Film, TV Production Hits $810 Million in Australia, Boosted by Recovery in International Projects

Peter Rabbit 2 The Runaway - Columbia Pictures Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Hollywood movies 'Peter Rabbit 2' and 'Dora and the Lost City of Gold,' as well as critically acclaimed series 'Mr Inbetween' and 'Preacher,' contributed to the second-highest result on record, according to agency Screen Australia.

The value of film and TV production in Australia reached $810 million (AUS$1.17 billion) in the 2018-19 fiscal year, with a record spend of $531 million (AUS$768 million) on local productions and a recovery in the value of foreign production down under to $280 million (AUS$410 million), contributing to the second-highest result on record, according to national agency Screen Australia’s annual Drama Report, released Thursday. 

Production on domestic features including Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, local TV dramas like The Hunting and Stan’s The Gloaming, foreign features including Dora and the Lost City of Gold and Indian film Apaharan – The Chase Begins, U.S. TV dramas like Preacher and Reef Break, and post, digital and visual effects (PDV) work on features including SpiderMan: Far From Home were partly responsible for the 53 percent uplift in expenditure year on year, though the results fell just shy of the 2016-17 record of $900 million. 

An increased number of hours and an increase in the cost of those hours contributed to the record Australian TV drama spend of $231 million, despite the squeezing of profits in the commercial TV sector, with 37 titles totaling 441 hours of broadcast TV produced, including long-running serial dramas such as Home and Away and Neighbours, comedy Five Bedrooms, indigenous drama Total Control and Miss Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries, since sold to 26 territories, all made in 2018-19. 

Fifteen Australian children’s television programs went into production, with $67 million spent on the likes of animated hit Bluey, acquired by Disney, Alice Miranda Friends Forever and The Unlisted, marking the highest spend on children’s drama since 2008-09 and a 95 percent increase on last year. 

Twenty-eight Australian online drama titles, including those made for streamers like Stan and Netflix, were made, up from 21 in 2017-18, collectively spending $27.6 million. The Australian production sector is set to be a key beneficiary of the so-called streaming wars, with an uplift in the volume of commissions from global streamers from Australia currently in production.

Said Michael Brealey, COO of Screen Australia, “To have 65 percent of total expenditure driven by our home-grown stories is remarkable and illustrates the immense demand for Australian content. It’s fantastic to see titles showcasing the diversity of landscapes and depth of talent from around the country.” 

Minister for communications Paul Fletcher added, “These excellent results are no accident and are a reflection on the talent of our local film and television industry, the appeal of Australian filming locations, the Australian government incentives available, state government support and direct funding from Screen Australia.” 

Thirty-three Australian features went into production including three official co-productions, with a spend of $207 million being driven by the production of titles including Peter Rabbit 2: The RunawayThe Dry and Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears. The co-productions included Dirt Music (UK), Escape from Pretoria (UK) and Buckley’s Chance (Canada).

The total spend on foreign shoot and PDV-only titles of $280 million in 2018-19 was more than three times higher than 2017-18 ($77 million) and well above the five-year average. Causing this spike was expenditure of $205 million on 11 foreign titles shot in Australia, including Dora and the Lost City of GoldMonster Problems and Godzilla vs Kong. A total of $78 million was also spent on 26 PDV-only titles, up 16 percent on 2017-18. Seven foreign features were shot in Australia, as well as 21 PDV-only features that included Men in Black: InternationalIt: Chapter Two and Jumanji: The Next Level

Total foreign TV drama activity accounted for $79.8 million in Australian expenditure in 2018-19. 

Screen Australia said several factors contributed to the growth in foreign production, including the fall in value of the Australian dollar, the federal government’s $97 million Location Incentive announced in May 2018, and the introduction of 10 percent PDV rebates by the NSW and Queensland state governments to match those already offered by Victoria and South Australia, and which complement the 30 percent Federal PDV Offset. Additionally, the Australian government announced in April 2019 that television series and mini-series for online streaming platforms are eligible for the Location and PDV Offsets.