Australian films post lowest percentage of annual box office in years

09 January, 2012 by Brendan Swift

UPDATE: This story orginally said the estimated 2011 Australian box office was expected to be the lowest since 2003. That figure has been corrected to 2005. The final local box office figure, released after this story, was $42.9 million and a lower overall box office tally of $1.09 billion raised the overall Australian box office tally to 3.9 per cent. Read the story which outlines the final figures here.

Australian films have accounted for the lowest proportion of the total annual box office in several years.


Local films (including feature documentaries) grossed almost $42.5 million in 2011, according to an IF Magazine analysis, with feel-good film Red Dog accounting for more than half of the total ($21.4 million).

Australian films performed relatively strongly over the previous two years, grossing more than $50 million in 2009 and 2010 – a feat which had only occurred twice in the preceding decade. And while the three-year average ($47 million) and five-year average ($43.4 million) are only slightly higher than the 2011 result, the spectacular growth of the overall box office has muted local films’ overall slice of the pie.

Australian films share of the box office 1998-2011

The local box office take is expected to be about 3.7 per cent, based on Deutsche Bank’s recent total box office estimate of $1.175 billion. (The Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia will release the final figure later this month.) That result would be the worst since 2005, when the local percentage fell to 3.5 per cent, unless the total box office declined in the final quarter of 2011 (or if Screen Australia includes a surprise "local" film in its box office tally, such as it did in 2009 with Knowing).  

Former Screen Producers Association of Australia president Antony I. Ginnane has regularly said the local industry should be aiming for 10 per cent of the total box office.

While Red Dog outperformed, a number of other films posted solid results but failed to fire, such as The Cup and Happy Feet Two (although only one week between the film's release on December 26 and the end of the year was included in the 2011 result).

Happy Feet Two still performed well overseas, grossing $US122.6 million worldwide up to January 5, 2012 according to Box Office Mojo. Cave diving thriller Sanctum also performed well with audiences (but not critics), grossing $US108.6 million globally. It is one of the few Australian films released in 2011 that is already in profit.

The $80 million Australian action film Killer Elite did not meet expectations, grossing almost $US53 million globally. It was originally set to be released late last year in Australia but will now be released on February 23 this year. 

While Happy Feet Two continues to give the 2012 box office a much-needed early boost, hopes remain high that Stephan Elliott's upcoming comedy A Few Best Men will also perform well when it is released on Australia Day. It will be followed by another comedy from the team behind The Castle and The Dish; called Any Questions for Ben, it is released on February 9.

Other promising films set to be released in 2012 include shark thriller Bait and drama Wish You Were Here.

Contact this reporter at or on Twitter at @bcswift.

Australian films at the local box office 2011