Oz local product gets big '06 boost

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MELBOURNE -- Homegrown films accounted for $AUS40 million ($31.4 million), or 4.6%, of the Australian boxoffice in 2006.

The figure represents a considerable gain on 2005's $AUS23.1 million, and helps to leave 2004's annus horribilis of $12 million (a 1.3% share) a more distant memory.

"Happy Feet" was the year's top earner solely on the back of its opening six-day haul of $AUS11.1 million ($8.7 million) in the last week of '06. The film has since doubled that take and is still in wide release in the busy summer holiday period.

Finishing No. 2 on the homegrown boxoffice list was "Kenny" ($AUS7.6 million), followed by "Jindabyne" ($AUS5.3 million), "Ten Canoes" ($AUS3.3 million), "Kokoda" ($AUS3.1 million) and "Boytown" ($AUS3.1 million).

Industry figures are attributing the strong performance to the diversity and number of domestic films in 2006. The year saw 30 features released (vs. just 16 in 2004) and encompassed a broad range of genres, styles and star vehicles -- from the controversial Cannes selection "2:37" to the indigenous-language "Ten Canoes" (which dominated the industry's AFI Awards) as well as four feature-length documentaries.

The year's underperformers included "Boytown," "Suburban Mayhem" and "Footy Legends."

Overall, $AUS866 million ($671 million) was spent on cinema admissions in Australia for the year, a 6% increase from 2005.

Despite the pleasing result, Australian Film Commission acting chief executive Chris Fitchett has renewed the call for increased government assistance and tax reforms to stimulate private investment.

"This year's boxoffice result is great to see, and the Government's ongoing support will enable the industry to grow and lift the local share even further," he said in a statement. "Increasing the amount of private finance also available to producers is essential to increase the number of local films made and we welcome the close attention the federal government is giving to this issue in the current review."
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