Ben Geurens in ‘Locusts.’
Typifying the challenges facing the vast majority of Australian films, Heath Davis’ suspense-drama Locusts and Partho Sen-Gupta’s thriller Slam were released on a handful of screens last weekend.
Working with limited marketing budgets the distributors and producers relied primarily on reviews and publicity, and the weekend figures were commensurately modest.
Ben Geurens and Nathaniel Dean play estranged brothers who are the targets of an extortion racket in Locusts, which grossed $11,000 on 11 screens and $14,000 with previews.
Film Ink Presents is handling the theatrical release of the privately-financed film, which co-stars Jessica McNamee, Steve Le Marquand, Justin Rosniak, Andy McPhee, the late Damian Hill and Alan Dukes, while Jonathan Page’s Bonsai Films will sell the ancillary rights.
“It’s difficult for independent films to secure screens and marketing exposure,” Angus Watts, who produced and wrote Locusts, tells IF. “We’re happy with the support from exhibitors and it’s great to have the opportunity of having a good run. We will be adding four screens.”
Distributed by Bonsai Films, Slam, which follows the disappearance of Ameena (Danielle Horvat), a young Muslim woman in a climate of mistrust and xenophobia, made $7,600 on four screens and $38,000 including festival screenings. A further four screens will come on line in the next few weeks.
Adam Bakri plays Ameena’s brother Ricky, together with Lebanese-born, Paris-based Darina Al Joundi as their mother Rana, Rachael Blake as Joanne, the cop who investigates the case, and. Rebecca Breeds as Ricky’s wife Sally.
Michael Wrenn, who produced Slam with Tennille Kennedy as a French co-production, says: “The strong, 4 star reviews for the film garnered from the limited theatrical launch will serve to position us for subsequent platforms.
“Festivals played well and there will be ongoing specialist screenings but the plan is to leverage reviews to get a good TV sale and possibly, with the added exposure, a pay TV sale.
“Of course we aren’t happy with the result but it’s a bit like climate change: you can’t argue with the change of weather. A large percentage of the art house market is dedicated to festivals.
“Theatrical still has value though as the reviews show and will mean the film has some ongoing presence it wouldn’t have had without the theatrical release.”
Watts says the marketing budget was enough to cover the cost of billboards and posters in six cities, radio ads in Adelaide and Queensland and a social media and publicity campaign.
He struck an international distribution deal with Cannes-based Fizz-e-Motion, headed by Yannick Rudynski and Luke Corradine, and says some deals are in negotiation.