At least 17 Australian films look set to be released theatrically in the US this year following the latest batch of deals announced in Cannes.
If that's how it pans out, that will be an all-time record, or the highest in the last few decades. The previous high point was 1997 when 15 features were distributed in the US, according to Screen Australia, whose records go back to 1985.
The preponderance of VOD-targeted deals with limited theatrical play-off partly explains the upswing this year. Only five Australian features got theatrical exposure in the US in 2012 and seven in 2011, according to Screen Australia's research.
Main Street Films bought Tim Winton’s The Turning, A24 picked up Julius Avery’s crime thriller Son of a Gun and XLrator Media collared Tony Mahony and Angus Sampson’s dark comedy The Mule.
Murali Thuralli’s post-Apocalyptic drama One will also be released in the US by Main Street Films but that won’t be until next year (see separate story).
“The number of US deals secured for the latest crop of Australian films demonstrates the strength and international audience appeal of Australian storytelling,” Kathleen Drumm, head of marketing at Screen Australia, tells IF from Cannes.
“Expanding platforms offer new ways into the marketplace but fundamentally buyers are still looking for quality films that stand out amongst the multitude on sale.”
Antony I. Ginnane, who produced Patrick, says, “It's extraordinarily encouraging that so many Australian films in the last 12 months have achieved some level of US exposure. Even the smaller VOD driven deals – while small in terms of immediate monetization- provide platforms for the creative teams attached to be exposed within the US packaging, sales and creative communities."
Main Street Films has “innovative ideas” for releasing The Turning in US cinemas, according to Natja Rosner, head of sales at international sales agent LevelK.
Produced by Robert Connolly and Maggie Miles for Arenamedia Australia, the omnibus film has also sold to Russia/CIS (Russian Report), Benelux (FilmFreak), Turkey (Bir), China (JY) and airlines (Cinesky).
Connolly tells IF, “Main Street Films is very engaged. We’ve told them about our event screening strategy and they’re very excited.“ The launch date and exact form of release are still to be determined.
Son of a Gun, which stars Ewan McGregor, Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair) and Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent), follows the relationship between Australia’s highest profile criminal and his young protégé.
Produced by Timothy White at Southern Light Films, the film will be released here in September by Entertainment One.
A24 had pre-bought US rights to David Michôd’s The Rover, which had its premiere in Cannes (see separate story).
The Mule, which premiered earlier this year at the SXSW festival in Texas, stars Sampson, Hugo Weaving, Leigh Whannell, Ewen Leslie, Geoff Morrell, Georgina Haig, Noni Hazlehurst and John Noble.
Co-directed by Mahony and Sampson, the film is based on the story of a Victorian man who in 1983 is suspected of smuggling drugs back from Thailand. He’s locked in a hotel room by the cops, who expect him to deliver the evidence within a day or so. Entertainment One will release the film in October.
Kim Mordaunt’s The Rocket, Stuart Beattie’s I, Frankenstein, Jonathan Teplitzy’s The Railway Man, Kelly Dolen’s John Doe: Vigilante, Mark Hartley’s Patrick and Greg Mclean’s Wolf Creek 2 have been released in US cinemas this year.
Among the upcoming titles are Matt Saville’s Felony, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, John Curran’s Tracks, the Spierig brothers’ Predestination, Sophie Hyde’s 52 Tuesdays, Aaron Wilson’s Canopy and Sarah Spillane’s Around the Block.