This is the twelfth year in Screen Hub that I have presented an annual round up of the international theatrical performance of Australian Feature Films. It is based on my comprehensive records which I update with great care.
Once again, the central message from the spreadsheets is clear.
Producers’ development slates ultimately dictate what Screen Australia and the marketplace can finance, but we need to be working to an eco-system where we structure for 1 or 2 big major released international hits per year and a half dozen solid performers in the specialty space.
That can be achieved by producers being more rigorous in their project selection through better market place interaction and by being braver in their preparedness to drop projects that do not attract necessary cast packages or cannot be budgeted within the realities of the existing challenging marketplace, and by the industry collectively continuing to pressure government to re-fund Screen Australia to a necessary level.
Finally the success stories we achieve need to be more publicised and presented to potential investors to help plug the ever-present gaps in the finance plans these days.
In this report we cover films released outside Australia in the period from January 1st 2019 through December 31st 2019 using data through December 23rd 2019.
In passing I will also refer to certain titles that have largely bypassed theatrical and were released directly (day and date) or virtually directly to VOD and SVOD in the US and / or Netflix worldwide or pay TV only outside Australia.
Unfortunately, there is still very little hard data readily available on the results of digital exploitation despite the fact that for many Australian films – particularly but not exclusively the micro budget titles, these new media outlets have become the only available entrée into the US and many foreign markets. I have tried to note that release outcome for each title. The world-wide gap between major tent pole theatrical releases and micro theatrical releases of all English language titles – not just Australian films – continues to accelerate.
But some form of theatrical release however limited remains for many producers a hoped-for result as it is still a significant driver of ancillary revenue – the ultimate all media net result – particularly in territories where legislatively enforced or marketplace dictated windows prevent day and date ancillary release.
In reviewing the results, it is worth recalling that in all these foreign territories Australian films complete for screen space with the US majors – just as we do in Australia – and with high profile local language titles as well.
A TOUGH MARKET
In 2019, 22 Australian films (18 film and 4 feature documentaries) received some level of international theatrical release – down from a record 26 in 2015, but up from 2016 when 16 were released, 2017 with 15 and 2018 with 14.
These 23 titles in international release were supplemented by another 4 titles from prior years play offs – three from 2018 and one from 2015 that continued to move through additional territories.
The reduction in numbers of our titles in international release from the 2015 peak derives from
- the increasing caution of acquisition executives as territory after territory looks to flat or diminishing cinema attendance figures;
- the collapse of the middle budget market and
- the substantial reduction in box office for specialty and non-tent pole releases along with the
- virtual disappearance of pre-sales in the A territories for the majority of the films Australian producers are packaging.
Readers should note that all box office figures quoted are in US dollars unless otherwise noted. The box office amounts cited do not themselves indicate the net return to the producer or the ultimate profitability of a title in a territory. For such analysis other data including distribution terms for the territory including media licensed, MG (if any) and / or if the film was licensed on a flat or revenue share deal, the ad spend, the degree of cross collateralisation – all these metrics need to be factored in to get a net position. However, theatrical box office numbers and length of run do indicate an initial level of success and marketplace acceptance.
PICTURES WITH BUZZ
Hotel Mumbai is the most successful Australian film to release internationally in 2019, with a theatrical release in the majority of territories except in the UK where it was licensed to Sky and branded a Sky Original and in Germany where Square 1 released direct to DVD.
Worldwide gross (including Australia where it achieved A$ 3,295,499) to date is US $21,314,816 – an admirable outcome for a serious adult drama.
Its international sales agent Arclight is to be congratulated on these results.
NZ was the first international release in March through Icon on 72 screens and over 7 days it grossed $244,798, a commendable result given the week of the NZ launch was the week of the Christchurch massacre at the 2 mosques.
The film opened in South Africa through BlackSheep on 98 screens and over 98 days grossed $197,696. In Vietnam through Galaxy over 21 days it grossed $199,648. Both released on March 22.
Bleeker St opened in the US that same week employing what is these days a relatively unusual platform release starting with a base of 4 screens expanding by week 4 to 924 screens. Over 49 days a gross of $9,518,187 was obtained.
This is one of the highest grosses achieved by a non-studio film released Australian film in the US ever. (Only Hacksaw Ridge with $67,209,612 on 2986 screens; Lion with $51,694,851 on 1542 screens; Gods of Egypt with $30,879,385 on 3114 screens; Daybreakers $30,107,577 on 2523 screens; Killer Elite $25,124,966; Winchester with $24,978,147 on 2480 screens; I Frankenstein $18,955,000 and Wolf Creek with $16,188,180 on 1761 screens) have surpassed it.
March saw the release in Canada, Taiwan and Romania. Romania through Vertical opened #3 on 50 screens with $52,159 reaching $187,334 over 8 weeks.
Spentzos opened in Greece on April 12 and over 3 weeks grossed $77,598.
Hungary through Vertigo opened on April26 for a 35 day run for $170,018. South Korea opened to previews on 5 screens on May 2nd and widened to 196 on May 19th grossing $256,200. Final gross at the end of May was $484,257.
On May 28th Intercontinental released in Hong Kong grossing $1,114,628 over 35 days; Travolta opened on 62 screens in Lithuania securing $117,345 over 56 days; the Netherlands opened on 60 screens and grossed $1,136,788 over 28 days.
Paradiso opened in Russia and the CIS on 470 screens on May 9th for a total gross of $586,831. The film opened #9 in week 1.
M2 opened in Italy on 15 screens on May 9th for a 3 week gross of $1,041,310.
Cinemondo in Portugal opened on 24 screens May 23rd (coming in at #6 for the week) totalling $149,733 over 7 weeks.
The first Latin American release was Colombia on May 30th through Cineplex on 67 screens. Over 90 days a gross of $118,302 was achieved.
Norway opened on 63 screens through Mar More grossing $82,299 over 28 days on June 7th. Paraguay on June 7ththrough on 20 screens and grossed $48,726 over 88 days.
Turkey opened through CGV Mars on June 21 on 98 screens. The film failed in this territory grossing only $114 per screen in week 1 miraculously holding over 4 weeks for a total of $47,723.
Brazil opened through Imagen on July 11th on 108 screens and over 3 weeks grossed $370,751.
Spain finally opened on September 6th through Vercine on 71 screens grossing $127,291 – a very disappointing number.
It’s interesting to see the time it takes for an indie territory by territory release to cover the majority of the marketplace – effectively 6 months.
Would it have performed better if it had been released over a shorter time frame? Perhaps – or by a major in all of foreign? There is certainly some commentators who believe a higher US number might have been attainable if a major had taken it out there.
I Am Mother
The producers’ original intention for I am Mother was similar to that of the Hotel Mumbai producers – lock in strong territorial all rights distributors – and a number of pre-sales were indeed made.
Then Netflix made a compelling offer and took the film off the market.
Some of the pre-sales territories were able to be excluded from the Netflix deal including Germany, Lithuania, Russia and Estonia.
It opened June 7th in Russia and Lithuania – notwithstanding it was released on Netflix in the US and elsewhere on July 4th. Volga released on 567 screens in Russia over 35 days for a total of $251,013. Acme in Lithuania did 59 screens grossing $12,670 over 2 weeks. Acme also took Estonian rights grossing 13,169 over 28 days.
Germany opened August 10th and played for 35 days for a total of $212,159.
Danger Close – The Battle of Long Tan
International sales agent Saboteur Media (an affiliate of Goldcrest), launched Danger Close – the Battle for Long Tan for pre-sales at Cannes 2018 and first screened the title at Cannes in 2019.
A significant number of international sales were locked but to date the film has played only 4 foreign territories.
Transmission opened New Zealand on 42 screens on 5th September. Over 49 days they grossed NZ $111,994 – the fifth highest grossing Australian film I 2019 – a satisfactory result – but as in Australia the numbers were less than hoped for.
Saban Films acquired the US and did a limited pre TVOD / SVOD release on November 8th on 15 screens. Canada released day and date. No figures reported.
Pris Audiovisuels released in Portugal on 33 screens late November.
2020 openings will determine the scope of its international success in release.
Judy and Punch
Another of the 6 Australian films to secure a UK and Ireland theatrical release in 2019, Judy and Punch opened through Picture House on 69 screens on November 2nd. The first week’s gross of $85,934 scored #9 on the charts but there was no second week.
In New Zealand Madman played 1 screen over the week of August 25th grossing NZ $365.
No other foreign dates in 2019 but Cornerstone – the international sales agent – have licensed it to Samuel Goldwyn for US and Canada.
Little Monsters had a 15 screen release in the US through Neon preceding a license to Hulu beginning November 11th. No numbers reported.
It opened in Russia and CIS on October 22nd on 19 screens totalling $42,856 over 1 week. It lost 15 screens in week 2 adding $137 to the first week total. Miraculously it held on for a third week on 2 screens adding $21 for a final total of $43,064.
In the UK and Ireland, Altitude (on the face of it the right distributor) opened on 68 screens on November 15th with an almost record breaking disastrous per screen average of $425 for a total including previews of $24,079.
France, Germany, Taiwan and the Netherlands went straight to DVD / TVOD / SVOD.
Transmission opened The Nightingale on September 29th in NZ on 13 screens grossing NZ $44,142 over a 7 week period.
Vertigo opened in the UK / Ireland on 13 screens grossing $26,880 on November 29th running through December 18th for a total of $53,575 having expanded week 2 to 16 screens.
IFC released in the US on August 16th on 2 screens aiming to progressively expand to 250 – 400 screens. Opening week was $40,082. They were only able to get to 75 screens for a total over 5 weeks of $400,209 discovering it had a similar niche audience to Australia.
Taiwan and Norway had specialty releases. Nonstop in Norway released on 124 screens November 29th grossing $10,467 over 7 days.
Universal – on behalf of E1 – opened Palm Beach day and date with Australia in NZ on 76 screens on August 9th. This Australia / NZ day and dating is a new trend this year and has helped to take the traditional complaint Australian films don’t work in NZ down a couple of notches.
With a gross over 56 days of NZ $322,331 coming in at no #4 in its opening weekend, Palm Beach was the #3 top grossing Australian film in NZ in 2019.
No further international dates thus far.
Ride Like A Girl
Transmission opened Ride Like A Girl in NZ on August 30th on 94 screens and it grossed NZ $950,549 over 35 days. An incredible result – the number #1 Australian film in NZ this year and one of the few in a decade to get close to the NZ $1million mark.
Embankment Films handle international.
Poland opened October 25th, Ukraine on November 7th along with Russia and CIS which grossed $20,635 on 131 screens for Capella – disappointing.
Netherland will release direct to DVD and SVOD.
At deadline we learn Saban Films have acquired US rights for a 2020 release.
Sony released Storm Boy in NZ on 76 screens on January 17th for a day and date with Australia for a total of NZ $55,377 – coming in at number #10 on the charts and grossing NZ $239,352 over its 70 day run.
Singapore (where one of the investors was located) also opened on a limited release on January 17th.
International sales agent Kathy Morgan licensed to Monolith in Poland where it opened January 19th.
DVP opened in Croatia on March 10th on 42 screens for $31,095 over 35 days.
In the US, Good Deed Entertainment an Ohio based distributor opened on 56 screens with $46,676 totalling $71,760 after its second week.
The film went straight to SVOD in Canada in July.
Top End Wedding
Universal – E1 released Top End Wedding in NZ on June 2nd, a month after Australia on 51 screens coming it at number #8 with NZ $305,480. Over the 91 day release it grossed NZ $369,094 coming in #2 Australian film for the year.
Hungary released on July 25th and the US and other territories for 2020 are likely to be SVOD and TV.
The higher percentages probably payable by I-Tunes and the like in the US (and elsewhere) can net a better outcome for certain titles than a minimal theatrical / SVOD release through an all rights distributor).
This large scale Australia – China co production The Whistleblower unfortunately failed.
Opening December 11th in NZ, Chin, UK and the USA. It grossed NZ $9,365 on 5 screens over 8 weeks in NZ through China Lion / Rialto; $7,576 in the UK through CMC on 24 screens over 7 days; $6,917,941 on 10,000 screens in China through CMC over 2 weeks. The US figures were not reported.
Clearly the Chinese diaspora did not show up, nor did local Chinese audiences.
A co production breakthrough for Australia but it did not perform.
To date Animals has only played theatrically in 2 international territories.
In the UK and Ireland, Picturehouse opened it in August on 73 screens widening to 80 screens in week 2 running for 8 weeks. It grossed $129,697 in week 1 coming in on the charts at number #12, dropping to number #22 by week 3 with the screen count down to 47. In week 4 it dropped further to 16 screens and charted at number #25. The ultimate UK gross was $415,220 (significantly in excess of the Australian BO of $98,287, but not surprising given the Irish setting of the film and the history of the book on which it was based. The Animals UK box office gross was the highest of all Australian films in the UK in 2019.
Vendetta opened the film in New Zealand where it grossed $3,730 over 7 days.
The Furies followed a micro theatrical release in Australia with a couple of screenings in the US at the LA Arena Cine Lounge followed by an exclusive SVOD deal with Shudder which tagged it a Shudder Original from October.
Sales agent Odins’ Eye also licensed to France, Spain, Italy, Japan and the Middle East where DVD and SVOD releases are likely.
In Like Flynn
In Like Flynn was released by Blue Fox on a limited pre-TVOD / SVOD 10 screens in the US on January 25th. No figures released.
Some TV and DVD releases occurred in UK, Spain and Bulgaria.
Jirga had a micro US release through specialty niche distributor Light Year in the US on July 26th in New York and then on August 2nd at the Laemle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. No figures reported. DVD release was a very rapid October 29th.
Locusts followed its micro Australian release in October with a few US screens following its Texas Festival screening. No figures released.
Nektronic opened August 9th in the US through E1 subsidiary Momentum Films on 10 screens day and date with SVOD and TVOD. No figures reported. MMD released in the Ukraine on 89 screens grossing $4,891 over 14 days.
Shudder, the horror SVOD, took the UK and Ireland, US and Canada dropping on November 21st.
Brazil and the Netherlands went straight to DVD.
Angel Of Mine
International sales agent Fortitude managed to place this thriller – driven by the Noomi Raplace lead casting – in a significant number of territories and procure a theatrical release. Unfortunately, the film did not perform.
Lusomondo released in Portugal on 15 screens for $12,364 over 2 weeks. Megogo booked a solid 407 screens in Russia / CIS for a one week run for a total gross of $41,922, a truly catastrophic per screen average of $103.
Kinomania held for 2 weeks in the Ukraine, opening on 54 screens on September 5th for a total gross of $9,918.
Lionsgate / Grindstone in the USA did the obligatory 10 screen pre TVOD release (no figures reported) and locked in a subsequent sale to Hulu.
Other theatrical releases included Canada (French Speaking) through VVS, Turkey through CGV Mars on 20 screens (7 days $2081), South Korea on 115 screens for 7 days for $22,741 and Falcon in Lebanon in the Middle East.
German speaking Europe went straight to DVD.
Ultimately a disappointment.
Madman opened Mystify Michael Hutchence the feature documentary in NZ on September 13th grossing NZ $23,007 over 4 weeks.
Dogwoof opened it in the UK on October 18th on 8 screens expanding to 14 over 21 days grossing $117,204.
Dogwoof also handle international sales and have licensed direct to SVOD or TV to HBO Europe; Movistar in Spain and a handful of other niche distributors who will likely go straight to ancillary (possibly with premiere special event theatricals) in 2020.
Shout Factory took the US for DVD, SVOD etc.
Moviehouse ran a series of one or two night only event style theatricals for Suzy Q across the UK in September – November. Figures are still to be released.
Arsenal bought Germany and will release in March 2020.
2040 had a longish run in NZ over 84 days totalling NZ $125,837 significantly driven by specialty audience group bookings.
Songkeepers , The
The Songkeepers carried over into 2019 from its 2018 release in NZ where Rialto played on 5 screens over 42 days for a total of NZ $23,909 from a January 10th release date.
The extraordinary Blinky Bill – The Movie (2015) continues to pop up. This year it finally played Korea for a week on February 2nd on 226 screens grossing $115,039 – a testament to the longevity of animation that does not date.
After the debacle of the aborted Weinstein deal was finally resolved, Mary Magdalene from 2018 finally opened in the US through IFC on April 12th – a year after most other foreign dates – on 62 screens and grossed $114,280 over 2 weeks. A disaster.
Blue Fox opened Swinging Safari in the US on 15 screens on June 20th as a prelude to a SVOD / TVOD release one week later. No figures reported.
Lighthouse took it direct to DVD in Germany on August 23rd under the title Swinging Summer.
Swift in France retitled it Swinging 70’s and went direct to DVD and TV.
Other non-theatrical releases included Russia through Luxor; Spain through 12 Oaks; UK through Thunderbird; Italy though Lucky Red and Greece through Spentzos.
Upgrade continued in Russia / CIS through January 20th concluding its 9 week run at $941,574.
In 2019 our titles in international release continued to place both in territories in which Australian films have traditionally sold (e.g. the UK, US, Eastern Europe and of course New Zealand) and territories that do so less frequently (e.g. China, Greece and Latin America). Many buyers – both mainstream and specialty – tended to be repeat buyers from previous years.
Moreover, some territories expanded their appetite.
This year saw a record number of Australian films theatrically release in the UK – 7 – (Animals, The Nightingale, Suzy Q, Little Monsters, The Whistleblower, Mystify and Judy and Punch). None really broke out as noted above in the individual title summaries, but they expanded our profile and the range of buyers. In addition Hotel Mumbai which released theatrically in most territories was branded as a Sky Original in the UK and heavily promoted.
In NZ Universal and Transmission utilized day and date or virtually day and date releasing on a number of titles to good effect including Top End Wedding, Palm Beach, Danger Close and Ride Like A Girl.
This year I excluded from the above analysis The King (Netflix worldwide save a token and non-windowed Australian theatrical release – and notwithstanding the AACTA position) (just as I excluded Boy Interrupted in 2018) and Lego Movie – 2nd Part (notwithstanding its Animal Logic connection) – both on the basis that there were not sufficient Australian creative and financial elements involved to justify their inclusion.
As in 2018 there were many weeks in many territories where 2 or 3 Australian films featured in the top 20 – 40 titles in release. This energises exhibition and distribution throughout the year.
For the first in a number of years we did not have an Australian film handled worldwide by a major in worldwide release but top level independent distributors or mini majors and Netflix took up the slack for Hotel Mumbai, I Am Mother and Danger Close.
Notwithstanding overall 2019 can be considered another good year internationally.
HOPES FOR THE FUTURE
It is always dangerous to try to predict the international theatrical successes likely to occur in the upcoming year – given the propensity of Netflix and other streaming entities to pull titles out of the schedule these days.
But Peter Rabbit 2 will be a safe bet for worldwide success through Sony.
Very Excellent Mr. Dundee will depend on whether the love for Paul Hogan endures; I Am Woman on whether the appetite for Juke Box collection titles continues and Escape from Pretoria on whether there is still a theatrical audience for an old fashioned prison escape picture.
Go! should license well to family themed streamers (at deadline it was announced Netflix have acquired worldwide rights outside Australia and China) and Mrs. Fisher – The Crypt of Tears (Downtown Abbey notwithstanding) is likely largely to connect with broadcasters and SVOD’s already in business with the TV series.
Universal have The Invisible Man worldwide and it should do Upgrade business or better.
Great White which Altitude UK are licensing worldwide also seem well suited to worldwide streaming with perhaps some theatrical in Asia and Eastern Europe.
So two films in 2020 are being handled by majors!