A number of factors lie behind this but, as with so many sectors, it is the internet that is proving to be a key disruption with the emergence of online streaming services like Netflix being particularly relevant.
To examine the issues in more depth the Greens have launched an enquiry into the economic benefits of the Australian film industry with the eventual hope of being able to define a way forward for the future.
Looking at the bare figures, there’s no doubt that the industry has seen a decline over recent times. In research carried out by Deloitte in 2015 it was found that the overall contribution to the GDP was A$5.8 billion, a 12.4% decrease from the A$6.6 billion figure from 2009-10. The number of people employed full time in film and television production was also seen to be on the decline, down from 49,000 to 47,000 over the same period.
In the couple of years since the report was released the general feeling is that the situation has continued to deteriorate further thanks, in no small part, to the reduction in government grants available to film makers via bodies like Screen Australia, ABS and SBS. Consequently, many producers have had to start looking overseas to replace this lost funding, an exercise that’s not without its own limitations and problems.
As anyone with any experience of movie production knows, to get major funding you need a major star committed to the project. However, the rules surrounding the issue of entertainment visas means that often it is only home-grown talent that is available. So unless you’ve got a Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe or Sam Neill on board then the big backers could be hard to land.
It’s not all gloom though. Box office figures for 2016 rose from A$1.23 billion in 2015 to A$1.25 billion with the most successful Australian film proving to be Hacksaw Ridge which took A$8.6 million. Less financially successful, but critically acclaimed with no less than six Oscar nominations, was Lion proving that, despite the hardships many filmmakers are now facing, high quality and successful films are still being made.
Nevertheless, it would seem that an Australian would-be speculator should take a circumspect approach to investing in the film industry, at least until the results of the Greens’ enquiry are released in May 2018. A possibly better way to invest in the short term may be through daytrading with its wide range of short-term investment opportunities including stocks, forex, commodities and futures.
That’s not to say that in the longer term investing in the Australian film industry won’t prove to be both a financially and culturally astute move. It’s also worth remembering that without home-grown investors stepping up to the plate, the Australian film industry may never again be able to produce films that are truly acclaimed on the world stage.