By Simon de Bruyn
David Field’s directorial debut The Combination will be the first Australian film to hit cinema screens this year, with its distributor the Australian Film Syndicate getting ready to release the film on 26 February.
The distributor is planning a multi-faceted, multi-lingual and innovative campaign to pitch the film at a young adult market, using a range of online, key art and grassroots marketing methods.
The Combination will open in the same week as Oliver Stone’s W and American thriller film The Unborn, and will face strong competition from the previous week’s wide release Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
AFS acquisitions and distribution manager Peter Castaldi said he planned to release the film on at least 25 screens in major cities and regional hubs, as the first part of a platform release for the anticipated film.
“We have 25 screens booked through Greater Union, Hoyts, Reading, Village, Dendy and the independents on 35mm in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Canberra, Byron Bay, the Gold Coast, Wagga, Orange and Katherine. And we expect to have more before our 26 February release, with regional cinemas to follow,” he said.
The Combination is a feature drama set among the Lebanese community in Sydney’s western suburbs.
In a clever positioning strategy, AFS plans to release the film in the Sydney suburbs in which the film’s story is set first, as well as other areas in Queensland and Victoria that they hope will respond well to the film’s themes and characters.
The premiere of the film will also be held in Parramatta, the city to Sydney’s west.
Castaldi said AFS plans to use direct marketing strategies, such as bilingual and grassroots advertising, instead of spending vast amounts of money on traditional print campaigns.
He said that although the film is pan-generational, the first target group for the film is 16 to 22 year old males and females.
AFS plans to run two media and poster campaigns, one in English and one in Arabic, to market the film directly to the ethnic communities depicted in the film. A second crossover campaign might run in arthouse cinemas if the first tier is successful.
“Arabic is the second most spoken language in Sydney, fifth in Melbourne and third overall in Australia. There are currently over 600,000 hits for the trailer on YouTube, supported by a localised poster and flyer campaign pushed through communities around each cinema site,” he said.
AFS is also cutting together a music video to tie into the film’s soundtrack, and releasing three sets of limited edition poster prints by local fringe artists and designers.
Run by the team that puts together the annual Dungog Film Festival, AFS burst onto the distribution scene late last year, with the announcement that it would exclusively distribute Australian films.
It has already handled last year’s low key release of Christopher Weekes’ Bitter & Twisted, and later this year will release Jonathan Ogilvie’s re-cut first feature Emulsion.
AFS previously announced it would also distribute doco Honeymoon in Kabul in 2009, but has now said this is no longer the case.
AFS is the first of several Australian distributors which seem to have taken a leaf from Icon’s book.
Icon Films released The Black Balloon in March last year and it went on to become the most successful local release of the year – behind Baz Luhrmann’s juggernaut Australia – with many in the industry eyeing the early calendar release date as one reason for the film’s resonance with audiences.
Other Australian films with releases in the next few months include Beautiful on 5 March, Love The Beast on 12 March, Two Fists One Heart on 19 March, Crush on 26 March and Mary and Max on 9 April.
The Combination was written by George Basha who also stars in the film, and produced by John Pirrie. The entire film was privately financed, and shot on the RED Camera.
The film will have a preview screening and Q&A at Sydney’s Popcorn Taxi on Thursday 19 February.