An air of despondency is beginning to settle over Australian producers as, one by one, 2003's crop of local films fail to take off at the box office.

The two latest Australian releases, Roadshow's comedy Bad Eggs and 20th Century Fox's Danny Deckchair, while only just out of the starting blocks, are highly unlikely to reach A$5m (US$3.2m), the magic figure generally used to gauge local commercial success.

Bad Eggs, yet another product of Melbourne's fertile comedy pastures, premiered on July 24 and grossed US$582,000 (A$893,272) in its first week from 172 screens. The screen average was a respectable US$3,380 but it won't be enough.

On current form, the highly anticipated Danny Deckchair, which opened seven days later, looks like it will probably do half that weekly figure despite being on a few more screens. Romantic comedy is a rare genre for Australia and perhaps this is an indication it should stay that way.

Other Australian films such as Horseplay, You Can't Stop The Murders and Swimming Upstream have stumbled particularly badly this year.

By contrast, last year three Australian films, Crackerjack, Rabbit-Proof Fence and Dirty Deeds, exceeded A$5 million at the box office. In 2001, four got over the line: Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, The Man Who Sued God, Lantana and Moulin Rouge, which grossed a highly impressive US$17.8m.

This year, one film - Ned Kelly - has passed the A$5m mark. However, its US$4.9m (A$7.6 million) gross upon disappearing from the top ten chart was not so good when weighted against the cost of production - it was the only Australian film made in 2001/02 for over US$13m million.

Take Away, The Night They Called It A Day and The Rage In Placid Lake all open in August and everyone has their fingers crossed.

If they don't work, perhaps the arrival of spring will hold some promise.