Girl was the stand-out, raking in $11.5 million. Arguably, Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding ($5.2 million), Shawn Seet’s Storm Boy ($5 million) and Rachel Ward’s Palm Beach ($4.4 million) fulfilled their potential and reaped the benefits of wide releases and hefty marketing campaigns – a level of support denied to numerous local films.

As IF has noted, Anthony Maras’ Hotel Mumbai ($3.3 million) had the misfortune of opening on the same weekend as the Christchurch massacre.

Kriv Stenders’ superbly-rendered Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan ($3 million) deserved a far wider audience given the critical acclaim and Transmission Films’ campaign.

Moreover, Will Gluck’s Peter Rabbit was the top-grossing local title in 2018 with $26.7 million, which would more than account for the year-on-year decline. Sony Pictures is due to launch Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway in March, so that is virtually certain to be a big contributor to the 2020 revenues.

The 2019 stats including the current estimate of $40.2 million compiled by the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia are preliminary as distributors will consolidate grosses over the next couple of weeks.

The 2018 total was the third biggest ever for Oz cinema, behind 2001’s $63.1 million and 2015’s all-time record of $88.1 million, the year of Mad Max: Fury Road, The Dressmaker and Oddball.

If the industry-wide total comes in below $1.2 billion, that will be appreciably behind 2018’s $1.245 billion and the 2016 all-time record of $1.259 billion.

So Australian takings could mirror the US where the 2019 total of $US11.4 billion was down 4 per cent on the previous year’s $US11.88 billion.

As Deadline noted, while an argument can be made that streaming is encroaching on low- to mid-budget fare and that the indie box office is endangered, a sizable number of original movies broke through, including Universal’s Us, Sony’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, STX’s Hustlers, Lionsgate’s Knives Out and Fox’s Ford v. Ferrari.

On the specialty side, the hits included Neon’s Parasite, the highest-grossing South Korean movie of all time with $23.9 million, and Fox Searchlight’s Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit.

The major challenge facing Aussie filmmakers, distributors, exhibitors and agencies this year remains: How to secure enough screens and marketing support to give indie films a shot at finding and holding audiences.

For the full scorecard go here: 2019 scorecard