Australians urged to market movies better

Report shows perception that Aussies shun local movies

SYDNEY -- Australian films need better marketing to counter the perception that Australians don't want to watch their own films, funding agency the Film Finance Corp. said in a report released Wednesday.

The first quantitative look at how Australian audiences perceive local films, the 218-page report was designed to test the anecdotal theory that Australians are prejudiced against homegrown films.

That theory is fueled by Australian films earning less than 5% of the boxoffice over the past few years and by a stream of negative local press.

But the theory is not borne out by reality, according to the research conducted by entertainment industry researchers Bergent.

Using the same methodology that measures the appeal of major Hollywood studio releases in Australia, the research found that, despite perceptions that Australian films are boring and more academic and serious in tone, Australian audiences aren't prejudiced against Australian films.

With equal star power, artwork and perceived budget, there is no difference in appeal between Australian and American movies, the study showed.

As a result, with suitable investment in effective publicity Australian films can succeed as well as their U.S. equivalents, the report said.

"There's a bit of cultural cringe happening," Bergent managing director John Berenyi said. "In order to increase positive awareness of Australian films, the marketing and distribution needs to align with audience expectation of being entertained," he said.

In addition, the Australian film industry needs to change the development environment and move away from a specialist focus.

The research showed that Australian art house films aren't delivering an acceptable level of quality for broad Australian audiences. Nevertheless, FFC CEO Brian Rosen said the Australian independent sector is driven by production of specialty films and when boxoffice results are compared directly to similar imported films from the U.K., the U.S. and Europe, Australian films stand up well.

Rosen said the research provides the new super-agency, Screen Australia, the opportunity to examine what it and filmmakers need to do to get Australian films to perform better at home.