New formula to measure global impact of Oz films

Judging Australian films’ success or failure by their local B.O. results is unfair and misleading, according to several academics who have devised a new formula for measuring the global impact of individual titles.

Dubbed film impact rating (FIR), the metric assesses films on 14 criteria including the location, volume and saturation of film screenings including film festivals; critic and user ratings, award nominations and wins; and Australian and international B.O. returns and production budget as a percentage of worldwide B.O.

The study’s authors Deb Verhoeven, Alwyn Davidson and Bronwyn Coate tracked 134 Australian films, including co-productions, that screened between December 1 2012 and June 1 2014.

By that yardstick, Saving My Banks had the greatest impact worldwide, narrowly ahead of The Great Gatsby, despite the gap in their total B.O. earnings: $US112.5 million for the Disney film co-produced by Essential Media and Entertainment’s Ian Collie, versus $351 million for Baz’s extravaganza.

The Railway Man ranked third ahead of Walking With Dinosaurs 3D. Perhaps surprisingly, The Rocket was reckoned to have had greater impact than Tracks, while B.O. bomb Adore/Adoration outranked Wolf Creek 2.

The findings were published in the trio’s paper Australian films at large: expanding the evidence about Australian cinema performance.

“We weren't surprised by any of the results,” Verhoeven, Professor and Chair of Media and Communication at Deakin University, tells IF.

“The point of the FIR was to expand the evaluation of Australian films beyond domestic box office by introducing a much wider range of factors to the way we understand their impact. Expanding the attribution of impact from just one to a combination of 14 different factors was always going to produce different results compared to the way we have previously measured film success.

“For example, this expanded approach gives films that might otherwise have been perceived as box office 'failures' a newfound form of attention based on additional attributes like critical acclaim, public attention, distribution coverage, international box-office and so on. But we are also mindful that the FIR is intended primarily as a discussion starter about how we understand value and impact in the Australian film industry. So we are explicitly interested in industry and public feedback on our model.”

The FIR tool can he found here ( so anyone can generate his or her rankings of Australian films according to one’s sense of what is important in evaluating the impact of movies.

“We’ve been really impressed by the level of feedback we've received which has ranged from detailed responses to the underlying formulation of our impact algorithm, to individual film producers contacting us to generate an FIR for them,” she says.

“Typically, and sadly, there isn't enough collaboration between academics and film industry members – we hope that this kind of recursive exercise might create more opportunities for these two sectors to work productively together. At this stage the signs are certainly promising. In addition to direct feedback, we've had an enthusiastic response to our online tool at which is allowing us to track user feedback on the value of the various impact measures we have identified.

“So far we are picking up from the public use of this tool a definite leaning to factors associated with critical acclaim as the most important measure of film impact. Feedback like this will allow us to adjust our algorithm to produce a more widely informed set of results in the future.”

You can view the FIR Chart here

  1. It makes little difference whether the theatre seats are covered with velvet or with vinyl, ultimately, they must be covered with backsides.

  2. I read the article with great interest. Thank you for your work.
    I have come to believe that if I had the budget in place I should release a film overseas and then bring it back here and it will do solid business here. If I release here before Australian audiences have seen the reaction from O/S they don’t bother going to see the film. Of course our funding bodies are not set up for this.


  3. Thank you for your study. It’s appreciated.

    My belief is that Australian audiences follow the reviews from overseas in most ( not all) cases and so I have tried to finance/shoot the films here, sell and release in international territories and then release in Australia. If the film is received well O/S then our audiences turn up. That is the antithesis of the requirements for the funding bodies as I understand it ( five screens required in Australia) for the application.

    Big films do well, they market strongly, Gatsby is an example. Smaller films without STARS don’t have that same appeal. We have to work harder.

  4. The opinion posted by Janice Eymann has the clear ring of truth about it, so what does this mean? Should we be producing wildly inaccurate story lines with unlikely casting and big star names such as was the case with Gatsby?

    Are we to forever enquire as to what the rest of the world thinks before we accept that we have got it right? Shall we continue to support the star system, accept it as fact (indeed it is a fallacy) that the US has better ideas, better scripts, better stars than we have?

    [quote]”Smaller films without STARS don’t have that same appeal”[unquote] No they do not, they have the appeal that we infuse into them, and which they create as part of their evolutionary process. We are not bakers making cakes to a set recipe, we are artists creating theatre in the form of films.

    We need to get serious about film making, and start doing it, not only smarter, but also better.

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