The Screen Currency report for the first time measures the value of Australian screen content as a magnet for international tourism. Don Groves reports.
In speaking to industry to get their unfiltered responses to the Screen Currency report (you can read it here), one finding came up over and over again – tourism. Australian films, TV shows and other screen content attracts hundreds of thousands of international tourists each year, generating more economic benefit to the country than visitors who flock to the Sydney Opera House spend, according to the study.
Report co-authors Deloitte Access Economics estimated that 230,000 tourists visit or extend their stay in Australia each year as a result of viewing Australian film and TV content, generating around $725 million in spending.
That revelation surprised producers such as CJZ’s co-founder/Managing Director Nick Murray, who says, “Those numbers are significant and usually overlooked by government and the industry. We know that our own Bondi Rescue, which is in its 12th season and screens in about 130 countries, has a large attraction effect for tourists to Bondi Beach. The industry should be proud and loud about the knock-on benefits of our creative output.”
The overall tourism spin-off did not surprise Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan, who believes the total revenue generated may be more than $725 million annually. “I think movies, television – the whole screen diplomacy – plays a massive role in promoting any destination,” he told Screen Australia.
“Not just in terms of having the pure economic benefit of having, say The Matrix or George Lucas shooting some of the Star Wars films in Australia, there’s that economic development side. It’s also undoubtedly a tourism platform whether it’s use of scenery, use of actors from Australia and so on. Then it gets into the whole sense of identity and brand building, so it’s not surprising at all.”
As Network Ten Head of Drama Rick Maier points out, Neighbours and Home and Away have showcased our country for three decades and MasterChef Australia is seen in 134 territories. “Our locally-trained writers, directors and actors are everywhere and the demand for local content – on all platforms – has never been higher,” he says. “However, networks aren’t cash cows and we need all the support we can get.”
According to the report, export earnings from core Australian film and TV content amounted to approximately $252 million in 2014-2015. Of that, nearly $182 million or 72% accrued from the international box office earnings of films including Mad Max: Fury Road, The Water Diviner and Maya the Bee Movie. The balance came from license fees paid by foreign broadcasters and foreign video royalties.
Murray says, “The report shows we are big export earners, which echoes our own observations. In political speak, the industry is an effective manufacturer and exporter. That’s good news in anyone’s book.
“Our performers and creatives are also making a mark internationally. This is part of the ‘soft diplomacy’ section of the report which includes the impact of our shows overseas. Again, this is a great calling card for Canberra.”
Rising Sun Pictures co-founder / Managing Director Tony Clark observes, “It’s good to see the standouts of The Dressmaker and Maya the Bee Movie as they point to a future where market-oriented projects can find an audience and be financially successful.”
However Clark adds, “While it’s good to be market-oriented, we’re also looking for other returns on this investment in the indirect and non-monetary forms that the report brings out. If we’re going to stand out in crowded global screen market and break new talent, we need to be prepared to take risks; a pure financial returns-based approach isn’t going to do much of that.
“We need to recognise the future of entertainment, which lies somewhere in the hybrid of film, gaming and artificial intelligence. Our current definitions of ‘screen’ are based on old ideas of cinemas and broadcast; the outlets are many and we should support creators and craftspeople to work in all screen media, not just a few.”