The Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA) released the 2017 box office figures today, and Garth Davis’ Lion came out on top with a total domestic gross of $29.5m. This makes it the fifth all-time biggest Australian film at the local box office, an achievement that contributed to a global total of $177.94m.
To put that into perspective a little, Lion took down more money in 2017 than every other Australian film combined. Red Dog: True Blue took $5.9m in addition to $1.6m taken in 2016, Jasper Jones made $2.7m, Dance Academy scored $2.1m, Jennifer Peedom’s documentary Mountain made $2m, and so on, for a total domestic box office score for Australian made films of $49.4m.
“2017 was a great year for Australian film and Lion in particular deserved not only its critical success, but its commercial success, which was derived from a well-planned, global strategy,” noted Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason. “However, the decade-long trend of indie films being squeezed into smaller releases continues, resulting in these films earning less at the box office. In 2007, blockbusters took around 23% of the Australian box office, but ten years later they took over 50%.
“That trend is even more apparent when you look at films playing on less than 200 screens, which in 2007 were jostling for a 33% share of the box office, but in 2017 they didn’t even reach 14%. And it’s not just Aussie films, but indie films from all countries that are feeling the pressure. For example, looking at the non-Australian Best Picture Oscar nominees in the period, you had Manchester by the Sea do $3.1m in Australia, Fences did $1.2m and the category winner Moonlight on $2.5m. All critically acclaimed, remarkable films doing significantly less box office than they would have a decade ago.
“These are the new rules in which we must compete, so at Screen Australia we’re not only looking for exceptional Australian stories, but stories with a considered path to audience at the cinema, and then beyond the cinema.”
Check out the full report here.