No salvation for These Final Hours

04 August, 2014 by Don Groves

The producers and distributors of These Final Hours had such faith and confidence in the Apocalyptic thriller they released the film at 164 locations last Thursday.

Today they are pondering why that gamble did not pay off as the film from first-time writer-director Zak Hilditch took $207,000 in its first four days, and $214,000 with two Q&A screenings.

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Despite Roadshow's extensive ad-pub campaign, the per-screen average was about $1,260.

The omens had seemed propitious ever since the thriller won the critics’ prize for best Australian film at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year.

Momentum appeared to build after These Final Hours was invited to screen at Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes in May,  where it got a standing ovation.

Executive producer Robert Connolly, who collaborated with producer Liz Kearney, originally intended to launch the film in a limited number of cinemas via his company CinemaPlus, emulating the tactic that worked well on Tim Winton’s Turning.

But after executives at Roadshow Films saw a print and offered to take on the distribution, a much wider release eventuated.

“We are incredibly disappointed but Roadshow threw everything into the campaign,” Kearney told IF today. “We could not have asked for a better release in terms of their support.”

As Kearney acknowledged, These Final Hours faced tough competition from the first weekend of the Scarlett Johansson starrer Lucy (which was originally dated for the end of August) and previews of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

She is proud of what the film has accomplished, which includes sales to nearly every territory worldwide.

Roadshow was so gung-ho they also picked up the US and UK rights last year, on-selling the thriller to Well Go Entertainment in the US. Kearney said a UK deal is being negotiated.  “We think the film will have an amazing life beyond theatrical,” she said.

Connolly  told IF, "Roadshow gave it their best shot.  As a national cinema we have to have the amibition of making bold and ambitious films for multiplexes. If we lose that we are retreating from the challenge."

On a positive note, he said the massive overses sales mean that These Final Hours is "heading towards being profitable, one of an elite group of Australian films that are profitable."

The plot follows Wolf Creek’s Nathan Phillips as a self-obsessed young guy who makes his way to the party-to-end-all-parties on the last day on Earth but ends up saving the life of a girl (11-year-old Angourie Rice) who’s searching for her father. Sarah Snook, Daniel Henshall, Jessica De Gouw and Kathryn Beck round out the cast.

Rice made her debut in Hilditch’s short film Transmission, the tale of a deadly pandemic and its impact on a father-daughter relationship, which was produced by Kearney and screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

The disappointing opening raises another question: Did cinemagoers read, or pay any attention, to the critics who heaped praise on the film?

Urban Cinefile’s Andrew L. Urban rated the performances as strong and declared, “Hilditch does a spectacular job with limited funds, both in terms of the production values generally, and in managing the difficult, large scale 'end of the world' party sequences. It's an attention grabbing debut.”

The Guardian’s Luke Buckmaster enthused, “The film comes on like rash, with a visceral bleakness that is rare and confronting outside the context of genre horror. And if These Final Hours slips a little in a plot sense, it’s because Hilditch’s focus ultimately lies elsewhere – in creating an experiential, brooding, disgustingly plausible hypothetical universe. By these criteria, These Final Hours is an awesome success.”

The Herald-Sun’s Leigh Paatsch opined , “These Final Hours is by no means perfect, but it won’t be forgotten in a hurry. We need more Australian films like this. Right now.”


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  • Shane

    This movie suffers from Lame Australian Trailer Syndrome. It looks like a generic Australian movie where a bunch of morose-looking bogans swear at each other, kill each other and take drugs. Tonally, it feels no different from The Rover, which was also about morose people swearing at each other, killing each other and taking drugs. Maybe Oz audiences just don’t want to watch people taking drugs and being grumpy. If audiences did pay attention to the reviews, then they grasped the subtle euphemisms journalists use in order to say, “This is an Oz movie, so we’re going to say nice things about it out of patriotism, but it’s really not that good.”

  • Mark Poole

    I thought These Final Hours was terrific. How was it promoted though? I may not be the presumed demographic but I was beginning to worry that it wasn’t being advertised at all. No review by Margaret and David, no review in The Australian, yet it’s an accomplished piece of filmmaking.

  • Jack from Jan Juc

    Loved the film but didn’t like the poster. Not a lot of pre-publicity. Strong word of mouth got me in the cinema to see it. I think Connelly ‘s strategy would have worked. Fewer screens and aim for good word of mouth. It’s a powerful film. Well done!

  • Hugh

    This sort of negative article helps no one.

    Are you really going to compare a $2 million Australian film with “Lucy” ($40 million) or “Guardians of the Galaxy” ($170 million)?

    Both of these Hollywood films have big stars and massive studio marketing campaigns.

    “These Final Hours” is vastly entertaining. Its filmmakers should be proud of what it has accomplished to date.

    The fact that the film is “heading towards being profitable” is the main thing and should have been the focus of the article.

    I can’t help but wonder if the writer of this article is enjoying the negativity. His tone seems to suggest so.

  • Miki Clarke

    A correction upon this article, “These Final Hours” recieved perhaps 10 – 15 standing clappers in its final black screen with the directors credit fading in at Cannes Directors Fortnight. The audience was a mixed scuffle of laughs and sighs of a big “waste of time”.

  • Phil Avalon

    I saw the promo on TV….then I saw the trailer at the cinema. OK…I wasn’t overly impressed with the marketing (No poster either) or the trailer. (But I do know cutting a good trailer is just as hard as cutting a good film)So that’s OK…..But at that huge P & A spend, these are the locomotives….right?
    On the flipside, I thought wow, this is a unique subject for an Aussie film, I want to see this movie. However, after reading the IF article & comments, it seems like there is that good old OZ ‘negative slant’ has come into play. What a shame. I’ll check it out anyway.
    And, from the current results, I agree with some comments, it seems like should have been released more selectively – maybe on 20 or 30 screens, and let it build from there.
    Financially, that ‘P & A’ spend will be hard to recoup with current numbers……Phew.
    But all the best to the film makers, you have taken on a risky subject & got it made & played….Well done guys….And hopefully it may recoup & profit from the R.O.W market.

  • Liz

    ‘Hours’, is that the Nicole Kidman film?

  • Rachel Hill

    I have been hanging out to see “These Final Hours”, and finally managed it today. I LOVED IT!! There is SO much to this film, it is deep and thought provoking, it made me laugh, it made me cry (a lot). I have been interested in this movie since I was approached about possibly filming some scenes in my home. I then discovered the writer/director was Zak Hilditch, a graduate of my University. I love that it is filmed in and around Perth, I recognised so many places. It’s awesome that the film has done so well. I have to say that I don’t think I would have gone to see it based on the trailer alone, but then I would have missed out big time. “These Final Hours” made me really think about what’s important in life, and how I should be making the most of every moment. I will never look out over the ocean to the horizon in the same way again! Brilliant Movie!

  • filmart_dd

    Based on Rachel Hill’s reaction above, the film should have opened in Perth and spread from there with Perth-wise people all over this country.

    How ever Screen Australia dropped their project for Building Audiences is beyond me (they did not reply when asked). That is the number one conundrum but it seems that nobody is working on it.

  • filmart_dd

    Who was it that persuaded the current generation of film producers that getting your film in a festival will help your cinema release?

    While festivalling may be a personal buzz over there for the producers, the Australian public just is not oriented that way.

  • grantal77

    I was gaging to see it since the 1st trailer was released earlier this year. Hoyts and Village have dropped this movie making myself unable to watch this. Thanks alot for supporting Australian Movies!