Screen Aus report: TV sector thriving while feature films struggling

The Australian TV drama sector has posted strong growth in 2010-11 while feature film expenditure has fallen by two-thirds, a new Screen Australia report shows.

Despite heavy online competition, the local TV sector saw a 12 per cent rise in local TV drama production and the highest level of expenditure by programs for adults in more than a decade.

Forty programs – 581 hours of content – accounted for expenditure of $322 million (up 12 per cent on last year, while hours rose 3 per cent). Of the 40 programs that went into production during the 12 months, 31 were adult drama, while 9 programs were aimed at children. Thirty-three of the programs received the Producer Offset.

The solid growth in the Australian drama slate has resulted in a 33 per cent increase in expenditure since 2007-08. In an interesting note, there haven’t been any adult TV drama co-productions over the past four years.

As for children’s drama, production has been down the past two years. Nine programs (eight domestic and one co-production) contributed $61 million in expenditure – up on $54 million in 2009-10. This was however the first year since 2001-02 that there weren’t at least two co-productions being filmed.

Screen Australia’s chief executive Ruth Harley said Australia was making some of the best television in the world with local stories rating highly among audiences. However it wasn’t looking as good among feature films.

“As predicted following the release of last year’s drama production report, a reduction in high-budget Australian features coupled with minimal foreign feature production in 2010-11 has resulted in a significant drop in feature film expenditure in Australia,” she said in a statement.

This expenditure, from only 17 titles, is down to just $88 million – from $270 million in 2009-10 (40 titles). The four-year average is $225 million.

Screen Australia says the 2011-12 feature film slate “is already set to recover to the levels experienced in the last few years”. The government agency estimates at least $350 million in feature film production in 2011-12. Examples include PJ Hogan’s Mental, The Kath & Kim Filum, Drift and The Sapphires.

Baz Luhrmann is currently filming 3D feature The Great Gatsby which marks the first time since X-Men Origins: Wolverine that Sydney’s Fox Studios lot has been full. Alex Proyas’ big-budget Paradise Lost is currently in pre-production although George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road is now being shifted to Namibia for its shoot from Broken Hill.

Foreign productions have been rare the past 12 months because of the high Australian dollar (generally they don't consider Australia an option when the dollar is more than $US80c).

Of the 17 local features that went into production in 2010-11, 41 had budgets of $6 million or more (up from 38 per cent last year). Fourteen received the Producer Offset (10 domestic and four co-productions).

Thirteen foreign projects (12 features and one TV drama) undertook post-production, digital and visual effects (PDV) services in 2010-11, which included Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor and The Green Lantern. The PDV Offset threshold was last year reduced to $500,000 and earlier this year, the rebate was increased to 30 per cent.

To view the full Screen Australia report, click here.

Australian Feature Film/TV Expenditure 2010/11

Source: Screen Australia