‘Mrs Lowry and Son.’

The arthouse market in Australia is alive and well but these days in concentrated largely on myriad film festivals, according to Rialto Distribution’s Kelly Rogers.

So Rogers and Lisa Garner, Rialto’s head of film, are aiming to fill a gap in the market for upmarket titles with cross-over potential.

“We’re looking for films and stories that we emotionally connect with and we can see have a clear audience – whatever the genre,” says Garner, who opened the Sydney office in February, taking over from Backlot Films.

“Yes the market is cluttered, but if a film emotionally engages and entertains an audience then the film will find its audience and level.

”As the market shifts and changes we generally buy films based on knowing there’s a strong audience, whether that’s in the theatrical arena or home entertainment or sometimes a film that could go either way. Being able to clearly define the audience is key.”

The company is distributing 24 films this year, including ancillary releases, up from 15 last year. Next year the plan is to handle 20-plus.

Rialto’s biggest grosser in Australia/New Zealand this year is Tarry Mortlock’s Broken, a Maori drama centred on a former gang leader Logan (Josh Calles) whose daughter is murdered by a rival gang, forcing him to choose between vengeance and forgiveness, which made $1 million.

Among the other top titles are Stephen Hunter’s drama Edie ($750,000), Eli Roth’s revenge thriller Death Wish ($400,000) and David Fairhead and Ant Palmer’s Spitfire, a feature documentary which tells of the fighter planes and pilots that helped win the Battle of Britain in WWII, which opens in Oz on November 15 after generating $NZ400,000 in NZ.

Rogers is confident the 2019 slate is packed with films that have very clear audiences and will stand out in a crowded market.

Danish director Gustav Möller’s The Guilty follows a police officer who is demoted to a desk job as an emergency dispatcher and enters a race against time when he answers an emergency call from a kidnapped woman.

Adrian Noble’s Mrs Lowry and Son stars Timothy Spall and Vanessa Redgrave and is based on the true story of artist L.S. Lowry, who lived with his over-bearing, bed-ridden mother who tried to discourage him from pursuing his artistic ambitions. “It’s a film for a discerning audience yet is very accessible; it’s funny and warm, gentle and heartbreaking,” says Garner.

Alex Holmes’ documentary Maiden follows sailor Tracy Edwards and her all-woman crew as they embark on a heart-pounding race around the world, battling institutionalized sexism, a media circus unable to look beyond a splashy story and crushing self-doubt. “It has a huge heart and delivers the triumph of the underdog storyline and of course a strong message about female empowerment, themes that are very current,” Garner says.

Emilio Estevez directs and stars in The Public, a drama about a stand-off between homeless men who occupy the Cincinnati Public Library and the police, co-starring Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Jena Malone, Christian Slater and Michael Kenneth Williams.

Amma Asante’s Where Hands Touch revolves around the romance between two German teenagers — Amandla Stenberg as a biracial young woman and George MacKay as a member of the Hitler Youth — during WWII. Abbie Cornish plays the girl’s mother.

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