Box office in Australia fell by 69% in 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak forced cinema closures, capacity restrictions, the postponement of film releases and public health concerns about attending theatres.
Data published on Thursday by the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia showed nationwide annual revenues slumped from A$1.23 billion ($937 million) in 2019 to just A$401 million ($306 million) in 2020. Locally-made films grossed an aggregate A$22.6 million ($17.3 million), down from A$40 million ($30.5 million) a year earlier, for a market share of 5.6% (3.3% in 2019).
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The MPDAA said that the outcome “was a testament to the Australian public’s ongoing love of seeing movies on the big screen (and that) this result is especially encouraging given the acceleration of audience fragmentation through growing digital content services coupled with stay-at-home trends during the pandemic.”
Sony’s “Jumanji: The Next Level” with A$28.9 million ($22.1 million) was the top grossing film in 2020, followed by Universal’s “1917” with A$23.3 million ($17.8 million), and Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life” on A$19.6 million ($15.0 million). The two major Hollywood titles that released after Australian cinemas re-opened in June 2020 managed top ten chart positions. Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” grossed A$15.9 million ($12.1 million) while “Wonder Woman 1984” managed A$11.9 million ($9.08 million).
“In line with state government and health department regulations, (Australian exhibitors) implemented a range of new measures to ensure the ongoing safety of customers and staff, including a reduction in auditorium and foyer capacities, staggered seating to ensure physical distancing for patrons, upgraded booking systems, enhanced air conditioning and stringent cleaning programs involving sanitizing all touch point areas. As a result, going to the movies has proven to be one of the safest activities for small groups of people, with zero cases of community transmission of Coronavirus in cinemas anywhere in Australia,” the MPDAA noted.
“The death of cinema has been heralded each time a new technology shifted traditional business models. However, the unquestionable enhancement of seeing a film on the big screen as well as the sentimental attachment to the communal experience of going to the movies with family and friends has proven to be robust and durable. And the outlook is bright with an abundance of great films releasing in 2021,” said Brian Pritchett, chairman of the MPDAA and MD, Paramount Pictures Australia, in an MPDAA statement.
The new year has started strongly, with good performances by “Wonder Woman 1984,” “The Croods: A New Age,” Australian-made film “The Dry” starring Eric Bana reaching nearly A$13m ($9.92 million) and “Penguin Bloom,” with Naomi Watts, grossing A$2.5m ($1.91 million) in its opening week.
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