The Sapphires is set to be Hopscotch/eOne’s most ambitious local release since Mao’s Last Dancer in 2009.

The film, about a group of Aboriginal singers who perform for soldiers during the Vietnam War, received a strong response at its recent Cannes Film Festival premiere.

Hopscotch Group managing director Troy Lum told a Screen Australia industry forum that the film deserved to be promoted strongly ahead of its August 9 release date.

“We’re going as wide as we can, as big as we can, because we believe that the film is good and we believe that word of mouth will be strong – we’re just going to blitz it,” he said.

“We’re going straight off the Olympics – we’re doing TV advertising during the Olympics; we’re relying on people seeing it first weekend and just telling everyone about it. We’re doing lots of vox pop marketing, so lots of people saying it’s great and recording it, but it’s one of those rare joys that you have something you know is good, that you know plays, and you kind of just let it do its thing.”

Hopscotch’s biggest local success in recent times was Mao’s Last Dancer, which it co-distributed with Roadshow in 2009 across 267 screens. It grossed more than $15.44 million and became the biggest local box office hit of the year. In that same year, Hopscotch also distributed Scott Hicks’ The Boys are Back on 163 screens however it grossed only $2.11 million.

Hopscotch was sold to Entertainment One for more than $20 million last year. Lum also leads local production business Hopscotch Features, which has two features in post-production: I, Frankenstein and The Grandmothers.

Local films have grossed more than $17.4 million in total at the box office over the year to date led by Happy Feet Two ($8.2 million, not including last year's box office tally between December 26-31), A Few Best Men ($5.29 million) and Any Questions for Ben? ($1.57 million). A Few Best Men (distributed by Icon) and Any Questions for Ben? (Roadshow) both opened on 235 screens earlier this year.

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