Nine of the 35 home-grown films that opened in local cinemas during 2011 attracted more than $1 million in ticket sales.
Red Dog has been the stand-out success, holding its own against all the films that released in 2011 irrespective of their nationality. As of mid-December, it was the ninth most popular film of the year and had grossed $21.3 million. Six of the eight films that attracted more bums on seats were sequels, which have the advantage of inbuilt recognition; the latest Harry Potter was the biggest hit of the year with revenues of $52.6 million, and runner-up was the latest Transformers with $37.4 million. The animated Happy Feet Two ($8.9m), also a sequel, has the advantage of a big budget, courtesy of the US studio.
The subterranean adventure story Sanctum ($3.9m), Oranges and Sunshine ($3.8m), a heartfelt true story about the forced migration of hundreds of British children to Australia, and The Cup ($2.7m), about the running of the 2002 Melbourne Cup, each grossed more than $2 million.
An additional four films grossed more than a $1 million: the star-studded costume drama The Eye of the Storm ($1.8m); the documentary Mrs Carey's Concert ($1.2m); the confronting serial killer saga Snowtown ($1.1m); and The Hunter ($1.1m), a high-stakes search for a Tasmanian tiger.
Judging a film purely on returns is misleading because it does not take into account the nature of the film and whether it is narrowly or broadly appealing, its budget, the number of cinema sites showing the film, the competition at the time it opens, and so on.
Returns don't always match quality (Mad Bastards and Wasted on the Young are examples of fine home-grown fare that took much less than $1 million but that is a subjective comment) and many things affect performance in addition to quality anyway, including the competition at any given time. Nearly 450 films were shown in cinemas in 2011, many from the US.
Last year was regarded as a particularly good year from a commercial point of view: nine films grossed more than $2 million but none reached the dizzy heights of Red Dog.
There are high expectations for two comedies releasing at the beginning of next year: A Few Best Men, which will be in cinemas on January 26, and Any Questions For Ben? two weeks later. Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) directed Best Men, and Rob Sitch (The Castle, The Dish) directed Ben.