By Simon de Bruyn
Australian filmmakers have received some measure of comfort after research released yesterday by the Film Finance Corporation revealed audiences are not biased against watching Australian films – despite some less than flattering opinions about local films’ content and entertainment value.
The research, conducted by Bergent Research on behalf of the FFC, took a number of assumptions about Australian films and tested them with nationwide surveys and focus groups across all key filmgoing demographics.
Some of the hypotheses examined and thrown out were that audiences perceive all Australian movies as the same, and film audiences prefer US movies to Australian movies. Rather the results revealed that moviegoers do not lump all Australian films together but rather classify films by genre (comedy, thriller, romance etc.) and that the country of origin does not reflect the appeal of the film.
Australian name actors were also a big hit with respondees, drawing much more interest in seeing a film than big name American or European actors, and the research actually revealed that Australian content or cast sometimes compelled audiences to want to see a film, whereas they wouldn’t bother with similar foreign films.
However some of the initial assumptions were proved correct. While the research showed that audiences did not categorize Australian films as separate to US and European films, and showed a general interest in seeing Australian films, there were some telling comments from respondees about the perceived quality and content of local films.
Examples of comments included observations that Australian films had “a certain look”, are “not made to make money”, are “more arty” or serious, and are seen as something “we have to watch at school” and “potentially boring”. However the research showed that people were proud to watch “good Australian movies” and were proud of Australian movie success.
The research found that positioning Australian films as arthouse actually gives them less appeal to audiences, and that Australian films are seen to deal more with social issues than provide enjoyable escapism. People told Bergent they went to the movies to escape, not to watch something they see everyday.
Bergent also found that most people had a low awareness of Australian films and that they didn’t notice as much marketing for them as US films, especially trailers in cinemas.
The full report from Bergent Research is titled Maximising the Appeal of Australian Movies with Australian Audiences, and can be found here on the FFC website.

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