The Australian film industry has produced a strong performance in the competition for box office share in 2001. Australian films earned $63.5 million or 7.8 per cent of the total Australian box office, maintaining market share - an excellent result given the substantial overall increase in box office figures. The total box office of all films released in 2001 was $812 million, up from $689.5 million in 2000.
This result for Australian films is the highest total ever in dollar terms, and is very close in market share to the 2000 figure of 7.9 per cent.
Four Australian films earned over $5 million each in 2001. One of these, Moulin Rouge, was the third highest grossing film for the year. It is currently the third highest grossing Australian film of all time.
The top five grossing Australian films for 2001 were: Moulin Rouge $27.4 million 20th Century Fox
Lantana $9.9 million Palace Films
The Man Who Sued God $8.1 million Buena Vista International
Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles $7.8 million UIP/Universal
The Bank $2.5 million Footprint
In addition to the titles listed above, one other Australian film - Mullet - earned over a million dollars.
"This year's top five films reflect the great breadth of talent and innovative skills of Australian filmmakers across a range of genres," said Kim Dalton, Chief Executive of the Australian Film Commission. "Australian films have been receiving wide releases from distributors and this distributor confidence has increased the Australian public's opportunities to see Australian films on the big screen."
John Scott, Marketing Director for Moulin Rouge distributor 20th Century Fox, said the company is delighted with the film's box office result, both in Australia and around the world:
"This outstanding result, in Australia particularly, confirms what we believed from the outset - Moulin Rouge is a film that has inspired, excited and ultimately entertained an incredibly broad audience."
Tait Brady, head of distribution at Palace Films, which released Ray Lawrence's Lantana, said: "The incredible popularity of Lantana is a very encouraging sign that the Australian film-going audience is maturing and recognises intelligent filmmaking and identifiable, real Australian characters. The way audiences right across the country have taken the film to heart has been astounding, and truly gratifying for the filmmakers and everyone else involved."
Mark Joffe, director of The Man Who Sued God, is also buoyant about the local industry: "Everyone involved in the production is thrilled with the success of the film. To see and feel the warm and wonderful response from Australian audiences is not only gratifying to us but should be highly encouraging to everyone in the Australian film industry."
Catriona Hughes, Chief Executive of the Australian Film Finance Corporation, welcomed the result but cautioned against judging the success of the Australian industry by box office percentage shares: "We are talking chalk and cheese when we compare the mega budget Hollywood studio product with our mostly low-budget independent films. Looking through that lens, 7.8 per cent really is a fabulous result."
Australian films have also received critical praise both in Australia and abroad. Having opened the Cannes Film Festival in May, Moulin Rouge went on to receive the most nominations (tied with A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe) at the Golden Globes and was voted Best Picture of 2001 by the US National Board of Review. Lantana was the closing night film of the prestigious Toronto Festival and received a Special Mention for Excellence in Filmmaking at the 2001 US National Board of Review.
Lantana also dominated the AFI awards taking out Best Picture and all the acting honours. Paul Goldman's Australian Rules and Rachel Perkins' One Night the Moon have also been included in the influential Sundance Film Festival for 2002.
Additional to the success of the Australian film industry at home, Australian filmmakers continue to make waves overseas. VCA graduate, Robert Luketic scored a major worldwide hit in his directorial debut with the US film Legally Blonde earning close to US$100 million in the US and US$136 million worldwide. Other Australian filmmakers to have made an impact on world screens in 2001 include Scott Hicks who directed Hearts in Atlantis and cinematographers John Seale, who shot the box office hit Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and Andrew Lesnie who shot Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
Rave reviews were also given to the ever-growing school of Australian acting talent including Cate Blanchett in Bandits and Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, along with Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce in Memento, Nicole Kidman in The Others, Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, Hugh Jackman in Kate & Leopold, Heath Ledger in A Knight's Tale, Naomi Watts in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, Eric Bana in Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, and Frances O'Connor in Steven Spielberg's AI.
2002 promises to be another exciting year for Australian film. Significant forthcoming Australian releases include Phillip Noyce's Rabbit Proof Fence, Alex Proyas' Garage Days and Paul Goldman's Australian Rules. Presently in production are David Caesar's Dirty Deeds and Bill Bennett's The Nugget.