By Brendan Swift

The Spierig brothers have criticized Hoyts Distribution’s marketing of their vampire film Daybreakers after a lacklustre local performance at the box office.

The film was released on 135 screens following a strong performance in the US which brought in more than $US30.1 million. However, the film took just $2.49 million at the local box office in January despite its strong local cast and international appeal.

“The Australian release was terrible – Hoyts did a terrible job,” the Spierigs said, referring to the lack of general promotion and lack of an outdoor poster campaign.

“That is generally the problem with Australian marketing departments in general – they have no clue how to market movies. It has to do with poor poster campaigns, poor awareness, just generally not knowing how to release films to the public.”

While local filmmakers have long criticized distributors' marketing efforts – often unfairly – the figures suggest there may be some substance behind the Spierigs' concerns.

Daybreakers is the twelfth highest grossing Australian film of all time at the US box office. But only one other Australian film to gross more than $US10 million has performed worse at the Australian box office – The Year of Living Dangerously.

That film was released almost three decades ago – when ticket prices were considerably lower – and still ranks as the 28th highest performer at the US box office. It took $2.39 million in Australia.

However, Hoyts Distribution chief executive Robert Slaverio said the company spent over $1 million on prints and advertising and the local box office performance of the film was above the normal average percentage for this genre, when ranked against the US result. The full response can be read here.

A former high ranking Hollywood executive says there is a lower ceiling for horror genre films in the Australian market. They often take 6 – 10 per cent of the US gross box office, which tallies with the performance of Daybreakers. Another local distributor said Daybreakers' local result was generally positive given how difficult it is to sell horror films in Australia.

The Spierigs have now turned their attention to the big-budget sequel to the Henson classic The Dark Crystal almost 30 years after the original was released.

“The good thing about puppets is they don’t age," they said.

“It’s going to be the hardest thing we’ve ever done, one of the most complex movies ever made.”

Power of the Dark Crystal is set hundreds of years after the events of the first movie and follows the adventures of a mysterious girl made of fire who, together with a Gelfling outcast, steals a shard of the legendary crystal in an attempt to reignite the dying sun that exists at the center of the planet.

“It is going to be a combination of the absolute best of animatronic puppetry mixed with the latest techniques like motion capture. One of the original characters is returning from the Henson classic. But it’s going to be a fully self-contained movie – you won’t have to have seen the original to enjoy this one.”

The Spierigs said cinema has become more event-driven, making it difficult for low-budget Australian features to attract an audience.

“So many Aussie filmmakers don’t understand who they are making a film for – most people go to the cinema to be entertained. Most people work jobs they’re not entirely happy with – they go to the movies for escapist entertainment.”

Daybreakers was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on June 16.

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