Australian horror/comedy 100 Bloody Acres tanked at six Australian cinemas last weekend. Producer Julie Ryan has some compelling theories on why that happened.
Ryan sees an urgent need to re-think the traditional film distribution model and for a campaign to convince Australian cinemagoers of the entertainment value of Australian films.
The producer identifies a number of factors which she believes militated against her film, including the release date, competition from The World’s End, a UK film in the same genre, piracy and file sharing, and lack of marketing support.
The feature writing and directing debut of the brothers Colin and Cameron Cairnes, 100 Bloody Acres stars Damon Herriman and Angus Sampson as brothers who run a blood-and-bone fertiliser business using human carcasses and decide to prey on three young people whose car breaks down in the bush.
The film premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival a year ago, garnering generally positive reviews in the trades and on horror web sites. Yet distributor eOne Hopscotch elected to delay the release until August 1, competing in Melbourne with MIFF.
Ryan said none of the major cinema chains wanted to play the film so Hopscotch booked it into Sydney’s Chauvel Cinema, Melbourne’s Cinema Nova and Palace’s locations in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
“With what I imagine is a very small P&A (spend) there’s little hope in spreading the word to a broad audience,” said Ryan, who was a producer on Red Dog and Satellite Boy and co-producer on John Curran’s Tracks.
“Watching the campaign of Red Dog really made me understand that a great result in the first weekend requires advertising dollars. It doesn’t matter what genre it is, it’s the same principle.
“We keep hearing from people in Australia – stop making films about drug-riddled addicts in the gutters of Carlton (to borrow Tony Ginnane’s quote) – so we purposely set out to make an entertaining film just like Hollywood does,” she said.
"So it was great to receive overwhelmingly positive reviews from the US release (where it went out in cinemas and Video-on-Demand platforms in June). Out of 40 reviews we had only three negative ones. So we know we’re on the right track. We just need our own industry to support us so that we can re-train Australian audiences to start liking Australian films.”
She said her firm Cyan Films and Screen Australia invested $70,000 in an online marketing campaign for the film which has been running since March. “We have been trying to enhance the release in the US, Australia the UK later this year with an online presence in order to build word of mouth,” she said.
“Our trailer hits on a few sites number 83,000, and we have an active dialogue with fans between our characters Reg and Lindsay, so we think we’ve had some success on this front. But unfortunately our film was on bit torrent sites the second day of the US release and even in Australia, people have gone up to the writer/directors to say ‘Congrats. I downloaded your film and loved it.’
“I don’t know how much revenue we’ve lost but perhaps the bigger problem is that all our figures don’t look very good and that may indicate to some people that our film is a turkey. We have spent our own money employing a company to take down streaming sites but there’s nothing we can do about bit torrent sites. So we believe that people are watching our film and enjoying it, they’re just not paying for it. This makes me think that releasing a film these days should have a global strategy and come out day-and-date on cinemas and VoD. It’s the only way to minimise the piracy effect on revenue.
“I know this sounds completely impossible but unless we start trying to come up with a solution, we’re pretty well stuffed.”
Her views on the need to adopt more flexible release patterns chime with those of most Australian distributors who are keen to reduce the traditional four-month window between theatrical and home entertainment release.
She plans to address her concerns over the difficulty in negotiating deals with Australian distributors at the next meeting of the feature film section of the Screen Producers Association of Australia.