Australian films earned a combined total of $11,878,014 in 2004, or 1.3 per cent of the total box office of $907,218,000.
Strange Bedfellows, starring Paul Hogan and Michael Caton, topped the list of Australian films, taking $4.8 million. The critically lauded film Somersault, by first-time director Cate Shortland, took an impressive $2 million. These films were followed by One Perfect Day, the AC/DC-inspired comedy Thunderstruck and Love's Brother, the directorial debut by Shine writer Jan Sardi.
A total of 318 films were released into the Australian theatrical market in 2004. 16 of these were Australian films - 12 feature films and four documentaries, compared to 22 feature films and one documentary in 2003.
US films have again dominated the Australian box office, with 200 US titles (or 63 per cent of films released) released in 2004. US films took 85.9 per cent of the total box office in 2004, up from 83.8 per cent in 2003.
The top five Australian films in 2004 in terms of box office gross were:
1 Strange Bedfellows: released 22 April by Becker; box office $4.8m
2 Somersault: released 16 September by Hopscotch; box office $2.0m
3 One Perfect Day: released 19 February by Roadshow; box office $1.2m
4 Thunderstruck: released 20 May bu Icon; box office $0.9m
5 Love's Brother: released 1 April by Palace; box office $0.9m
Source: MPDAA at 12.1.05
Speaking on the commercial success of Strange Bedfellows, producer David Redman said: "Despite a year perceived as being poor for the industry it is gratifying to know that so many Australians enjoyed our film. To give some perspective to this result, it is like an independent American film making almost US$50 million in the US, which would be seen as a huge success. In fact any local film that can make over A$1 million in a country our size should be seen as a commercial success - any independent US film that made over US$10 million in the US would be."
"2004 was undeniably a difficult year for the Australian film industry both in terms of box office receipts and production levels," said Kim Dalton, Chief Executive of the Australian Film Commission (AFC). "In recent years we've released around 20 features per year. When output almost halves, as it did last year, there is less chance that you will see a big hit."
"The box office results point to significant problems facing the Australian production industry. The Australian Government has responded with a number of initiatives, including reintroduction of incentives for private investment with a revitalised Film Licence Investment Company (FLIC) scheme and reviews of 10BA and 10B tax measures. Moreover, additional funding has enabled the AFC to boost script development and launch IndiVision, which will support distinctive low-budget features. The FFC has received additional funding for feature film production and introduced an evaluation process employing industry expertise in funding decisions."
Executive Producer of Somersault Jan Chapman, who has also been behind a string of Australia's most successful films - The Piano, Love Serenade, Lantana - said: "Somersault's resonance with the audience was boosted by the intense workshopping of the script at Aurora. Extensive support for script development is crucial to a film's success and definitely a step in the right direction for our industry."
The top Australian films of 2004 compare favourably with other independent titles from around the world that were produced and distributed on a similar scale.
"Compared to other films released in 2004, Somersault can hold its head high. The per-theatre average earnings of the very low budget Australian feature Somersault exceeded that of some Hollywood mega-productions and its $2 million plus result placed it in the top five of all films released on less than 50 prints over the past two years. A fantastic result," said Troy Lum of Hopscotch Films and distributor of Somersault.
The industry is looking forward to an up-turn next year with a number of significant Australian films to be released in 2005-2006 including:
- Candy: based on the popular Australian novel and featuring Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush;
- Little Fish: Cate Blanchett's first Australian film since the mid 1990s;
- Jindabyne: the much-anticipated next feature from Lantana director Ray Lawrence;
- Happy Feet: a unique animated feature from the acclaimed Kennedy Miller production house;
- Book of Revelation: an erotic thriller from director Ana Kokkinos (Head On) and writer Andrew Bovell (Lantana);
- Hating Alison Ashley: based on the popular book and featuring Delta Goodrem;
- Wolf Creek: a low-budget horror film selected for competition at the prestigious Sundance film festival in the US, and which has secured North American distribution;
- Eucalyptus: an Australian film with financing from the US, starring Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman.
"Forthcoming films, reinforced by a slate of strong projects currently in development, provide good cause for anticipating that there will be a shift in the fortunes of our film industry," said Kim Dalton.
Australian films' share of the box office 1993 to 2004:
1994: 26 films; $46.6m (9.8%)
1995: 14 films; $19.8m (3.9%)
1996: 25 films; $43.7m (8.3%)
1997: 30 films; $28.4m (4.9%)
1998: 20 films; $25.6m (4.0%)
1999: 24 films; $21.1m (3.0%)
2000: 22 films; $54.2m (7.9%)
2001: 27 films; $63.4m (7.8%)
2002: 22 films; $41.8m (4.9%)
2003: 23 films; $30.3m (3.5%)
2004: 16 films; $11.9m (1.3%)
Source: MPDAA and AFC
For results from 1977 see Get the Picture http://afcarchive.screenaustralia.gov.au/gtp/wcboshare.html