Screen Aus reviews Two Fists failure

21 October, 2009 by IF

By Brendan Swift

A Screen Australia board member prompted an internal review into the box office failure of the agency-backed drama Two Fists One Heart earlier this year.


The informal inquiry – headed by Screen Australia chief executive Ruth Harley – comes amid an economic downturn which has lowered private investment and slashed production budgets across the industry.

Harley told a Senate Estimates Committee earlier this week that Two Fists One Heart was good, but not good enough to compete in a tough market.

The $8 million film (which included a $4 million investment from Screen Australia) grossed just $295,000 at the local box office, according to the agency. (The Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia recently updated the figure to $305,300.)

“Everybody was very disappointed because they had expected a different outcome,” Harley said in response to questions from South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham.

The film starred Underbelly’s Daniel Amalm and Packed to the Rafters’ Jessica Marais and was released in March across 50 screens. It received largely positive critical reviews and was backed by mainstream distributor Disney.

Harley said the agency has since instigated changes although they were not a direct result of the review into Two Fists One Heart.

“The general trend of change is to be more demanding of scripts before they go into production and to be more collegial with the distributors, to partner with them in a more detailed sense,” she said.

“You will appreciate that Disney does regard itself as very competent indeed in the business.”

It is understood that Screen Australia has not spoken to the film’s producer David Elfick as part of its review. Elfick is one of the country’s most experienced producers with credits including Newsfront (1978), Starstruck (1982) and Rabbit Proof Fence (2002).

Disney invested a substantial sum in Two Fists One Heart and had a similarly disappointing result with its next Australian release, Subdivision. The $4 million building industry comedy, which was also backed by Screen Australia, grossed $190,500 across 66 screens.

Disney boss Alan Finney has declined several interview requests from INSIDEFILM this year.

Despite those lacklustre results, Screen Australia has also backed several notable box office successes this year including low-budget indigenous drama Samson & Delilah and dance epic Mao’s Last Dancer.

Harley said Mao’s Last Dancer – which has taken $8.9 million at the box office – is likely to gross between $12 million and $14 million. Screen Australia invested $4 million of the $25.8 million budget.

Screen Australia committed $64.1 million to 89 new film and television projects, including documentaries, in 2008-09. It has invested $29 million across 20 projects in the current financial year to date.