16 Apr 2014Webmiss
Convinced the traditional method of releasing most Australian films in cinemas is failing, producer Brian Rosen is rolling the dice with an adventurous plan to launch the Christina Ricci-Jack Thompson drama Around The Block.
The former chief executive of the Film Finance Corporation, forerunner to Screen Australia, has abandoned a conventional cinema season to self-fund a round of ”special event” screenings in June followed by a fast release on video-on-demand (VOD) and DVD just a month later.
Rather than a traditional cinema season of up to 20 cinemas, Rosen is staking $200,000 in advertising to tap the potential of iTunes, Foxtel, BigPond, Apple TV and other similar services.
Director Sarah Spillane’s gritty debut film, which has Ricci as an American teacher who introduces Shakespeare to the Aboriginal students at Redfern High School, had an encouraging reception at the Toronto International Film Festival last September.
Shot in Sydney on a $2 million budget, it also stars Hunter Page-Lochard (The Sapphires) as a student from a troubled family who wants to be an actor and Thompson as the school’s headmaster.
Rosen says the market has ”dramatically changed” since another film dealing with contemporary indigenous life, Samson & Delilah, took $3.2 million in cinemas five years ago.
In specialty cinemas, such as the Palace and Dendy chains and independents, Australian films have to compete with an increasing number of mainstream movies, festivals and screenings of theatre, opera and ballet productions.
”It’s always been tough for Australian films but now it’s really, really, really tough,” Rosen says.
”The traditional [model] of theatrical [release] then DVD, then pay television is broken. It doesn’t work for us.
”Anybody who invests in Australian film is losing money on that model, unless it does major sales overseas.”
While The Railway Man and Wolf Creek 2 have had strong results opening in more than 200 of the country’s 2000-odd cinemas in recent months, other Australian films have struggled to get a decent release.
Rosen backed away from a conventional release for Around The Block when cinema operators baulked at a faster-than-normal release on VOD and DVD.
”We said we’ll lose money if we do it in a traditional way and only go out in 10 or 20 screens.
”We have to try this other model. If we ever want to see any real money back from this film, we need to make it available to people whichever way they want to get it.”
Around The Block will follow The Turning in having special event screenings that include Q&A sessions with the director and cast – minus Ricci – at half a dozen cinemas around the country.
”We’re having to four-wall the movie ourselves,” Rosen says. ”So we’re paying to put it into cinemas, have an audience come to it and build up the word-of-mouth.”
The film reaches cinemas on June 16 and, after an advertising campaign, it will go out to the home entertainment audience on July 16.
”We’ve decided that instead of spending to promote the theatrical release, we’re going to spend to promote the VOD and DVD release.”
Rosen says research and the reception at festivals suggests the film has an audience, especially among women aged 35-plus and young people who are more likely to download than go to cinemas.
”We’re saying let’s see if we advertise in that VOD space, can we get 100,000 or 200,000 people to download it? If they do that and a download on iTunes is $7.99, suddenly you’ve got $1.5 million, which is a good result.”