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21 01 2010 - Media release

Australian films at the local box office in 2009

The 418 films screened in Australian cinemas in 2009 grossed $1.09 billion, making last year’s total box office the highest on record.

Of those films, 50 were Australian, accounting for $54.8 million or 5.0 per cent of the total, according to Screen Australia analysis of Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA) data. This is the highest number of Australian films to be screened annually in over 25 years and also marks the greatest domestic share since 2001, when a combination of Moulin Rouge, Lantana, The Man Who Sued God and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles took the Australian earnings to $64.4 million (7.8 per cent).

Mao’s Last Dancer was the top-grossing Australian film in 2009, with Bruce Beresford’s adaptation of Li Cunxin’s best-selling memoir achieving $15.0 million over the last three months of the year. Baz Luhrmann’s Australia followed, cementing its position as the second highest grossing Australian film of all time by adding a further $10.6 million to its cumulative box office total of $37.6 million. The science fiction feature Knowing directed by Alex Proyas placed third with $7.6 million. Charlie & Boots claimed fourth position taking $3.9 million followed by Warwick Thornton’s critically acclaimed feature debut Samson & Delilah which grossed $3.2 million at the Australian box office.

“Australian audiences embraced the diversity of stories produced by Australian filmmakers in 2009. Reports show that 1.4 million more Australians went to the cinema to see Australian films in 2009 than 2008 – a 45 per cent increase on the previous year,” said Ruth Harley, Screen Australia Chief Executive. “The top five films provide a snapshot of the impressive array of genres on offer in 2009 across all release categories, from the confronting, yet ultimately uplifting, drama depicted in Samson & Delilah and Mao’s Last Dancer, to the romance of Australia, the laughter of Charlie & Boots and the special effect–driven action of Knowing.”

“Cinema is a hit-driven industry,” Dr Harley continued, “and while box office is a lead indicator of a film’s performance, it is important to note that it represents just one way in which audiences engage with Australian content.

“Our Research Unit has been analysing case studies of films over their entire first-release life cycle. Kokoda, for example, which took $3.2 million at the box office in 2006, recorded approximately 316,000 admissions. The film went on to achieve in excess of 1.3 million viewings in the two and a half years from cinema release to first free-to-air television broadcast. Cinema admissions accounted for just 24 per cent of these viewings. But this proportion of cinema admissions varies depending on the title. Footy Legends which achieved just under one million viewings provides another example. Cinema accounted for only 6 per cent of viewings of this film, with a higher proportion of viewings coming from subscription and free-to-air television broadcasts.

“It’s a high priority for Screen Australia in 2010 to better understand downstream viewings as we refine a new range of measures to reflect audience engagement with Australian screen production,” Dr Harley concluded.

Scope and definitions

Australian share of the box office is calculated based on the results for projects under Australian creative control, including those that are 100 per cent foreign financed, as well as projects where creative control is shared between Australian and foreign partners with a balanced mix of Australian and foreign elements in the key creative positions (‘co-productions’).

The classification of projects under these definitions is undertaken by Screen Australia’s Strategy & Research Unit, and once determined, the classification flows through all project-related outputs of the Unit. This includes the National Survey of Feature Film and TV Drama Production, and the online statistics compilation Get the Picture, as well as reporting on box office and DVD share.

The classification is unrelated to whether or not a project has been certified as eligible for the Producer Offset, as the Strategy & Research Unit does not have direct access to this information. Administration of the Offset is governed by the secrecy provisions of the Tax Act and only the taxpayer, in this case the production company, can share information about their tax affairs, including the Offset status of their projects.

Box office facts and figures

In October 2009, Screen Australia released analysis of data from the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA) exploring the release strategies applied to Australian films and their performance relative to films released from other regions.

This analysis included the calendar years 2005–08, plus 2009 up to 6 October. It reported films released in a particular year as opposed to the number of films screened, as seen in the snapshot provided. 

2009 results

The 50 Australian films screening in 2009 earned $54.8 million during the year, representing 5.0 per cent of the total box office, up on the five-year average of 4.0 per cent.

Based on an average ticket price of $11.99, admissions rose by 44.7 per cent to 4.6 million, over one million more than the five-year average of 3.4 million.

Australian films with Limited (up to 20 prints) and Specialty release strategies (up to 100 prints) earned 17.8 per cent and 13.3 per cent of the box office in these release categories.

Five Australian films screening during the year had releases wider than 100 prints. These films accounted for 71.5 per cent of the total box office earned by Australian films in 2009. This included the 2009 earnings of the Blockbuster release Australia.

Australian films in 2010

A selection of Australian films with an anticipated release in 2010:





Accidents Happen

Anthony Anderson

Andrew Lancaster

Brian Carbee

Animal Kingdom

Liz Watts

David Michôd

David Michôd

Arctic Blast (Aust/Canadian Co-pro)

Gina Black, Stefan Wodoslawsky

Brian Trenchard-Smith

Jason Bourque

Being in Heaven

Michael Rowland, John Coroneos, Paulina Rowland

Michael Rowland

Michael Rowland

Beneath Hill 60

Bill Leimbach, Jeremy Sims

Jeremy Sims

David Roach

Bran Nue Dae

Robyn Kershaw, Graeme Isaac

Rachel Perkins

Rachel Perkins, Reg Cribb

Cane Toads: The Conquest

Mark Lewis

Mark Lewis


Chris Brown, Bryan Furst, Sean Furst

Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

Dirt Music

Miranda Culley, Phillip Noyce

Phillip Noyce

Justin Monjo, Pip Karmel


Jonathan Ogilvie

Jonathan Ogilvie

Jonathan Ogilvie

Griff the Invisible

Nicole O'Donohue

Leon Ford

Leon Ford

Guardians of Ga'Hoole

Zareh Nalbandian

Zack Snyder

John Orloff, Emil Stern

Horseman, The

Steven Kastrissios, Rebecca Dakin

Steven Kastrissios

Steven Kastrissios

I Love You Too

Yael Bergman, Laura Waters

Daina Reid

Peter Helliar

Independent, The

Jim Xyga

Andrew O'Keefe, John Studley

Andrew O'Keefe, John Studley


Nicole Minchin

Amanda Jane

Christine Bartlett

Long Weekend, The

Nigel Odell, Gary Hamilton

Jamie Blanks

Everett De Roche


Michael McMahon, Belinda Chayko, Tony Ayres, Helen Bowden

Belinda Chayko

Belinda Chayko

Loved Ones, The

Mark Lazarus

Sean Byrne

Sean Byrne

Matching Jack

David Parker, Nadia Tass, Richard Keddie

Nadia Tass

Lynne Renew, David Parker


Peter Glover

Danny Matier

Danny Matier

Red Hill

Patrick Hughes, Al Clark

Patrick Hughes

Patrick Hughes

Reef, The

Andrew Traucki, Michael Robertson

Andrew Traucki

Road Train

Michael Robertson

Dean Francis

Clive Hopkins

South Solitary

Marian Macgowan

Shirley Barrett

Shirley Barrett

Tomorrow, When the War Began

Andrew Mason

Stuart Beattie

Stuart Beattie

Tree, The (Aust/France Co-pro)

Sue Taylor, Yael Fogiel

Julie Bertucelli

Julie Bertucelli, Elizabeth Mars


Silvana Milat, Bill Bennett, Paul Quin

Bill Bennett

Waiting City, The

Jamie Hilton, Claire McCarthy

Claire McCarthy

Claire McCarthy

Wog Boy 2: Kings of Mykonos

Emile Sherman, Nick Giannopoulos

Peter Andrikidis

Chris Anastassiades, Nick Giannopoulos

Source: Screen Australia.

Update note:
The ‘Scope and definitions’ section was added to this media release 10 February 2010

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