‘Ladies in Black.’

Here is a rarity: Australian exhibitors are extremely positive about the upcoming line-up of Australian films, with one circuit chief rating it as the most commercial in years.

They are confident Bruce Beresford’s Ladies in Black will be a break-out hit and were profoundly moved by Anthony Maras’ Hotel Mumbai and believe the Icon release will appeal strongly to discerning audiences.

Two smaller films which open soon, Marion Pilowsky’s romantic comedy The Flip Side (August 30) and Mark Grentell’s The Merger (September 6) are predicted to perform well relative to their size of release.

Based on the trailers which screened at the Australian International Movie Convention (AIMC), exhibitors are also bullish about Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale, Shawn Seet’s Storm Boy and Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding.

“I think the Australian content this year and next year looks the most commercial in years – a mix of female skewing, family and important movies that I think will be commercially successful,” says Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell.

Wallis Cinemas programming manager Sasha Close observes: “The upcoming slate of Australian content is impressive; several films will resonate with Australian audiences and have strong box office prospects.

“I am especially excited by the films aimed squarely at female audiences as well as those for the family market. The content into 2019 looks particularly promising and in my opinion, the feature film industry in Australia is looking very good.”

According to Cinema Nova general manager Kristian Connelly, a wide variety of appealing Australian films were previewed or screened at AIMC and will provide an alternative to the increasingly franchise-focused Hollywood studio fare; each, he says, has a clear audience in mind.

However Connelly is concerned about the impact of ticket price fluctuations, short seasons and product-blackout periods caused by numerous film festivals, which sometimes result in a plethora of like-product hitting the market all at once.

“All these factors cast a shadow over the box office potential of all films; particularly locally made titles. I would hope that the generally positive outlook for all content headed to cinemas in the coming year might give exhibition and distribution cause to work together to maintain and grow the potential of theatrical releases, rather than deliberately or inadvertently creating new barriers that will only cheapen or harm the value of the moviegoing experience in the minds of consumers,” Connelly says.

‘The Flip Side.’

Released by Fox, The Flip Side (formerly The Call Back) stars Emily Taheny as Ronnie, a struggling Adelaide restaurateur who looks after her elderly mother and lives with goodhearted boyfriend Jeff (Luke McKenzie). Five years earlier she had an intense affair on a movie set with British movie star Henry (Eddie Izzard), which ended when the production wrapped, breaking her heart.

When Henry’s French girlfriend Sophie (Vanessa Guide) announces they will be in Adelaide on a promotional tour Jeff agrees to meet up and unwittingly creates the perfect opportunity for Henry to seduce Ronnie again.

Dell expects the romantic comedy will appeal to younger women and while it may not draw a big audience with Fox’s backing it will be a commercial success.

He was charmed by The Merger, the saga of a country football coach who hatches an unorthodox plan to rebuild the team by recruiting recently-settled asylum seekers, and predicts: “The heart of the movie will win people over and the compassion on the refugee issue will appeal to many. It may not do huge numbers but will have reasonable success commensurate to its size.”

Sony Pictures will launch Ladies in Black, the 1959-set comedy-drama starring Julia Ormond, Angourie Rice, Rachael Taylor and Ryan Corr, on September 20. Connelly says: “It promises to be enormously successful at local cinemas, providing a rich tapestry of comedy, drama and romance amid a glossy rendition of late 1950s.”

Delighted with the response to the film at the movie convention, Sony executive VP Stephen Basil-Jones tells IF: “We felt we had something special but are always relieved/assured by the exhibitors’ reactions, especially older males.”

Dell praised the mix of nostalgia and #MeToo attitude and the understated performances, particularly by Angourie Rice whom he regards as the next Cate Blanchett. “I think our female audiences of all ages and older audience will absolutely fall in love with it,” he says.

‘Storm Boy.’

Both Storm Boy and Hotel Mumbai are scheduled for January 10. Maras’ thriller about the 2008 terrorist attacks on the Taj Mahal hotel, which stars Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Jason Isaac, Nazanin Boniadi and Tilda Cobham-Hervey, was hailed by Close as a huge achievement and a very important film.

Dell found the film compelling, deeply affecting and horrifying and thinks it will be a hit with discerning audiences. Connelly believes it could well figure in the the year-end international awards discussion.

Impressed with the trailer of Storm Boy, Seet’s contemporary version of the Henri Safran classic, Dell says: “We need our filmmakers and Screen Australia to be making and backing more family films before a generation of kids grows up without ever having seen an Australian film and turn into teenagers and young adults with no interest in them. This is already happening from some of the comments we get from this age group.”

In addition to the above, the 2019 slate includes Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner’s Nekrotronic, Rachel Ward’s Palm Beach, Kriv Stenders’ Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan and Rachel Griffiths’ Ride Like a Girl… even more cause for optimism.

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  1. I will add to that list 3 x “stage to screen” films captured with 8 cameras on 4K – post-produced in 5.1 surround sound, released to 23 cinemas and DENDY Metro through ICA > My Cinema & Act2 Distribution from Sept > Nov. The Dapto Chaser / STC Wharf Review & STC Malthouse > Away. All Austrailan stories. Thank you. GD.

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