Australian cinema plays an incredibly important cultural role in our society. Seeing our own stories on screen is a way of sharing our nation’s origins, struggles, triumphs, character, values, past, and even its future (Hogan 2010, p. 63). However, Australian film audiences are a fickle bunch. Although 91% of respondents in a Screen Australia (2011, p.1) survey agreed that it was important that Australia has a film industry that produces local content, most Australians, myself included, would choose to watch a Hollywood film over a local production any day. So just what is the problem with Australian film audiences?
A key issue that has caused audiences to turn their backs on Australian film is its failure as a brand. According to Hoerlein (quoted in Kaufman 2009, p. 6) our local film industry has good brand visibility, however it simply fails to resonate with audiences. The inadequate and lack-lustre marketing of Australian films is often an afterthought for filmmakers who simply do not have the funds to invest in an effective marketing campaign (Kaufman 2009).
A prime example of a highly-regarded Australian film that was scarcely marketed is The Babadook (2014). While this film received multiple awards both nationally and internationally, it was only released at 13 art-house cinemas Australia-wide as it was shunned by mainstream cinemas (Hardie 2014). Interestingly, The Babadook was released over 147 cinemas in the UK and raked in almost double the profit than it did in Australia, and only after it was successful overseas did Australian audiences clamour to see it. According to Australian actor Anthony LaPagila (quoted in Dow 2014), Australian filmmakers should release a film overseas before opening it in Australia to generate discussion and excitement. This strategy indeed has merit, as we tend not to have faith in the capacity for Australian content to be ‘good’ and prefer to see films that have succeeded overseas first (Hoskin 2009).
Ultimately, Australian audiences just don’t trust Australian content. As a brand, Australian film does not inspire a sense of patriotism or national pride in audiences, and this is not entirely the audiences’ fault. A quick internet search and class discussion quickly revealed that we avoid Australian cinema because it is typically dark and depressing or just plain cringe-worthy. When one considers how these stereotypes affect Australian cinema as a brand, it is clear an industry-wide rebrand of Australian cinema is vital for re-establishing a connection with the Australian public (Hoerlein, quoted in Kaufman 2009, p. 6). This would require entire brand to be redefined, which is a difficult, but not impossible task. As with most issues in the Australian film industry, the problem can be traced back to a lack of funding. If filmmakers can barely afford to advertise their films, then how does the whole industry even begin to look at rebranding itself?
Every country, Australia and the US included, make both excellent and sub-par films, and there is no ‘silver bullet’ to fix either the Australian film industry or Australian audiences’ attitude towards local film. It is up to us, as a local audience, to support our national cinema and push through our prejudice against Australian film. After watching and thoroughly enjoying The Castle and The Babadook, I can promise that you will be pleasantly surprised.
Business First n.d., Empty cinema chairs, image, Business First, viewed 21 December 2017,
Dow, S 2014, ‘What’s wrong with Australian cinema?’, The Guardian, 26 October, viewed 20 December 2017,
Hardie, G 2014, ‘Why was ‘The Babadook’ kept from Australian audiences?’, The New Daily, 3 December, viewed 20 December 2017,
Hogan, J 2010, ‘Gendered and radicalised discourses of national identity in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 63-77.
Hoskin, D 2009, ‘Micro-budget Aussie flick makes no money’, Overland, no. 194, pp. 23-27.
Kaufman, T 2009, ‘Finding Australian audiences for Australian films’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, no. 163, pp. 6-8.
Verhoeven, D, Davidson, A & Coate, B 2015, ‘Australian films at large: expanding the evidence about Australian cinema performance’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 7-20.