'07 Australia boxoffice close to record


SYDNEY -- Wizards, ogres, pirates and a yellow cartoon family fueled the Australian boxoffice to a total of AUS$895 million ($796 million) in 2007, the second-highest-grossing boxoffice on record, but just shy of 2004's AUS$907 million high mark ($807 million), the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia said Friday.

With an overall rise of 3% on 2006 figures, four titles achieved grosses in excess of AUS$30 million ($26.7 million) in 2007. The fifth installment of the Warner Bros. franchise "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" was the top earner for the year with AUS$35.5 million (US$31.6 million). Paramount's "Shrek the Third" drew AUS$33.7 million for the year; "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" grossed AUS$33 million; and Fox's "The Simpsons Movie" with AUS$31.4 million made the top four.

Other top 10 earners were "Transformers," "Spider-Man 3," "The Bourne Ultimatum," "Happy Feet," "Night at the Museum" and "Wild Hogs."

While U.S. films accounted for 77% of grosses, Australian audiences largely shied way from local fare, with the exception of the homegrown animated hit "Happy Feet."

"Happy Feet," which was the eighth-highest-grossing film of the year with AUS$20.7 million, boosted local films' boxoffice share to 4% overall, 0.3 points down on the 10-year average of 4.3%, according to figures compiled by the Australian Film Commission.

With 25 Australian films released in 2007, just a handful topped AUS$1 million ($890,000). The Australian Film Institute award winner "Romulus, My Father" grossed AUS$2.6 million as the second-highest Australian film behind "Happy Feet, followed by Greg McLean's "Rogue," which tallied AUS$1.8 million.

The docu feature "Bra Boys," now being developed into a feature film by Universal Pictures with Russell Crowe set to make his directorial debut, became the highest-grossing Australian feature documentary on record with AUS$1.7 million, while the mockumentary "Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance" was the in the fifth spot among Australian films, grossing AUS$1.6 million.

Marcos Oliveira, MPDAA chairman and managing director of 20th Century Fox film distributors in Australia, said the stellar result was due "not only to the diverse and excellent line up of last year, but also to the heavy investments in media and promotional campaigns put together by the distributors, the ongoing commitment from exhibitors to expand and enhance cinemas and the efforts of local producers and talent in creating appealing films for wider audiences."