The first Australian film of 2009 to hit the $1million mark is officially Adam Elliot's Mary and Max (review here). The claymation animated title that features the voices of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette reached the milestone on it's fourth weekend of release and beat titles such as Eric Bana's (who also has a minor role in Max) auto-documentary Love the Beast and David Field's Lebanese drama The Combination, which have ended their runs with around $750,000 each.
Despite not sounding like "all that" (wow, how old is that phrase?) it's actually quite a good figure for an Aussie film in an industry that is desperately trying to win back audience confidence after the mini-renaissance we saw earlier in the decade was obliterated by awful films and tired subject matter (drugs, basically, and the people who abuse them). Trying to focus marketing on keen areas of interest worked for The Combination and could help other upcoming genre films as they try and target younger audiences instead of trying to appeal to the upmarket crowds.
Mary and Max marks the first all-Aussie film to reach $1mil since The Black Balloon over a year ago. Of course, Baz Luhrmann's Australia crossed the mark in one day, but that's a different beast altogether, and Roger Spotiswoode's The Children of Huang Shi, a co-production with China that had absolutely nothing to do with Australia whatsoever, also got there late last year.
Clearly buoyed by word-of-mouth - it debuted with just over $200,000 - Max has never reached the top ten, but has sat right outside at #11 for a couple of weeks now and hasn't dropped below $100,000 on weekend takings, which is always a good sign. Don't get me wrong, this isn't what you'd normally call a hit, but for the Australian industry it has to feel like a bit of a win. There are some titles coming up throughout the year that I feel could easily beat this benchmark, but for now it's just kind of nice to see Australian audiences tepidly dipping their toes back into the (lubricant substituted) water.