The Australian film industry has had a bumper year. In spite of the hostile funding climate over the past two years, the sector has maintained a celebrated status among screen industries outside Hollywood.
According to the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia, there have been three major local productions that have grossed more than $20 million at the box office over the past five years. Among these include George Miller’s 2015 blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road and Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby. Most recently, Jocelyn Moorehouse’s The Dressmaker has already reeled in $11.5 million since it’s release just over a month ago.
The individual talent in this country cannot be disputed. Data from Screen Australia has shown that 48 different Australian directors have been responsible for 113 films that have grossed over US$20 million worldwide. Overall, production spending in the Australian screen industry has increased $1 billion from the year 2006/7 to 2012/13 ($1.9b to $2.9b).
Cinema chains, big and small, have also embraced the quality and magic of this country’s screen arts pedigree. Hoyts Cinemas – itself bought this year by Chinese property developer and now entertainment group Wanda Cinema Line Crops in a deal speculated to be worth $900 million – have expressed interest in funding Australian film production in the coming years. They have also considered saving the internationally acclaimed Australian short film festival, Tropfest, who earlier this year declared it would cease operations due to a massive mismanagement of funds. Smaller groups like Dendy, Palace, and Village cinemas have also held steady support for local films, regularly screening smaller budget local flicks and actively promoting the presentation of Australian work during film festivals nationwide.
Now it seems the Aussie screen is aiming for the wonderful land of Oz. Major players including the CEO of the Australian Film Institute, Alan Finney, and celebrated producer and director Ron Brown are spearheading a new venture, Ozflix. The tag is simple – “Every Aussie Movie. Ever.”
Aiming to launch in mid-2016, the Ozflix service will be a pay-per-view online streaming site that will offer access to between 250-400 Australian films at its launch. To give you some perspective on that, there are currently 41 Australian films available on Netflix.
It remains to be seen how this new service will compete alongside existing Australian streaming services like Stan and Presto, but the increasing uptake of streaming video on demand (SVOD) services is encouraging.
Recently released data by the communications regulator, the Australian Communication and Media Authority, showed that on average Australians spent 8 hours a week tuning in to one of the subscription video-on-demand services (Netflix, Stan, Presto, etc.), with 18-34 year olds tuning in around 10 hours per week on average. The study estimated that 17% of Australian adults, or 3.2 million, tuned in to video-on-demand services like Netflix, Stan and Presto from January to June 2015, and that 12% or 2.2 million Australian adults did so over the last seven days of June.
This move to online streaming screen content coupled with the steady support from large and small cinema chains shows great – and well earned – trust in the Australian film and screen industry. The question may no longer be whether or not there is room and demand for another video streaming service on our shores, but whether or not traditional venues such as cinemas can operate alongside services like the upcoming Ozflix, which given the data, sees no reason not to be able to host, on demand, every Aussie movie. Ever.