HistoryThe history of Australian film has been characterized as one of "boom and bust" due to the unstable and cyclical nature of its activity; there have been deep troughs, during which few films were made for decades, and high peaks, during which a glut of films reached the market.
Pioneer days – 1890s to 1910Australia's first cinema, the ''Salon Lumière'' at 237 Pitt Street, Sydney, was operating in October 1896, and showed the first Passengers Alighting from Ferry Brighton at Manly, Australian-produced short film on 27 October 1896. The Melbourne Athenaeum, Athanaeum Hall in Collins Street, Melbourne, operated as a dance hall from the 1880s, and from time to time would provide alternative entertainment to patrons. In October 1896 it exhibited the first movie film shown in Australia, within a year of the first public screening of a film in Paris on 28 December 1895 by the French Auguste and Louis Lumière, Lumière brothers. The Athanaeum would continue screenings, but these early screenings all comprised short films. Some of the earliest movie film shot in Australia consisted of films of Aboriginal Australian, Aboriginal dancers in Central Australia, shot by anthropologists Walter Baldwin Spencer, Baldwin Spencer and F.J. Gillen between 1900 and 1903. They pioneered sound recording on wax cylinders and shot their films under very difficult conditions. The earliest feature-length narrative film in the world was the Australian-produced ''The Story of the Kelly Gang'' (1906), shown at the Athenaeum. The film, written and directed by Charles Tait (film director), Charles Tait, included several of his family. The film was also exhibited in the United Kingdom, and was commercially very successful. Melbourne also hosted one of the world's first film studios, the Limelight Department, operated by the Salvation Army in Australia between 1897 and 1910. The Limelight Department produced evangelical material for use by the Salvation Army, as well as carrying out private and government contracts. In its 19 years of operation the Limelight Department produced about 300 films of various lengths, making it the largest film producer, film-producer of its time. The major innovation of the Limelight Department came in 1899 when Herbert Booth and Joseph Perry (cinematographer), Joseph Perry began work on Soldiers of the Cross (film), ''Soldiers of the Cross'', described by some as the first feature-length film ever produced. ''Soldiers of the Cross'' fortified the Limelight Department as a major player in the early Film industry, film-industry. The Limelight Department was commissioned to film the Inauguration of the Commonwealth, Federation of Australia.
Boom and bust – 1910s to 1920sThe 1910s were a "boom" period in Australian cinema. Activity had begun slowly in the 1900s, and 1910 saw four narrative films released, then 51 in 1911, 30 in 1912, and 17 in 1913, and back to four in 1914, when the beginning of World War I brought a temporary pause in film-making. While these numbers may seem small in the 21st century, Australia was one of the most prolific film-producing countries at the time. In all, between 1906 and 1928 Australia made 150 narrative feature films, almost 90 of them between 1910 and 1912. A general consolidation took place in the early 1910s in the production, distribution and exhibition of films in Australia. By 1912 numerous independent producers had merged into Greater Union, Australasian Films and Union Theaters (now known as Event Cinemas), which established control over film distributors and cinemas and required smaller producers to deal with the cartel. Some view the arrangement as opening the way for American distributors in the 1920s to sign exclusive deals with Australian cinemas to exhibit only their own products, thereby shutting out the local product and crippling the local film-industry. Various other explanations attempt to account for the decline of the industry in the 1920s. Some historians point to falling audience numbers, a lack of interest in Australian product and narratives, and Australia's participation in the war. Also, an Bushranger ban, official ban on bushranger films occurred in 1912. With the suspension of local film-production, Australian cinema chain, cinema-chains sought alternative products in the United States and realised that Australian-produced films were much more expensive than the imported product, which were priced cheaply as production expenses had already been recouped in the home market. To redress this imbalance, the federal government of Australia imposed a tax on imported film in 1914, but this was removed by 1918. Whatever the explanation, by 1923 American films dominated the Australian market, with 94% of all exhibited films coming from the United States.
1930s–1960sIn 1930 F. W. Thring (1883–1936) established the Efftee Studios based in Melbourne to make talking films using optical sound equipment imported from the United States. The first Australian sound films appeared in 1931: the company produced Diggers (1931 film), ''Diggers'' (1931), ''A Co-respondent's Course'' (1931), ''The Haunted Barn'' (1931) and The Sentimental Bloke (1932 film), ''The Sentimental Bloke'' (1932). During the five years of its existence, Efftee produced nine features, over 80 short film, shorts and several stage-productions. Notable collaborators included C. J. Dennis, George Wallace (Australian comedian), George Wallace and Frank Harvey (Australian screenwriter), Frank Harvey. Film production continued only until 1934, when it ceased as a protest over the refusal of the Australian government to set Australian film-quotas, followed soon by Thring's death in 1936. It was estimated that Thring lost over £75,000 of his own money on his filmmaking and theatrical ventures. Ken G. Hall became a driving force in establishing Cinesound Productions in 1931.UNESCO HONOURS CINESOUND MOVIETONE PRODUCTIONS
Film renaissance – 1970s and 1980sJohn Gorton, Prime Minister of Australia from 1968 to 1971, initiated several forms of government support for film and the arts. The Gough Whitlam government (1972–75) continued to support Australian film and state governments also established assistance programs. These measures led to a resurgence of Australian film-making - the Australian New Wave - which lasted until the mid-to-late Australian films of the 1980s, 1980s. The era also marked the emergence of the "Ozploitation" style – characterised by the exploitation of colloquial Australian culture. Films such as Picnic at Hanging Rock (film), ''Picnic at Hanging Rock'' (directed by Peter Weir, 1975) and ''Sunday Too Far Away'' (Ken Hannam, 1975) made an impact on the international scene. The 1970s and 1980s are regarded by many as a "golden age" of Australian cinema, with many successful films, from the dark dystopian fiction of ''Mad Max'' (George Miller (filmmaker), George Miller, 1979) to the romantic comedy of ''Crocodile Dundee'' (Peter Faiman, 1986) and the emergence of such film-directing auteurs as Gillian Armstrong, Phillip Noyce and Bruce Beresford. A major theme of Australian cinema which matured in the 1970s was one of survival in the harsh Australian landscape. A number of thrillers and horror-films - dubbed "outback gothic" - have appeared, including ''Wake in Fright'', Walkabout (film), ''Walkabout'', ''The Cars That Ate Paris'' and Picnic at Hanging Rock (film), ''Picnic at Hanging Rock'' in the 1970s, Razorback (film), ''Razorback'' and Shame (1988 film), ''Shame'' in the 1980s and ''Japanese Story'', The Proposition (2005 film), ''The Proposition'' and Wolf Creek (film), ''Wolf Creek'' in the 2000s. These films depict the Australian bush and its creatures as deadly, and its people as outcasts and psychopaths. These elements combine with futuristic post-apocalyptic themes in the Mad Max (franchise), ''Mad Max'' series. 1971's ''Walkabout'' was a British film, set in Australia, which became a forerunner to many Australian films related to indigenous themes; it introduced David Gulpilil to cinematic audiences. 1976's ''The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith'' directed by Fred Schepisi re-told an award-winning historical drama from the book by Thomas Keneally about the tragic story of an Aboriginal bushranger. Classic stories from Australian literature and Australian history continued to provide popular cinematic adaptations during the 1970s and 1980s. Gillian Armstrong's ''My Brilliant Career'' (1979) featured Judy Davis and Sam Neill in early lead-roles. 1982's ''We of the Never Never'' followed up on the theme of the female experience of life in the Australian bush. 1982's The Man from Snowy River (1982 film), ''The Man from Snowy River'', starring Tom Burlinson and Sigrid Thornton, dramatised the classic Banjo Paterson poem of that name and became one of the all-time box-office successes of Australian cinema. In addition to the serious historical dramas popular in the 1970s, a number of films celebrating and satirizing Australian colloquial culture appeared over the decade, including: ''The Adventures of Barry McKenzie'' (1972), ''Alvin Purple'' (1973), and ''Barry McKenzie Holds His Own'' (1974). The Barry McKenzie films saw performing-artist and writer Barry Humphries collaborating with director Bruce Beresford. In 1976, Peter Finch won a posthumous Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the American satire Network (1976 film), ''Network'', thus becoming the first Australian to win an Oscar for best actor. 1980's Breaker Morant (film), ''Breaker Morant'' (starring Jack Thompson (actor), Jack Thompson and Edward Woodward) dramatised the controversial trial of an Australian soldier during the Boer War of 1899-1902; there followed 1981's World War I drama Gallipoli (1981 film), ''Gallipoli'' (directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson). These films, now considered classics of Australian cinema, explored contemporary Australian identity through dramatic episodes in Australian history. Gibson went on to further success in 1982's The Year of Living Dangerously (film), ''The Year of Living Dangerously'' before transferring to pursue his Hollywood career as an actor and director. Many other Australian stars would follow his path to international stardom in the coming decades. The director of ''The Year of Living Dangerously'', Peter Weir, also made a successful transition to Hollywood. Weir contributed to the screenplay along with its original author, Christopher Koch, and playwright David Williamson. Williamson rose to prominence in the early 1970s, and has gone on to write several other original scripts and screenplays made into successful Australian films, including: ''Don's Party'' (1976); ''Gallipoli'' (1981), Emerald City (play), ''Emerald City'' (1988), and Balibo (film), ''Balibo'' (2009). Actor/comedian Paul Hogan wrote the screenplay and starred in the title role in his first film, ''Crocodile Dundee'' (1986), about a down-to-earth hunter who travels from the Australian outback to New York City. The movie became the most successful Australian film ever, and launched Hogan's international film career. Following the success of ''Crocodile Dundee'', Hogan starred in the sequel, ''Crocodile Dundee II'' in 1988. 1988 also saw the release of the drama Evil Angels (film), ''Evil Angels'' (released outside of Australia and New Zealand as ''A Cry in the Dark'') about the Lindy Chamberlain saga, in which a dingo took a baby at Ayers Rock and her mother was accused of having murdered the child. Nicole Kidman began appearing in Australian children's TV and film in the early 1980s – including starring roles in BMX Bandits (film), ''BMX Bandits'' and ''Bush Christmas''. During the 1980s she appeared in several Australian productions, including Emerald City (play), ''Emerald City'' (1988), and ''Bangkok Hilton'' (1989). In 1989 Kidman starred in Dead Calm (film), ''Dead Calm'' alongside Sam Neill and Billy Zane. The thriller garnered strong reviews, and Hollywood roles followed.
1990–2010The 1990s proved a successful decade for Australian film and introduced several new stars to a global audience. Low budget films such as the comedy/drama ''Muriel's Wedding'', starring Toni Collette, the gently satirical suburban comedy ''The Castle (1997 Australian film), The Castle'' directed by Rob Sitch (which cast Eric Bana in his first prominent film role), and Baz Luhrmann's flamboyant ''Strictly Ballroom'' each attained commercial and critical success, and explored quirky characters inhabiting contemporary Australian suburbia – marking something of a departure from the Outback and historical sagas which obtained success in the 1970s and 1980s. Stephan Elliott's 1994 film ''The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'' mixed traditional outback cinematography and landscape with contemporary urban sub-culture: following three drag queens on a road trip to Central Australia. While a number of major international stars gained early prominence in Australia over the period, an important stable of established and emerging local stars with prodigious film credits remained prominent, including screen veterans Charles Tingwell, Bill Hunter (actor), Bill Hunter, Jack Thompson (actor), Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown and Chris Haywood. The World War II drama ''Blood Oath (film), Blood Oath'' (1990) debuted both Russell Crowe and Jason Donovan, in minor cinematic roles. Crowe demonstrated his versatility as an actor in this early period of his career by starring soon after as a street gang Melbourne skinhead in 1992's ''Romper Stomper'' and then as an inner-Sydney working-class gay man in 1994's ''The Sum of Us (film), The Sum of Us'' before transferring to the US to commence his Hollywood career. George Miller's ''Babe (film), Babe'' (1995) employed new digital effects to make a barnyard come alive and went on to become one of Australia's highest-grossing films. The 1996 drama ''Shine (film), Shine'' achieved an Academy Award for Best Actor award for Geoffrey Rush and Gregor Jordan's 1999 film ''Two Hands (1999 film), Two Hands'' gave Heath Ledger his first leading role. After Ledger's successful transition to Hollywood, Jordan and Ledger collaborated again in 2003, with Ledger playing the iconic bushranger title role in the film ''Ned Kelly (2003 film), Ned Kelly'', co-starring British actress Naomi Watts. The canon of films related to Indigenous Australians also increased over the period of the 1990s and early 21st Century, with Nick Parsons' 1996 film ''Dead Heart (film), Dead Heart'' featuring Ernie Dingo and Bryan Brown; Rolf de Heer's ''The Tracker (2002 film), The Tracker'', starring Gary Sweet and David Gulpilil; and Phillip Noyce's ''Rabbit-Proof Fence (film), Rabbit-Proof Fence'' in 2002. In 2006, Rolf de Heer's ''Ten Canoes'' became the first major feature film to be shot in an Indigenous language and the film was recognised at Cannes Film Festival, Cannes and elsewhere. The shifting demographics of Australia following post-war multicultural immigration was reflected in Australian cinema through the period and in successful films like 1993's The Heartbreak Kid (1993 film), The Heartbreak Kid; 1999's Looking for Alibrandi (film), Looking for Alibrandi; 2003's Fat Pizza; the Wog Boy comedies and 2007's Romulus, My Father (film), Romulus, My Father which all dealt with aspects of the migrant experience or Australian subcultures. Rob Sitch and Working Dog Productions followed the success of ''The Castle'' with period comedy ''The Dish'', which was the highest grossing Australian film of the Year 2000 and entered the top ten list of highest grossing Australian films. Big budget Australian-international co-productions ''Moulin Rouge!'' (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) and Happy Feet (which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for filmmaker George Miller (filmmaker), George Miller in 2006) also entered the top ten list during the first decade of the new century. Baz Luhrmann directed a series of international hits and returned to Australia for the production of 2008's ''Australia (2008 film), Australia'', which showcased a host of Australian stars including Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and David Wenham and went on to become the second highest-grossing film in Australian cinematic history. ''Lantana (film), Lantana'', directed by Ray Lawrence (film director), Ray Lawrence attained critical and commercial success in 2001 for its examination of a complex series of relationships in suburban Sydney, and events surrounding a mysterious crime. It won seven Australian Film Institute Awards, AFI Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Anthony LaPaglia and Best Actress for Kerry Armstrong. Emerging star Sam Worthington had early lead roles in the 2002 mobster black comedy ''Dirty Deeds (2002 film), Dirty Deeds'' and 2003's crime caper ''Gettin' Square''. ''Gettin Square'' also featured rising star David Wenham who demonstrated versatility with a string of critically acclaimed roles including the title role in Paul Cox (director), Paul Cox's 1999 biopic ''Molokai: The Story of Father Damien'' and the 2001 thriller ''The Bank (2001 film), The Bank'', directed by the politically conscious film director Robert Connolly. In 2005, ''Little Fish (2005 film), Little Fish'' marked a return to Australian film for actress Cate Blanchett and won five Australian Film Institute Awards including Best Actor for Hugo Weaving, Best Actress for Blanchett and Best Supporting Actress for screen veteran Noni Hazlehurst. In 2008, the documentary film celebrating the romps of the Australian New Wave of 1970s and 1980s low-budget cinema: ''Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!'' The film was directed by Mark Hartley and interviews filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino, Dennis Hopper, George Miller and Barry Humphries. The early 2000s were generally not successful years for Australian cinema, with several confronting dramas proving unpopular at the box office. In 2008, no Australian movies made $3 million at the box office, but a conscious decision by filmmakers to broaden the types of films being made as well as the range of budgets produced a series of box-office hits at the close of the decade. Strong box office performances were recorded in 2009–10 by Bruce Beresford's ''Mao's Last Dancer (film), Mao's Last Dancer''; the Aboriginal musical ''Bran Nue Dae (film), Bran Nue Dae'' the dramatization of John Marsden (writer), John Marsden's novel ''Tomorrow, When the War Began (film), Tomorrow, When the War Began''; and the crime drama ''Animal Kingdom (film), Animal Kingdom'' which featured major Australian screen stars Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver. ''Animal Kingdom'' achieved success at the 2010 Australian Film Institute Awards and was acclaimed at film festivals around the world. ''Tomorrow, When the War Began'' became the highest-grossing domestic film of 2010 and it was nominated for nine Australian Film Institute Awards. Other award-winning films of the period included ''Balibo (film), Balibo'' (2009) starring Anthony LaPaglia; Middle Eastern crime flick ''Cedar Boys'' (2009) directed by Serhat Caradee; and animated comedy drama ''Mary and Max''.
2010–presentWorld War I drama ''Beneath Hill 60'' (2010), directed by Jeremy Sims and starring Brendan Cowell, was nominated for numerous awards and won three. Contemporary Indigenous film-makers include Warwick Thornton, Wayne Blair, Trisha Morton-Thomas and Rachel Perkins.
The industry in the 21st centuryThe Australian film industry continues to produce a reasonable number of films each year, but in common with other English-speaking countries, Australia has often found it difficult to compete with the Cinema of the United States, American film industry, the latter helped by having a much larger home market. The most successful Australian actors and filmmakers are easily lured by Hollywood and rarely return to the domestic film industry. The South Australian Film Corporation continues to produce quality films, and Adelaide has been chosen as the location for films such as ''Hotel Mumbai'' (2019) and ''Escape from Pretoria'' (2020). James Wan's reboot of video game franchise ''Mortal Kombat'' (2021) as a feature film will be the largest film production in the state’s history. The industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, with at least 60 film shoot, shoots being halted and about 20,000 people out of work. On Monday 23 March, all productions funded by Screen Australia were postponed. , after some improvement in COVID-19 statistics in Australia, Screen Australia continues to fund work and process applications, intending to use all of its 2019/20 budget.
Government supportJohn Gorton, Prime Minister of Australia from 1968–1971, initiated several forms of Government support for Australian film and the arts, establishing the Australian Council for the Arts, the Australian Film Development Corporation and the National Film and Television Training School. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam continued to support Australian film. The South Australian Film Corporation was established in 1972 to promote and produce films, while the Australian Film Commission was created in 1975 to fund and produce internationally competitive films. The Federal Australian government had supported the Australian film industry through the funding and development agencies of Film Finance Corporation Australia, the Australian Film Commission and Film Australia. In 2008 the three agencies were consolidated into Screen Australia. There is an ongoing debate of the need and role of government support for the Australian film industry. Some argue in favour of government support as being the only way that the local film industry can compete against the hegemony of Hollywood. The argument against government support is that the industry is viable without support and will become stronger if increasingly globalised market forces are allowed full and untrammeled play. Others argue that a film industry in itself has little value. The history of the industry in Australia is to some extent a result of the ascendancy of one position over the other.
Highest-grossing Australian films
Other popular Australian filmsHigh-grossing Australian films from earlier decades include: *1900s – ''The Story of the Kelly Gang'' (1906) (gross £20,000) *1910s – ''The Fatal Wedding'' (1911) (£18,000), ''The Life Story of John Lee, or The Man They Could Not Hang (1912 film), The Life Story of John Lee, or The Man They Could Not Hang'' (1912) (£20,000), ''The Martyrdom of Nurse Cavell'' (1915) (£25,000) *1920s – ''For the Term of His Natural Life (1927 film), For the Term of His Natural Life'' (1927) (over £40,000) *1930s – ''On Our Selection (1932 film), On Our Selection'' (1932) (£60,000), ''The Silence of Dean Maitland'' (1934) (£50,000) *1940s – ''Forty Thousand Horsemen'' (1940) (£130,000), ''Smithy (1946 film), Smithy'' (1946) (over £50,000), ''The Overlanders (film), The Overlanders'' (1946) (£250,000), ''Sons of Matthew'' (1949) *1950s – ''Walk Into Paradise'' (1956) *1960s – ''They're a Weird Mob (film), They're a Weird Mob'' (1966) (over $2 million) *1970s – ''Alvin Purple'' (1973) ($4.72 million), ''Picnic at Hanging Rock (film), Picnic at Hanging Rock'' (1975) (over $5 million), ''Mad Max'' (1979)
Directors* Gillian Armstrong * Stuart Beattie * Bruce Beresford * Serhat Caradee * Charles Chauvel (filmmaker), Charles Chauvel * Paul Cox (director), Paul Cox * Kieran Darcy-Smith * Andrew Dominik * Kevin James Dobson * Matt Drummond * Peter Duncan (director), Peter Duncan * Adam Elliot * Stephan Elliott * Richard Franklin (director) * Rolf de Heer * Scott Hicks * John Hillcoat * P. J. Hogan * Gregor Jordan * Ray Lawrence (film director), Ray Lawrence * Raymond Longford * Baz Luhrmann * James McTeigue * George Miller (director), George Miller * George T. Miller * Russell Mulcahy * Chris Noonan * Phillip Noyce * Alex Proyas * Fred Schepisi * Rob Sitch * Prema Smith * Kriv Stenders * Brian Trenchard-Smith * James Wan * Rachel Ward * Peter Weir * Simon Wincer * Leigh Whannell
See also* Screen Australia * Australian Film Commission * Australian Directors Guild * Australian Writers' Guild * Event Hospitality and Entertainment * Film Australia * Film Finance Corporation Australia * Film Victoria * New South Wales Film and Television Office * Queensland Film Corporation * ScreenWest (West Australian Film Corporation) * South Australian Film Corporation * Tasmanian Film Corporation * List of Australian films * List of films set in Australia * List of films shot in Adelaide * List of films shot in Darwin * List of films shot in Melbourne * List of films shot in Queensland * List of films shot in Sydney * List of films shot in Tasmania * List of films shot in Western Australia * List of cinema of the world * Television in Australia * World cinema
Encyclopedia and reference* Goldsmith, Ben, Ryan, Mark David, and Lealand, Geoff Eds. "Directory of World Cinema : Australia and New Zealand 2". Bristol: Intellect, 2014. * Murray, Scott, ed. ''Australian Film: 1978–1994''. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1995. * Pike, Andrew and Ross Cooper. ''Australian Film: 1900–1977''. revised ed. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998. * McFarland, Brian, Geoff Mayer and Ina Bertrand, eds. ''The Oxford Companion to Australian Film''. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1999. * Moran, Albert and Errol Vieth. ''Historical Dictionary of Australian and New Zealand Cinema''. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2005. * Reade, Eric. ''Australian Silent Films: A Pictorial History of Silent Films from 1896 to 1926''. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press, 1970. * Deb Verhoeven, Verhoeven, Deb, ed. ''Twin Peeks: Australian and New Zealand Feature Films''. Melbourne: Damned Publishing, 1999.
Critique and commentary* Ryan, Mark David and Goldsmith, Ben
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