The Australian box office will emerge from a weak winter only 3 per cent down on last year’s record total.
With the North American box office entering what is forecast to be its worst weekend of the year (and the lowest take during an August weekend in more than 20 years), the Australian box office has held relatively well.
But exhibitors have quietly introduced a number of ticket discounting offers in recent months to counter a weak offering of films, with weekly box office totals in July and August tracking below the same weeks last year.
While Dunkirk ($20.6 million), Despicable Me 3 ($32 million), Spider-Man: Homecoming ($25.4 million) and Baby Driver ($13 million) have kept winter box office ticking over, solid films earning $1-10 million have been thin on the ground.
This has been despite, or perhaps due to, more films being released than ever. During the next two weeks, ten films will be released each weekend.
The general manager of the Motion Pictures Distributors Association of Australia, Lori Flekser, said 609 films were released last year, up on 315 films in 2006.
“A lot of it is foreign language content with a big increase in the number of Chinese and Indian language films and they do extremely well,” she said.
For instance, the Chinese record-breaker Wolf Warrior 2 has currently earned $1.5 million from only 21 screens.
“The highest foreign language grossing film in Australia used to be European films and now its predominantly Indian films, some of which are making more than $1 million.”
Flekser said the overall decline in box office thus far in 2017 was not unexpected, with the same decline being shown at various stages even in good years.
“I don’t think we’re going to mourn the death of cinema this year,” she said. “You can’t break records year after year and it always depends on the slate.”
The winter slate has been weak. Boxofficemojo forecasts North American box office in August is likely to be the sixth month out of the first eight to show a decline on last year.
While Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Last Jedi are anticipated to cruise past $30 million each, the rest of the calendar year is full of films that could pop or fizzle, including The Lego Ninjago Movie, Justice League, Daddy’s Home 2, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, IT, Murder on The Orient Express, The Snowman and Blade Runner.
“One of the things people complain about is there’s no diversity but we’re seeing that, and that makes the environment much more competitive,” said Flekser.
That will be shown best on Boxing Day, with a diverse list of new releases including sequels (The Croods 2 and Paddington 2), Hugh Jackman’s The Greatest Showman, a new Pixar film, Coco, a new Alexander Payne pic, Downsizing, an adult English rom-com, Finding Your Feet, a Jumanji reboot and, of course, Star Wars VIII.
The most popular film at the Australian box office so far this year is Beauty and the Beast with $47.9 million, ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 ($32.9 million).