By Brendan Swift
Screen Australia has not recouped its initial investment in a single feature film, TV or documentary production over the past three years.
The data, released to the Senate this week, comes amid an ongoing industry debate about the role film plays within the competing interests of commerce, art and culture.
Two feature films have posted returns over the past three years from Screen Australia’s 32 investments.
Jane Campion’s Bright Star, which has performed well at the US box office and will be released in Australia later this month, has returned just over one-quarter of Screen Australia’s initial $4.45 million investment.
The film’s total budget was about £6.7 million ($A16.7 million).
Warwick Thornton’s indigenous love story Samson & Delilah has returned $116,374 of Screen Australia’s initial $1.37 million investment. The film’s total budget was about $1.6 million.
Samson & Delilah, which won the Caméra d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, took more than $3.1 million at the local box office. It had also posted $209,000 in gross international sales by early November.
The Screen Australia data was released to the Senate this week in answer to a question on notice from Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham. The data shows Screen Australia’s investment and recoupment for all titles delivered since February 2007.
Nine of Screen Australia’s 34 investments in TV productions returned money to the screen agency.
The most successful was Channel Nine’s crime drama Underbelly, which returned more than 44 per cent of Screen Australia’s initial $2.94 million investment.
Among the 99 documentaries funded, 19 returned money to Screen Australia.