Gross box office in Australia in 2011 was $1,147.5 million (A$1,093.7m), three per cent down on the previous year, while cinema admissions were down 7.7 per cent to 85 million.

Mike Selwyn, chair of the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA), said the fall in revenue was principally due to the positive effect of Avatar on the first few months of 2010.

“We started the year (2011) way behind and steadily caught up, caught up, caught up, but we never quite caught up entirely,” he told ScreenDaily.

Since annual revenues fell $97.5 million (A$93m) between 2004 and 2005, gross box office has grown year on year until now, as has admissions, except for a slight fall between 2007 and 2008. A five per cent rise on the 2010 ticket price average of $12.86 (A$12.26) kept 2011 revenues buoyant despite more than 7.4 million less tickets being sold.

“Australia has always been one of the leaders at adding value to the cinema experience,” said Selwyn. “Gold Class and other premium offers by exhibitors have helped to drive ticket prices.”

The most popular film of the year was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2, which recorded ticket sales of $55.2m (A$52.6m), $15.8 (A$15.1m) more than second placegetter Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

The strongest 10 performers of the 341 films released in 2011 earned nearly one-third of the total annual gross and six of these 10 were brands familiar to the public.

“Sequels are the building blocks of the schedule and the studios know their commercial potential and there is big demand for them, but we are always looking for new franchises and break out films that amaze us all,” said Selwyn.

The four originals this year were Bridesmaids, The King’s Speech, Tangled and, in the tenth spot, the home-grown Red Dog. As Screen Australia noted in a simultaneous statement: “it is the first time in two decades that an Australian film has broken the $21m (A$20m) barrier without having the backing of a major Hollywood studio”. Snapping at Red Dog’s heels were Cars 2, The Smurfs and Kung Fu Panda 2.

Screen Australia noted that 44 Australian films – only 36 were new releases and quite a number were documentaries — accounted for $45 million (A$42.9m), or 3.9 per cent of the total gross. Local share has not been above five per cent since 2001 and, at most, was 23.5 per cent in 1986, the year Crocodile Dundee was released.

(While not generally thought of as an Australian film, Sydneysider Emile Sherman has received considerable acclaim for being one of the producers of The King’s Speech.)

Selwyn said the MPDAA was looking forward to “another excellent year” and said a broad range of films were already scheduled including The Avengers, the much anticipated The Hunger Games, the sequels Men in Black III, Ice Age – Continental Drift, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, Bourne Legacy, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, leading up to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in December 2011.

He said that New Zealand box office revenue was down nine percent.


FILM                                                               DISTRIBUTOR           GROSS US$m (A$m)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2  Warner Bros                55.2 (52.6)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon                     Paramount                   39.3 (37.5)

The Hangover Part II                                      Warner Bros                34.3 (32.7)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I    Hoyts                           29.5 (28.1)

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides   Walt Disney                 28.6 (27.3)

Bridesmaids                                                    Universal                     28.5 (27.2)

The King’s Speech                                           Paramount/Transmission 28.1 (26.8)

Fast and Furious 5                                          Universal                     26.5 (25.3)

Tangled                                                          Walt Disney                 23.3 (22.2)

Red Dog                                                         Roadshow                    22.3 (21.3)