If Aussie cinemagoers were as passionate about home-grown films as theSpanish are about their films, we’d have a much stronger industry.
7 Jul 2009 - 9:00 AM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2012 - 7:30 PM

More than 60 percent of Spaniards rate local films as good or very good, according to a recent survey. Which makes me wonder: Would a similar poll in Australia have a similar verdict?

I doubt it. Historically, Spain has a much healthier domestic cinema industry: their national films posted a market share above 13 percent in the past two years, while in Oz, local product has averaged just 4.4 per cent in the past 10 years.

Here, in 2008 that share slumped to 3.8 per cent as Australian-produced feature films grossed a total of $35.5 million, and it would have been far worse without Baz Luhrmann's Australia, which rang up $26.9 million.

Commissioned by EGEDA, the Audio-visual Producers' Rights Management body, the Spanish survey found that 61 percent of participants think Spanish productions are “good or very good” – three times more than those who rate them as “poor or very poor”.

In a seeming contradiction, the poll also showed 80 percent believe the Spanish film industry doesn't take viewers' tastes into account. That view is echoed by Daniel Écija, producer of Brain Drain and Chef's Special, who said “cinema is behind the times,” according to Cineuropa.org.

Borja Cobeaga, whose debut feature The Friend Zone, has just been released, urged his colleagues to target “more demanding audiences, as well as those who only go to the cinema to enjoy themselves.”

That's a novel idea which some Aussie filmmakers might like to consider. The most recent study on how our audiences perceive local films was carried out last year by Bergent Research for Screen Australia's predecessor, Film Finance Corp. Australia.

Its conclusions were hardly earth-shattering: Australian films don't suffer an intrinsic disadvantage compared to Hollywood fare; audiences are not prejudiced against Australian films; and in order to compete with Hollywood offerings, Australian films need to target a mainstream audience by developing strong, well executed ad-publicity campaigns.

I'd like to think audiences' satisfaction levels are on the rise this year thanks to a batch of entertaining, well-crafted movies including Samson and Delilah, The Combination, the restored Wake in Fright, My Year Without Sex, Disgrace and Mary and Max.

At least we can be grateful that Australians don't share the Spaniards' enthusiasm for piracy. In Spain, there are as now as many people who access music, films, videogames and TV series illegally as by legal means, according to a study by GfK Emer. It estimates 12.5 million consumers get product via file-sharing platforms or from unlicensed street vendors and of those, just over 7 million illegally download movies.

The most recent survey of movie piracy in Australia was conducted by LEK in 2005 and it found that 23 percent of Australians were involved in some way in film piracy (how could researchers know that, I wonder?), and 47 million illegal DVDs were in circulation, almost equal to the 52 million legitimate DVDs sold. LEK also estimated there were 11 million illegal movie downloads that year—a figure that's sure to have risen as broadband penetration has doubled since then.