Four major Australian feature film festivals have formed a new partnership to support local niche and arthouse films during their cinematic run.

The festivals in Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne will work with distributors and undertake targeted marketing for the releases in each territory.

More than 95,000-combined e-newsletter subscribers will be targeted throughout the initiative, which has been in the works for the past 2-3 years.

It’s a positive move from the festival directors at a time when audiences often sell-out festival screenings but not local complexes during their theatrical run. Last year, Australian films grossed just 3.9 per cent ($42.9 million) of the total $1.09 billion at the box office and this was largely because of one film: Red Dog.

Outgoing Adelaide Film Festival director Katrina Sedgwick said it was a promising ‘experiment’ that would hopefully get local audiences seeing these ‘edgy' films.

“For some of the other more challenging, experimental – some of the more edgy arthouse titles – it’s a real challenge to develop an audience for that kind of new Australian work,” said Sedgwick, who will hand over official duties to Amanda Duthie on February 10.

“And I think it’s important to find ways to use subsidised organisations that already spend a lot of money developing an audience and leverage those audiences into the cinemas all-year round, and festivals are ideally placed to do that.”

Films will also be supported when they’re distributed online, such as Jim Sharman’s 40-minute film on Andy Warhol, entitled Andy X*. The film will be the first project to receive the “mega-festival” treatment while the second will be Life In Movement, which will be released theatrically in April.

“Not only are we talking with our own audiences but by working with the distributors on a national level, it also means that the national media publicity is leveraged simultaneously across the country and I think that’s really important too,” Sedgwick said.

As part of the agreement, distributors won’t pay money to the already state and federal-subsidised festivals.

“Our key reasons for existence is to develop an audience for Australian cinema…and so this helps us to fulfil that in a more unusual way – it’s not an expensive exercise for us because we already talk to our subscribers a lot…” Sedgwick said.

“In the end it’s a mutual good-will exercise to get audiences to hear about Australian films and get them interested.”

*Andy X premieres on the 25th anniversary of Warhol’s death – February 22. A special online preview opportunity for all Australian Film Festival subscribers will be held on February 18, followed by an interactive Q+A with Sharman at this address.

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