At a packed AIMC, Troy Lum says Hopscoth’s new production arm could have four films shooting within the next year.

Hopscotch Features is to seek production funding from government agency Screen Australia for I, Frankenstein, to be directed by Stuart Beattie (Tomorrow, When The War Began), and the romcom/heist movie Brilliant, from Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde).

Hopscotch managing director Troy Lum mentioned the project at the Australian International Movie Convention (AIMC), held last week at Jupiters Hotel and Casino on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

The production arm of the Australian distributor, a joint venture formed with producer Andrew Mason and writer John Collee in 2008, is clearly ready to go into production. Indeed, Lum told ScreenDaily that he hopes filming will start on four films within the next year and another eight are in active development. (Entertainment One bought a slice of distribution entity Hopscotch this year but not Hopscotch Features).

Lum was one of 10 distributors who presented their upcoming movie slates to a record 960 delegates, 650 of whom attended for the entire five days of AIMC.

Universal and Sony chose not to screen a film in its entirety in their three-hour presentations — and Hopscotch didn’t have time in its mini-presentation — but Roadshow/Warner Bros (Crazy Stupid Love), Paramount (Footloose), 20th Century Fox (What’s Your Number), Walt Disney (Real Steel), Icon (the home-grown A Few Best Men) and Hoyts (The Three Musketeers) did. Smaller distributors got five minutes each only during one of the dinners under the Australian Independent Distributors Association banner.

The event opened with local production The Cup from Roadshow, and Madman and Hopscotch scored evening slots for The Hunter, another home-grown film, and Midnight in Paris, respectively. Arguably the anticipation around the commercial potential of other Australian films too is unprecedented — they include Any Questions for Ben?, Goddess, Mental, Kath & Kim, Bait, Wolf Creek 2 and the studio-funded Happy Feet 2.

The AIMC is hosted by the National Association of Theatre Owners — Australasia, formed this year, and Ian Sutherland has had a big hand in revitalising the event over the past three years. During his time it moved from the Royal Pines Resort into Jupiters, where a 1,000 seat cinema enables all events to happen on-site. Works is about to begin expanding the theatre to 2,000 seats.

Sutherland is stepping down as a key consultant to take up a new job at Event Cinemas as general manager of digital content at Event Cinemas (owned by the AHL Group). He is leaving confident that the AIMC is a world class event in top shape, he said. The convention costs more than $1 million to stage an the presentations and organization all appeared to go flawlessly.

“I think some mediocrity had crept into some presentations,” said Sutherland. “I said to the distributors ‘You are competitors that try to blow each other out of the water throughout the year and you have to do that here too’.”

“The delegate numbers are skewed towards exhibitors and those guys are not always part of the glitz and glamour … part of our job is to give them some razzamadazzle,” he said, the morning after a closing night that featured lobster on the menu and dancing girls on stage.

Many visiting executives from the US studios were on hand and chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners, John Fithian, was one of the keynote speakers.

A new award for outstanding industry achievement was introduced to honour the Australian producer of The King’s Speech, Emile Sherman, business partner of UK-based Iain Canning.

Maeve Dermody (Griff the Invisible, Black Water) was crowned star of the year and Sophie Lowe (Beautiful Kate, Blame) and Lincoln Lewis (Tomorrow, Where The War Began) rising stars.

Paramount’s Tomorrow won the award for the highest grossing Australian film, and Sony’s My Wedding and Other Secrets the highest grossing New Zealand film in New Zealand. Roadshow’s Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was the highest grossing film in Australia, in New Zealand and in 3D, while Rialto’s The Girl Who Played with Fire, was the highest grossing foreign-language film in Australia.

The most prestigious of the AIDA awards, for independent spirit, went to veteran Bob Parr, head of programming at Wallis Cinemas in South Australia.

The convention prize celebrating marketing went to Suzanne Stretton-Brown, from Universal, for her campaign for Bridesmaids.

At her studio, she said, the overseas bosses let Australia run with their own ideas and creative. In this case her all-female team based the campaign on Bridesmaids being “the second most anticipated wedding of the year”: Kate Middleton and Prince William’s was held eight weeks prior to the film’s release. From the outset, the campaign was aimed squarely at women and more than 20,000 people saw the film for free in order to spread good word of mouth.