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.
 

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38 Comments

  1. The Producers can blame anyone they want, but did they ever stop and think that the viewing audience are just sick and tired of films that just promote violence and gore? You can’t blame priacy for people not wanting to go and see a film with a title such as that. On the other hand, a low budget film with no marketing budget whatsoever has been doing very well in limited release without one iota of mainstream publicity. Seems for whatever reason, the mainstream media are reluctant to promote or even review The Playbook, possibly due its portayal of faith. Yet its been doing very well apparently. So to lay blame on all those things is just crying poor.

  2. The reason I didn’t go to see this film on the weekend is I don’t want to pay to see ‘violence’ Saddam Hussein and his sons were doing such things and that was bad enough to read about. I went to see ‘Behind The Candelabra’ and in several weeks I will go and see Geoffrey Rush in ‘The Best Offer’

  3. Oh Julie, I feel for you and the entire team. Excellent movie. Great social media campaign (it’s how I found out about it). You made a pearler.

    However, woeful distribution in this country has killed any chance it had. As you say, until simultaneous international release dates are commonplace, genre pieces like this will tank. Your audience is ready to consume this film, just not in a mainstream cinema. That is genre through and through. Just ask me… I am a sci-fi/horror nut and had to have it on the day it was released… VoD from Netflix! Seriously, if it was $10 to download and released in Australia on the same day as every other country in the world, who would baulk at that? I’d be first in line. *sigh*

  4. 100 BLOODY ACRES is a fantastic film, very well made, original, entertaining. I agree there needs to be a complete rethink about how such films are rolled out so that they are given half a chance. SAW could have been made in Australia and been a big hit for the local industry, but instead Leigh Whannell and James Wan moved to the US. This trend will continue forever if something is not done.

  5. 100 Bloody Acres is a cracking little film. But we have to stop talking about the Theatrical Release like its some venerated deity.

    The cinema theatre is just simply NOT where the audience is. It is the smallest possible and most fickle audience platform. To judge a films’ success by such a tiny audience potential makes no sense. To have a release window that makes a hierarchy of the theatrical release makes even less sense in an on-line, on-demand digital world.

    We have to do away with the thinking that Feature Film means it has to be shown in a cinema.

    If we’re going to make feature films, distribute them where the audience is NOT where they used to be.

  6. Horror genre films just don’t work in those cinemas. Unlike the US, even the studio horror films like The Conjuring struggle. They have always been the domain of straight to DVD titles. Given the demographics of the cinema sit was playing at is largely female 30+. it is no surprise it didn’t work there. Even if you had it playing at multiplex cinemas, you’re competing against huge studio fare. Everyone thinks they have SAW or WOLF CREEK on their hands but they’r ethe exception to the rule, unfortunately.

  7. Australia is just one tiny market, this film has a long life ahead of it and inflammatory headlines like your really dont help anyone because you know as well as anyone that out of 30 films released theatrically globally, only one will return a profit. What went wrong is that they released the film theatrically and according to standard industry statistics and market expectations based on advertising spend and release penetration it performed as expected. Everyone knew that was going to be the result, so the headline should read “Film release goes to plan!”.

  8. Unfortunately Australian Audiences have been burnt by years of sub-ordinary Australian films, and are very unwilling to risk going to Australian films anymore. This won’t be fixed quickly, and a lot of great films will go by the wayside before it is. Moreover, the Australian cinema-going culture is very middle-of-the-road (see Tony Ricardo and his other personality, “Brenton”, above), so genre films, horror particularly, don’t fare well. Julie should take comfort in the success of Acres in the States. Australian filmmakers need to be international in their outlook and she’s done an exceptional job of that. Having said all that though, I didn’t realise 100 Bloody Acres had been released yet, so there’s something to be said for the lack of P&A being a contributing factor.

  9. I’ve been saying for a long time that subsidised TV advertising would make a huge difference to our film industry. Most people don’t even know what films are playing at the cinema so they just go for the big blockbusters because that’s all that sticks in their head. If trailers for Aussie films were shown during prime time television hours at least we’d have a hope in hell of Australians knowing what’s out there.

  10. In Melbourne what’s the audience catchment? People who will go to Carlton to see a film and pay for parking. So essentially people who live in the inner north who already have a zillion other entertainment choices. Anyone who is into cinema is seeing things at MIFF. Looks too gruesome for me, no way I’d convince the girlfriend to see it. It’s no exactly date night material is it? If these films are only going to take 6k in a weekend it’s not worth the p & a or the electricity to turn the projectors on. Just stick them on itunes or gumroad. It looks like they made a movie nobody wanted to see, like I love You Too, You and You’re Stupid Mate. You know the other films staring Angus Sampson as an ocker that nobody wanted to see.

    If you don’t want your film on torrent sites don’t release as a vod until it’s finished its theatrical run. You can’t put the cat back in the bag. At least give the option of buying it legally. What are my choices at the moment download it illegally, get a U.S itunes account or drive for an hour pay for parking and pay $20 plus. I’ll wait until it’s on itunes and rent it instead.

  11. From the trailer I couldn’t work out who it’s audience was. Wouldn’t it be a better approach to look at what people are flocking to and make films people want to see?

  12. Making a good film is 1/3 the story. Making a good, marketable film is 2/3 the story. But we have a difficulty making good, marketable and competitive movies. The reviews and film festival reactions are a response to the first third, making a good film. Mind you, its hard enough to get the first part right, let alone all three.
    So just because we make a good film does not equate to performance in a competitive arena…where it is saturated with good films that are marketable and also highly competitive.
    The reality is that theatres take around 60% of the box office. If they are not going to make money opening their doors for our films, because our films are not competitive, well they have a point. Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how good our films are (as reinforced by film festivals) and how much we say we are going to promote the films, if the film is not competitive, there is no release.
    As one theatre owner once said to me “You filmmakers make good films, you don’t make good movies. Why should I show your good film, when there are other good movies I can put on that will compete better and make money.”

    Maybe our problems are much deeper rooted and more systemic.

  13. I personally dont go see a movie for genre, i go for good or bad. I think 100 BA is a landmark movie in terms of script, direction, theme: an intelligent look at real life characters within the confines of entertainment. It’s refreshing by pushing boundaries: a lot of women over 60 are as hot sexually or more than the younger cuties, and when dealing with a story about blood and guts, you need to show lots of it. I’m sick and tired of hearing the catch phrase: “I don’t like violent movies” from the same people who buy the paper every single day to gloat on REAL LIFE violence. But maybe there is such thing as “good taste” violence?

  14. This film was never going to do well, no matter how good it is because it had a tiny P&A (print and advertsing) budget and it opened in arthouse cinemas. The same can be said for the majority of OZ films. It needed to open in mainstream cinema (that is where the horror lovers go) and there was no advertising on prime time TV. You can scream about illegal downloads all you want but if you don’t advertise copiously and screen in mainstream cinemas you are never going to get punters on seats.

  15. It strikes me as strange that this story even exists. Firstly, the title: “100 Bloody Acres: What went wrong?” This suggests that there was an expectation that wasn’t met. But that’s not the case, is it? When a film goes out on 120 screens, has a fortune spent on marketing and high visibility in the form of posters, newspaper and TV advertising THEN has a disappointing opening weekend… then it would make sense to ask “what went wrong”. But this film (despite overwhelming positive reviews from the US) was released on 6 screens, had incredibly limited marketing and almost no visibility. To then ask “what went wrong” feels a bit like asking what went wrong after a plant dies when no one’s been watering it.

    How about “100 Bloody Acres: What went exactly as one would expect under the circumstances.”

  16. What a pity. Its this ridiculous Screen Australia push to have Australian films play on a minimum amount of screens to qualify for ‘producer offset’.
    Some films don’t need a theatrical release to garner an audience.
    Look at the tiny P & A budgets that some distributors are forced to ‘putt up’ when these budgets could be utilized to see a higher profile in a Pay Per View, PAY TV or DVD release.
    We have a new Screen OZ C.E.O. Hopefully he will convince the board to rid us of this rule & we will then see films play where the market sees them.

  17. Your audience is on-line – . Spend $80k on online marketing pushing ppl to a site where in one click theyre watchig – and you’ll capture a huge audience + instantly global . Am I speaking Spanglish ? As an advertiser I’d want a piece of that

  18. It’s all about distribution. VOD and Youtube is the future. The cinema model is dead unless you have a tentpole film and Australia doesn’t have the means to produce these big studio films unless it’s an outside production brought here to be made. Sorry but film festivals don’t work for horror, they’re great for creating buzz about indie and drama films, but when it comes to horror you have to go straight to the market. I wonder if this wonderful film’s distribution could be fixed and it go onto to be a hit? Also why can’t Australia have video on demand in every household and we could start by selling Australian films on there? I’m sure there’s a wealth of films from the last 10 years that deserve to be seen and with the right Netflix’s model they could be. All is not dead.

  19. I must have been one of the few paying customers and I enjoyed the film and its sad that the great reviews aren’t converting into more sales. I would have thought this film was a sure thing; the amount of effort gone into Twitter and creating the fake trailers was amazing and I can’t help but think that it’s just the fact it’s not really on anywhere that’s the problem here.

  20. You’re right Briony…they move to the US to make films because Screen Australia won’t take risks. There are a pool of great writers, directors, producers and actors who are heading overseas because everyone’s playing it safe in Australia.

  21. Chris, the trailer is currently playing on ITunes in the US (its been a featured trailer, too, not hidden away), so I assume it will be available on that platform there v soon if not already.

    Much as it pains me to defend Screen Australia (and it pains me a lot), I don’t think they need to take any blame at all in this case. I watched the trailer, and decided there was no way I wanted to see the film. Subject matter aside, it wasn’t a good trailer.

  22. “Tanked”?? It’s on at six cinemas nationwide. No one knew it was on. And the word you choose in your opening paragraph is “TANKED”?!

    Call me crazy, but I think that word should be reserved for films that fail despite a wide release and a big P & A budget. Where there is a large discrepancy between expectation and result. Blockbusters tank. This little film did not “tank”. To say that is not only inaccurate, it also puts out a negative vibe for a film at a time it should be getting support.

  23. Josh Reed, I am so “middle of the road” I have seen every film by Pedro Almodovar and Paul Cox! Too very “middle of the road’ film directors! When I went to the cinema last Saturday night, I saw no one under 40 in the complex! With Australia’s ageing population and the en masse retirement of the baby boomers, it seems there is box office to be had but not with films such as discussed in this article.

  24. cinema nova in the middle of miff, there’s your answer for Melbourne, not sure about the other states?
    I’m already lining up my films that I have missed at miff this year. It was last years film and I wish it had been released back then. It’s The Loved Ones all over again.

  25. Sorry to say, it’s not the model. It’s the films. Probably time producers of content in Australia (both for film and TV) stop blaming everything around them and start looking at the actual quality of content being produced. That’s the fourth or fifth theatrical flop in a row from the local market (most of which have received some funding from a government institution) – and it can’t just be the distribution. No doubt how a film is distributed plays a role in the process, and the digital age has certainly presented new opportunities and room for updated approaches. But if a film flops, it’s because the audience isn’t interested to see it – and if that’s the case, then it starts with the project and the material. A good craftsman never blames his tools, right?

  26. In response to J Lowe (good name PS), I appreciate where you are coming from but I think it’s a bit of a cop out out. It’s just more excuses – ‘Look, Ebert said it was good…’ Yeah, so what? Yes, there was a good review. And I am sure I could find a bad review from another respected critic somewhere else… The point is that the film failed to speak to audiences and failed to make any money, and there are reasons for this beyond distribution (and irrespective of what Ebert may have thought). And the REAL point is that this is not a singularity. I’m not just picking on this film. ‘100 Bloody Acres’ is just one in a slew of recent flops from Australian shores – both locally and internationally. With this in mind, it at least begs the question – is there an issue with the films we are making (and this includes the marketability of a film, as mentioned by someone above)? It’s a tough question, and one we like to avoid, but maybe it is time we started asking it. Or we can keep going the way we are and only pay attention to the positive reviews….

  27. I feel for you, and know exactly the feeling. I shot a feature that the international critics loved. “Wasted On The Young,” directed by Ben C Lucas. Australian. In competition in the Sydney Film Festival 2011. Distributed by Paramount, and I can’t help but feel we were making up the numbers in Australian content for them. Our marketing spend was tiny. Under 100K, and therefore, no one knew we were playing. The same can be said for 100 Bloddy Acres. To be honest, this is the first time I have heard of your film, and that is a BIG problem. I am in the industry, shooting films, TVCs, and TV content. And I don’t know of this film. Your marketing campaign has not reached me. That is a problem, and unless your film has won international awards at serious film festivals the media will not get “excited” about the film, and thus, we the “potential” audience, do not know a thing about your movie. It is invisible. Marketing is everything. Other than an awesome film of course….

  28. Discussions about the film are really pointless. It’s on 6 screens and it had very little promo. One viral video seen 45 thousand times is a fair effort but the others are mostly under a couple of hundred views. This is down to lack of screens and lack of money. What would the box office have been if it sold out every session? Still unimpressive.

  29. Dan: “To be honest, this is the first time I have heard of your film (100 BA), and that is a BIG problem. I am in the industry, shooting films, TVCs, and TV content. And I don’t know of this film.”
    I’m an indie filmmaker who also had a chat with a fellow filmmaker recently. I mentioned all the Aussie films that have screened in cinemas this year. He has only heard of one of them. What chance has the regular audience got of getting to know these films. It’s the marketing budget, it’s too small.

  30. I simply asked the guy at Luna Cinema in Perth today… “What do you recommend?” and he said he hasn’t seen it yet, but everyone leaving the theater were clearly LOVING 100 Bloody Acres! So I saw it and although I don’t generally like blood and guts, I was laughing all the way home. Black comedy at it’s very best in my opinion and I’m recommending it to everyone I know.

  31. There was absolutely no marketing for this. No TV spots that I saw – nothing. You need to advertise. As it is I watched on a US itunes account because the film was released overseas before it was here…This film is great. I gave it a glowing review for the website I write for. The major issue is (and unless it changes always will be) film distro. Companies treat Australia as a dumping ground and worse still treat horror films with contempt. Sinister was a mildly successful US horror got a cinema release in Oz nearly a full year after it was released worldwide. Unless this changes or the strategies of marketing change, you’ll see the same results. More VOD/iTunes releases will give Aussie a better – much better – chance.

  32. The illegal downloading IS an issue. There is no doubt about that. It’s 100 bloody cuts to the industry every time a film is file-shared for free illegally.

    To be honest though, product awareness seems the biggest issue here. There HAS to be a bit of a reality check on the real impact of social media as a marketing tool. It’s not the be all and replace all of marketing tools. Expectations really need to be moderated about what it can realistically achieve compared to more familiar advertising channels.

    $70,000 on the promotional spend ?!?

  33. Alot of horror haters on here. I personally love it. I think people don’t realise the majority of people who watch horror film are teenage girls. If your not a teenage girl who wants to get together with her friends and scream, horror movies probably aren’t for you! Of course there are excpetions to every rule. There is still plenty of life left in the old girl yet. Case in point The Purge just did sensational in the US and The Conjiring did very well.

  34. What went wrong with 100 Bloody Acres? Take a look at the films Facebook page and it pretty well sums it up https://www.facebook.com/100BloodyAcres – What do you find there? pretty much nothing… a few bland snaps of people on set, a few more of actors at MIFF, key art, a few positive reviews. There’s no sense of any real engagement with their audience, or even any sense of the producers actually even knowing who their audience is. The page was obviously set up in time for its MIFF premiere in 2012, too late I’m afraid. Try to find the films official website – good luck if you can, I couldn’t. Time and time again local films release like this, like they’ve done enough making the film, now the audience will come to them – it doesn’t work like this. You want to make independent genre, then work your arses off to engage with your audience – make no mistake, they’re out there but you need to find them and develop their loyalty, not the other way around. Piracy is a fact of life, work with it – offer something the pirates can’t, engagement, connection, occasion – films like 100 Bloody Acres obviously can’t compete with the P&A’s of the blockbusters but that’s okay, it’s a different audience anyway but you must work it and work with it, I can’t see any evidence of it here – if it exists in the case of this film then I’ve missed something. If you want an idea of what I’m talking about look up the Soska sisters, or Astron 6 or look at local guys like Strongman Pictures with their upcoming release of MurderDrome https://www.facebook.com/Murd3rdr0m3 – these guys get it, they’re not relying on MIFF and a few posters to create the noise, they’re working furiously, night and day to create heat, to bring the people the people they know will champion the film our of the woodwork. All is not lost for Australian indie genre, it’s just time for producers and distributors to get a bit smarter.

  35. Fact is it’s just not a very interesting film. Very predictable.

    Yes it would be nice if an Australian film did well, but with all the social media viral marketing in the world, it’s success is still best obtained by the appeal of the film itself. If it was gold, it would have been found and eureka cried! Sorry I found it like naïve horror – kind of film school not very good. But then I am only someone who buys tickets to films, no expert at all.

  36. I found it quite funny.
    The thing with online piracy: if the movie os only shown in 6 cinema in entire Autralia, how am I going to watch it? Its not available on DVD / Blue ray either. More and more DVD rental places are disappearing. There is only the rental machines in supermarkets left and their selection is as bland as supermarket food.

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