News: Spierig brothers unhappy with Oz distribution

Ben Vernel takes a look at the Spierig brothers’ attack on Hoyts Distribution and examines Australian film marketing.

The Spierig brothers have lashed out at Hoyts Distribution – the marketing and distribution arm of the Australian cinema chain -claiming that their recent vampire thriller Daybreakers was poorly marketed. The brothers, in an interview with Inside Film, described the Australian release as “terrible”. The film raked in over $30 million at the US box office but only managed $2.49 mill locally. The Spierig Brothers (directors of Undead, Daybreakers and the upcoming Dark Crystal sequel The Power of the Dark Crystal) went on to denigrate the Australian marketing and PR industry in general, saying that “they have no clue how to market movies”.

This, as a sentiment, is something I find difficult to agree with. The vast majority of film marketing in Australia is handled excellently, with some visually interesting campaigns and a broad swathe of print, radio and online interviews by cast and crew flooding the market prior to release. If anything, film coverage and film criticism is what’s lacking – we simply do not have as many media outlets covering film in Australia as they do in the US. I am a devoted Australian film-lover but all of the film blogs, websites and news outlets I follow are American. In the states they have prominent film critics like A.O. Scott, Roger Ebert and even Armond White who are known by name and whose reputation garners actual respect (or in White’s case, notoriety). While David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz are at the very least somewhat-known, they don’t have any influence over average moviegoers and Aussie film buffs tend to take their opinions with a grain of salt due to their undeniable and unfettered bias towards the Australian film industry. While both the USA and Australia have/had long-running television programs devoted to film criticism (At The Movies), America trumps Australia in terms of print coverage, online coverage (by a ridiculously large margin in this case) and radio/audio coverage (I listen to 8* American film and TV-related podcasts but I’m yet to hear of one Australian film podcast worth subscribing to).

Distributors can only do so much. Trailers, print and online advertisements and interviews are par for the course, but you cannot give interviews to non-existent outlets. The forum for intelligent film criticism and film discussion is severely restricted in Australia and is one of the many areas in which we lag behind our bigger brother America. Hoyts Distro Chief Robert Slaverio responded to the Spierigs through Inside Film, stating that both the brothers and Hoyts had initially seemed happy with their $1 million opening weekend. That isn’t a bad opening for a horror-thriller, and word of mouth carried Daybreakers to a $2.49 million total gross (Inside Film has reported the $2.49 million number but BoxOfficeMojo has the Australian gross at $2.11 million). Hoyts mounted a marketing campaign worth around $1 million to promote Daybreakers; I would have thought that if anyone had a right to be disappointed in Daybreakers’ low box office intake it would have been Hoyts, not the Spierigs.

*For the record, they are: /Filmcast, Battleship Pretension, Podcast, Previously On…, Film Junk, Filmspotting, The Tobolowsky Files and The Totally Rad Show. They’re all brilliant in different ways and I urge you to look each and every one up on iTunes and give them a listen.

Source: Inside Film

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