‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ ‘Aquaman’ Fuel Record $1B Production Spend in Australia

Jasin Boland/Marvel Studios

Hollywood projects like the DC and Marvel tentpoles spent a total of $468 million on production down under in the 2017 financial year.

Big-budget studio films like Thor Ragnarok and Aquaman and a big increase in the number and value of TV dramas fueled a record investment of $1 billion (A$1.3 billion) in Australia's domestic film industry in the latest fiscal year, which ended in June.

According to Screen Australia's Drama Report released Tuesday, foreign projects spent $468 million on production down under. Films produced here also included Pacific Rim: Uprising and PDV (post digital and visual effects) on projects like Spiderman: Homecoming, with $435 million in total coming from foreign features, marking the highest levels ever.

TV series including HBO’s The Leftovers and The Bold and the Beautiful special episodes also contributed to the record result, which effectively doubled the fiscal 2016 spending of $191 million.

Foreign spending down under was outstripped by unprecedented levels of local film and TV production, with $512 million spent on Australian projects during the year.

Overall $1 billion was spent on 151 productions in the latest fiscal year, compared with $652 million on 120 productions the previous year.

“Crossing the $1 billion expenditure threshold is an incredible milestone for the Australian screen industry and has not happened by accident. There is a whole ecosystem of support measures that keep our industry firing, including direct government funding, tax incentives and Australian content quotas,” Graeme Mason, CEO of Screen Australia said.

“We know television is becoming more expensive to make, but the demand for that content both locally and abroad is clearly increasing when you have shows like Picnic at Hanging Rock securing U.S. sales before production had even wrapped.”

“It is great to see Australian film continuing to grow and to have features like Sweet Country taking awards at Venice and Toronto speaks to the quality of production, not just volume,” he added. “The financial dividend from foreign feature production is undeniable and is of particular benefit to our crews who have the opportunity to work on big budget projects.”

Australian features saw an increase in both production spend and the number of titles with $217 million spent across 41 titles up from 32 films in 2016/2017. That spend was driven by the largely foreign-backed live-action/CGI film Peter Rabbit and domestic and co-productions including Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country, Stephan Elliott’s Swinging Safari, zombie drama Cargo and Mary Magdalene.

Foreign investment also played its part with foreign investors contributing nearly half or 47 percent of the finance for the Australian feature slate, providing $125 million to 23 titles.

TV drama production also showed a record spend of $246 million with a resurgence in series production driven by half-hour comedy formats like The Family Law and Here Come the Habibs. Miniseries production remained strong with titles that sold well in international markets, including Cleverman 2, Wentworth and Picnic at Hanging Rock all contributing to the tally in 2016/2017.

The only dark spot for the sector was children’s television. A shrinking commitment by Australian broadcasters, despite content quotas that are in place, saw a sharp decline in spending of just $18 million for the year, 20 percent down from the five-year average. 

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