Australia is really doing itself a disservice by neglecting marketing and distribution with its films.
If an Australian-made film is even released at the cinema – around 30 Australian films are straight-to-DVD releases each year, according to Screen Australia – they usually show on less screens, for less time. For example, according to a 2014 The Conversation article:
“In 2012, 43 Australian films screened at Australian cinemas, including 27 new releases and 16 films released in previous years that were still screening in 2012. Those 43 Australian films spent an average of eight weeks in cinemas during the year, and a median of five… they averaged 75 screens across the country, with a median of 17, and at their narrowest, they averaged four screens… Some 23 films reached fewer than 20 screens at their widest point of release, and 19 films ran for less than five weeks.” – Rebecca Mostyn, 2014, The Conversation
So some films are shown on 75 screens across Australia, and some are only shown on four. As stated earlier, all the other films are released straight to DVD. While DVD sales aren’t failing dramatically – Australian’s spent $805 million on DVD’s and Blu-rays in 2016 (but in 2012, only 4.4% of these sales were attributed to Australian films) – the hiring market is shrinking. A Screen Australia survey found that between 2006 and 2013, the DVD hiring market fell from 57 percent to 37 percent, and streaming and downloading rose to 30 percent.
With cinema releases not pulling in Australian audiences, and DVD releases not pulling in a lot of Australian audiences, and streaming on the rise, it makes sense that this is the step forward for the industry.
Looking at the 2011 film The Tunnel, which massively flopped at the cinema but utilized legal downloading to get the film distributed to relative success, it’s clear the internet is the way forward for not just Australian film audiences, but all audiences.
In 2018, the trailer for the new movie The Cloverfield Paradox was shown immediately after the Superbowl, but audiences didn’t have to wait months until the film dropped – Netflix made it available to stream straight away, which is genius marketing in today’s digital world.
Australian’s now have access to four major streaming services, Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime Video and Foxtel Now, and if Australian content wants to compete with international content available on these services, they need to fully embrace them. Stan is doing this to some degree, creating its own original content, à la Netflix.
However, in Australia, video on demand services are lacking. “A lack of cultural and commercial imagination is holding back Australian digital viewing culture. Still isolated, still a little parochial, Australia isn’t lacking in options for how to view, but there’s little forward thinking about what’s possible,” and they can be sluggish, unreliable and pixelated, which, considering it’s undoubtedly where audiences are going to consume their content on a day-to-day basis, is problematic.
Over one in three Australian’s have a Netflix account, and the longer the Australian government ignores video on demand services, the more Australian content will suffer. Hopefully, the 2017-2018 inquiry into these services will lead to positive results which can be harnessed by the Australian film and content-making industries.