It’s been a bleak start to the year for home-grown movies.
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11 Mar 2013 - 4:13 PM  UPDATED 11 Mar 2013 - 4:13 PM

Did you know Blinder kicked off in Australian cinemas last Thursday, a week after another Australian sports-themed film, Save Your Legs!, launched?

Probably not, as both are dismal failures and, according to Leigh Paatsch, movie critic for the Daily Telegraph and Melbourne Herald-Sun, they will quickly be forgotten.

A tough call, perhaps, but the box office figures show audiences had minimal interest in the antics of the suburban cricketers in India on tour in Save Your Legs! and even less in Blinder's saga of a bunch of country AFL players in the aftermath of a sex-and-drugs scandal.

The failure of Australian films isn't uncommon sadly, but it's rare, maybe unprecedented, to see two local films open in successive weeks on a relatively large number of screens and tank instantly.

Blinder, which was directed by Richard Gray and co-written by Gray and first-time producer Scott Didier, took $47,394 in four days on 99 screens. That almost makes the cricket-themed pic's four-day tally of $188,000 on 176 screens look respectable.

Generally hostile reviews didn't help Gray's melodrama but clearly many folks either didn't know about the film or, after seeing the ads, the trailer and media coverage, decided it held no appeal.

Some reviewers not only disliked the film, they objected to its moral stance towards the 15-year-old girl who was the primary victim of the scandal. “Due to some very strange scripting – it is very hard to tell if it is blatantly misogynistic or just plain ignorant – Blinder spends a lot of time reminding us this school-uniformed Jezebel ruined the careers of some sure-fire AFL superstars,” Paatsch opined.

“Here's your message, folks: never mind the law has been broken and a young woman has been sadly taken advantage of. These blokes could have been the next Wayne Carey! Statutory rape? What about the AFL draft? Extract this seedy-silly sub-plot from proceedings – it is bloody hard to do so, I can tell you – and there's still a shuffling cavalcade of zombie-like characters to contend with.”

The Melbourne Age's Jake Wilson said: “Gray and his co-writers make a show of exposing the dark side of footy's blokey milieu – but when it comes to the incident at the heart of the story, there's more empathy for the predator than the victim.”

David Stratton confessed he was “bored to tears” and gave the film one and a half stars. Inexplicably, Margaret Pomeranz awarded three and half stars.

Distributors and exhibitors I spoke to on Friday were not surprised by the miserable Thursday opening but they questioned why it was booked into so many locations. The film was released for a fee by a new distributor, Backlot Studios, so the producers footed the hefty bill for the prints and advertising. Backlot will be hoping for a much better result with Gray's next film, US thriller Mine Games.

One distributor told me that having two Australian films fall over in successive weeks “does not help the perception of Australian films,” especially after The Sapphires had earned a lot of goodwill for the industry.

Another film industry executive said, “I wonder what will be this year's Red Dog or Bran Nue Dae or The Sapphires? Sometimes I wonder if there's only going to be one or two real hit local movies a year and the rest are niche, and therefore should a new model reflect that in budget levels?”

I think he's absolutely right. The big question: Will anyone at the federal or state agencies, or industry bodies such as the Screen Producers Association of Australia, be motivated to devise a new model?