Action films like 'Wonder Woman' make up 47 per cent of the 2017 box office to date.

Action films like ‘Wonder Woman’ make up 47 per cent of the 2017 box office to date.

Independent filmmakers who want their works of art to have the best chance of connecting with Australian cinema audiences could follow a few simple guidelines, based on an analysis of the films released this year.

  • Aim for a PG or G classification. There are no MA titles in the top 10: the highest earner with that rating is Fox’s Logan at No. 14.
  • Avoid dramas, horror films and tearjerkers, which are out of vogue.
  • Make comedies or action-adventures.
  • Don’t open your film on weekends that are saturated with wide Hollywood releases.

Those points can be extrapolated from a presentation made last week by Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA) general manager Lori Flekser at the MIFF 37ºSouth Market.

Flekser pointed out that genre, classification and screen numbers all have an impact on potential box office revenue.

Her analysis of the titles released this year showed the action genre accounts for a total gross of $269 million – that’s 42 per cent of the total BO to date although representing only 20 per cent of the films released.

Some 15 per cent of the films released since January 1 are comedies, taking $110 million or 17 per cent of revenues, driven by blockbusters such as Despicable Me 3, The Boss Baby and La La Land.

Dramas appear to be less successful, with 27 per cent of the releases collecting $122 million or 19 per cent of receipts.

Documentaries make up 11 per cent of the releases but grossed only $4 million, 1 per cent of revenue.

In unreleased research conducted by SARA, moviegoers were asked to rank their preferred genres.  Comedy top scored with 52 per cent followed by action-adventure (47 per cent), thriller/mystery (43 per cent), based on a true story (39 per cent), sci-fi/fantasy (37 per cent) and feel-good (36 per cent).

Only 17 per cent nominated horror, 16 per cent chose documentary and 8 per cent arthouse.

Illustrating the glut of product, 609 titles were released in Australian cinemas last year, nearly double the 2007 total of 315.

Through August 2 there have been 372 releases, grossing $729.4 million. In that context, the $44 million generated by 28 Australian films and documentaries is not terrible, repping 8 per cent of total releases and 6 per cent of the BO.

However the lion’s share of that was earned by Garth Davis’ Lion, which has raked in $29.4 million.

August 31 is an usually crowded weekend, with four wide releases,  Roadshow’s drama Gifted and actioner Hitman’s Bodyguard, Sony’s drama All Saints and Universal’s comedy Girl’s Trip fighting for screens. That could prove challenging for independent releases such as Madman’s Aussie comedy Ali’s Wedding.

In her capacity as executive director of Creative Content Australia, Flekser highlighted another challenge facing the creative community: piracy. She cited research which showed there were an estimated 5.4 billion illegal downloads of films and TV shows worldwide last year, which represents as little as 30 per cent of total piracy: the balance is streaming.

Last month there were an estimated 100 million illegal views of the premiere of season seven of Game of Thrones.

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  1. proving there’s always an exception to the rule, our #1 aussie flick was a tearjerking drama (point 2) – go figure! 😉

  2. ’twas also interesting to hear that when surveyed, audiences voted ‘comedies’ as the most desirable of genres, but of course action flicks take the #1 spot at the box office. I suppose they left “good” from the description of what kinds of comedies they’ll actually pay to see.

  3. If you’re making an independent film you should absolutely ignore all this data. If you make an independent (read low budget) action adventure, you are very unlikely to make an impact in a genre dominated by big (mostly superhero) films with very large budgets. Horror doesn’t do well in the local market because Australia is one of the most conservative and middle of the road exhibition markets in the world, but independent Australian horror sells overseas better than most other genres, and you should definitely be thinking global. And historically horror is the genre great filmmakers (Coppola, Demme, Dante, Cameron, Cronenberg, Jackson etc etc) cut their teeth on, so don’t listen to this homogenising rubbish.

    1. Those are all good points @disqus_ivCgQnwtT1:disqus. Instinct tells me Horror probably also has a better than average shelf life (though I’d like stats to back that up) and therefor performs well over the long tail.

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