The experience of going to the movies remains “robust and durable” following a challenging year for the Australian box office, according to the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA).
New data from the organisation shows how the unprecedented pandemic climate impacted last year’s BO earnings, with the annual total of $401 million reflecting an almost 70 per cent decline from the 2019 takings of $1.2 billion.
A strong January period – during which takings rose 9 per cent from the corresponding time in 2019 – preceded the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in March and the resulting forced cinema closures, capacity restrictions, postponement of film releases, and public health concerns about attending theatres.
The 39 Australian films released last year grossed $22.6m in 2020, with Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man earning more than $9 million followed by Jeremy Sims’ Rams, which took in $4.4 million and is still screening.
Tony Tilse’s Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears was the only other Australian film to break $1 million in 2020, taking in just over $3 million.
Of the international blockbusters, Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level was the top grossing film in 2020 with $28 million, followed by Universal’s 1917 ($23.3 million), and Sony’s Bad Boys for Life ($19.6 million).
Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984, both from Warner Bros., were the only two films within the top ten to be released after cinemas re-opened in June.
Speaking about the results, MPDAA chairman and Paramount Pictures MD Brian Pritchett says the figures are encouraging given the acceleration of audience fragmentation through growing digital content services, coupled with stay-at-home trends during the pandemic.
“The death of cinema has been heralded each time a new technology shifted traditional business models,” he says
“However, the unquestionable enhancement of seeing a film on the big screen, as well as the sentimental attachment to the communal experience of going to the movies with family and friends, has proven to be robust and durable.
“And the outlook is bright with an abundance of great films releasing in 2021”.
Australian cinema has led the way so far in 2021, with Roadshow’s The Dry having earned more than $12 million since its release on New Year’s Day, while Penguin Bloom, also from Roadshow, grossed $2.5m in its opening week.
It comes after a year in which the nation’s exhibitors implemented a range of new measures to ensure the ongoing safety of customers and staff, including a reduction in auditorium and foyer capacities, staggered seating to ensure physical distancing for patrons, upgraded booking systems, enhanced air conditioning, and stringent cleaning programs involving sanitizing all touchpoint areas.
According to the MPDAA, cinemas have reported a wide range of Australians attending in 2020, from young families to older adults.
With the support of the government’s JobKeeper scheme, they have also continued to employ thousands of Australians.
For the five years prior to 2020, the sector generated more than $1.2 billion+ in average annual turnover and employed around 13,000 Australians nationally.