Australian screen count is on the rise

Day and Date Down Under

Screen Australia has completed a new look at the exhibition sector in Australia, indicating that the number of cinema screens in Australia has risen over 150% from 829 in 1980 to 2,210 last year. Based on reports of new cinemas under construction, and those recently opened, that will increase again this year. The 2,210 screens are in 513 theatres, giving an average of just over four screens per theatre. The total seating capacity across these screens is 445,000, a continuing rise over the last five years. However, these screens are competing for a smaller market, as box office last year fell by 4.6 percent to A$1.2 billion, and admissions dropped 6.5% to 85 million. As reported previously, this increased competition has resulted in price wars in some locations.

U.S. films accounted for 28% of all films released in Australia, but took a hefty 86% of the total income. Prior to 2010, the U.S. supplied more than 50% of all films released Down Under. Last year, the amount of money spent on digital video entertainment jumped 55% and equaled cinema box office (A$1.2 billion) for the first time. Most of this goes to Netflix and other streaming services.

George Miller has written scripts for Mad Max 5 and 6, and they are ready to shoot, but are not likely to reach cinema screens any time in the near future. The local production company Kennedy Miller Mitchell in involved in an ongoing and rather bitter battle with Warner Bros. over the fourth film, Mad Max: Fury Road. A major claim is that the film was brought in under budget and that they are due a bonus payment because of that, while Warner Bros. claims it was over budget. An initial court case ruled that the dispute should be heard in NSW, Australia, but Warner Bros. is now appealing that decision.

Two hundred veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars will be used as extras in a new film about the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam. On August 18, 1966, in the pouring rain a group of 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers held off more than 2,000 Viet Cong and Vietnamese fighters for more than three hours. The film about this battle, provisionally calledDanger Close, will be filmed in Kingaroy and Nerang in Queensland starting this month. Australian Travis Fimmel (“The Vikings” TV series) is set to star alongside Luke Bracey. Stuart Beattie (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl) has written the script for director Kriv Stenders (Red Dog).

A number of independent exhibitors have claimed that the normal requirement for a new feature to have, say, a minimum of two sessions per night in its first two weeks of release, is an outmoded requirement in this era of digital projection. They want more flexible terms to maximize their income. The distributors, naturally, have countered that they are spending a large amount on promotion, and need these sorts of conditions to maximize their returns. With conflicting interests, I do not see this being resolved anytime soon.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news to David Pearce at