Australia tops AUS$1 billion b.o. for 2009

Hollywood leads the way; local films also set record

SYDNEY -- Australian exhibitors, distributors and filmmakers are celebrating a record 2009, with the Australian boxoffice hitting AUS$1 billion ($939 million) for the first time ever and Australian films’ share rising to over 5% for the first time in eight years, according to figures released Thursday by the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia and Screen Australia. 

The record AUS$1.09 billion boxoffice for the 418 films released here last year was up 15% on the 2008 record, led by Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince,” and Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen,” which grossed $38.2 and $37.9 million, respectively. 

2009 was “a watershed year for new technology and diversified offerings from exhibitors," Mike Baard, chairman of the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia, said. 

“Audiences embraced 3D technology with 'Monsters vs. Aliens,' 'Ice Age 3' and 'Up,' were treated to ground-breaking effects in '2012,' visited favorite franchises with new installments of 'Harry Potter,' 'Transformers,' 'Star Trek,' 'X-Men,' 'Twilight' and 'Fast and Furious' and were moved by uplifting and inspirational stories in 'Gran Torino' and 'Slumdog Millionaire,' Baard said.

“Avatar,"  just 10 days into its release in 2009, became the third-highest grossing film for the year with boxoffice of $36million. It has since broken more records, last week toppling “Titanic” as the top-grossing film of all-time in Australia with $70.5 million. 

Australian films also enjoyed one of the best years in recent memory, led by Bruce Beresford’s dance epic “Mao’s Last Dancer." Fifty local titles were released in 2009 taking a 5% share, or $51.5 million of the Aussie b.o. 

According to Screen Australia the number of Australian films released in 2009 was the highest in over 25 years and the share was the largest domestic share since 2001’s 7.8%. 

“Mao’s Last Dancer” took $14.1 million over the last three months of the year, in the process becoming the fifth-top-grossing Australian film of all time. Baz Luhrmann’s “Australia” followed, cementing its position as the second-highest grossing Australian film of all time by adding a further $9.9 million to its cumulative boxoffice total of $35.3 million. Alex Proyas’s sci-fi feature “Knowing” placed third with $7.14 million. “Charlie & Boots” claimed fourth position taking $3.6 million, followed by Warwick Thornton’s Oscar-nominated feature debut "Samson & Delilah," which grossed $3 million.

Five Australian films screening during the year had releases wider than 100 prints, accounting for 71.5% of the total boxoffice earned by Australian films in 2009.

“Australian audiences embraced the diversity of stories produced by Australian filmmakers in 2009. Reports show that 1.4 million more Australians went to the cinema to see Australian films in 2009 than 2008,” said Ruth Harley, Screen Australia chief executive.