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AUSTRALIAN MOVIE CONVENTION 1998

INSIDER REPORT
Close to 800 delegates have gathered here at the Royal Pines Resort for the annual get together of cinema operators and film distributors, to exchange everything from pats on the back to bitchy gossip, to see new movies on the way, and to check out the latest cinema sight and sound technology and candy bar gizmo; Andrew L. Urban reports from the inside.

REAL MEN DON’T SKIP STRIP
August 20, 1998, midnight
He did do it, going the full monty (well, 99%) on the bow of a mock Titanic high above the stage at the ballroom at the Royal Pines. Robert Slaviero made history tonight, earning respect and kickstarting a whole new genre of film biz entertainment as he made good his promise to strip in front of the industry (including several international distribution heavies) a la The Full Monty, if that film topped the $20 million mark in Australia.

He made that promise at last year’s Movie Convention,when The Full Monty was just a twinkle in the distributor’s eye. Ever since the film delivered the industry has waited for Slav (as he is known), to deliver; and he did.

But it came after the announcement from MC Paul Johnson of Hoyts, that Slav had disappeared for the night. Then, footage showed him preparing himself with feeble gym exercises, and further footage showed industry heads getting drunk discussing the promise.

Enough teasing, enough, to put a professional stripper to shame. Then, finally, after a strip routine to the tune You Can Keep Your Hat On by a team of five called Real Men on the dance floor, Slav took the spotlight up in the bow of a white Titanic above the stage, modesty preserved only by the slender handrails – and a tiny (very tiny) jock strap.

If the full monty routine was the highlight of the evening, Titanic was the anchor, both thematically and in content, with the dinner menu replicating the ship's final meal; salmon for entree, roast beef and yorshire pudding for main and bread and butter pudding to finish.

Then, before the dancing began, the stage Titanic’s bow nosed further out as the big band struck up the hit single from the film My Heart Will Go On – as did the evening.

STARRING? NOT WEAVING
August 20, 1998, midnight
“I’m one of those actors you probably find infuriating,’ said a smiling Hugo Weaving as he collected his Australian Star of the Year Award in front of the 800 delegates tonight “because I don’t feel very comfortable with the idea of stardom…” Weaving was warmly applauded as he took the stage during a busy night of film biz celebrating film biz, featuring the Box Office Awards, hosted by Hoyts.

The Castle won the Australian Film of the Year award and more than a dozen movies which grossed over $10 million earned awards for their distributors, some of whom (Mark Zoradi, International V.P. of BVI in particular) even recognised the filmmaker’s contribution, while senior players slapped ech other on the back. It was a positive night for the industry, with the notion of passionate film making really taking the awards.

The top grossing films, led by Titanic’s record breaking $58 million Australian box office, are:
UIP’s Tomorrow Never Dies; Mousehunt; Deep Impact.

Columbia’s TriStar’s Men in Black; My Best Friend’s Wedding; As Good As It Gets; Godzilla.

Fox’s Doctor Dolittle; The Full Monty.

BVI’s Face Off; Flubber; Con Air.

WARD’S DREAMS AMAZE
Wednesday August 19
Amazement and anticipation greeted today’s screening by PolyGram of a short sequence from Vincent Ward’s new film, What Dreams May Come, starring Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr, who will attend the film’s Australian premiere in Sydney on October 15.

Extraordinary images have been created by Ward and his team, using digital effects as a painter’s tool to create a visual world – in heaven.

PolyGram also treated delegates to the world’s first screening of Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett in the title role, with Geoffrey Rush in a significant supporting role as a trusted and tough advisor. The film’s other Australian elements include the score by David Hirschfelder and editing by Jill Bilcock. Directed by Shakhar Kapur, Elizabeth looks fabulous, taking us into a 15th century England of ghastly religious bigotry, international politics by marriage and a fascinating queen, which Blanchett portrays with great versatility and dimension.

MARKETING AWARDS 1998
Wednesday August 19
Greater Union’s Morley Cinema in WA has won this year’s Kodak Marketing Award ($5,000) for its campaign supporting the release of Crackers, with Hoyts Highpoint in Victoria taking second prize ($2,000), also for its Crackers campaign, and the Lismore cinema, operated by Birch, Carroll and Coyle came third ($1,000) with its marketing work on Joey. The Awards were presented at today’s Movie Convention Breakfast by Kodak’s Marketing Manager, Jeremy Goddard.

Goddard said the Award had grown in influence and exhibitors showed great interest in it. He said it was designed to recognise individual effort that helps sustain interest in Australian cinema.

LET’S DO A DECENT DEAL
Wednesday August 19
Behind the screen, unseen by audiences on their daily outings to the nearest cinema, conflict between film distributors and the cinema operators – especially the smaller, independent ones, has been growing over recent years. Now, a Code of Conduct has been developed by the industry with the assistance of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and the delegates at the Movie Convention seemed ready to give it a try.

At this afternoon’s seminar, ACCC’s Ross Jones outlined the Code and urged everyone to become a signatory, but said that even if they did not, they would still have access to the facilities of the ACCC and the Trade Practices Act.

In summarising the provisions of the Code, Jones said it responded to the main issues that triggered most small cinema operators’ complaints: difficulty in getting access to first runs of major films, and secondly the terms imposed by distributors on same. The ACCC’s concern was to protect the smaller operators from being squashed by the major players and he referred to the fact that in Australia, a handful of major players controlled some 70% of the total box office.

The new Code creates dispute settling mechanisms and requires that distributors clarify and justify any decision that is disputed. The Code also requires and provides access to greater box office data for disputing parties to use as key reference material.

In addition, a conciliator can be appointed in a dispute and issues of urgency are also addressed, so disputes can be handled swiftly enough to have a commercial realistic outcome.

The panel comprised senior representatives from both sectors: Stephen Basil-Jones (Motion Picture Distributors Assoc); Michael Hawkins (Australian Multiplex Cinemas); Paul Johnston (Hoyts Cinemas); Richard Sheffield (PolyGram, pic); Robert Manson (Greater Union); and Ian Sands (Roadshow Film Distributors). The panel urged the industry to try the Code for at least a 12 month trial or possibly face the imposition of a Code imposed by the ACCC.

BVI BUGS AUSSIE INDUSTRY
Tuesday August 18, 1998
Royal Pines Resort staff have been transformed into little green bugs, complete with little green antennae and a green leaf big enough to cover front and back as uniform. The resort foyer, too, has been ‘bugged’, as was the opening night dinner, as the biggest Australian Movie Convention of all time kicked off, with Buena Vista screening advance sequences from A Bug’s Life, their upcoming wonder of computer animation, from Pixar, the makers of Toy Story.

The sequences suggest a film full of humour, adventure – and animation excellence, creatively stretching the possibilities of the art form.

But the first full film to screen for the 800 delegates from around Australia was The Parent Trap, Disney’s live action comedy about two 11 year old twins who discover each other and try to get their divorced parents together again. It’s as smaltzy as a puppy, and equally irresistibly entertaining, even though the script often defies logical examination. (See our full review when the film is released.)

The dinner following the screening was the occasion for Buena Vista International to formally introduce its newly appointed team, headed by ex-Roadshow executive Alan Finney (pic), who will take over distribution of all BVI films from January 1, 1999, after the longest commercial marriage that BVI has had with a sub distributor.

Head honcho Mark Zoradi (pic) paid tribute to Roadshow’s work over the years and presented Roadshow managing director Graham Burke, a unique framed cell from the animated movie Hunchback of Notre Dame. Burke immediately passed on the thanks to Finney, who was in large part responsible for the work on BVI films while he was at Roadshow.

In a nostalgic testimony to the relationship, BVI screened a specially edited montage of the many films handled by Roadshow on its behalf, to the tune of That’s What Friends are For.

August, 1998

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August 18 – 22, 1998
Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast, Queensland

Annual convention organised by the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Queensland.

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UPCOMING MOVIES SCREENED

The Parent Trap
(BVI)

Elizabeth I
(PolyGram)


The Mask of Zorro
(Col TriStar)


There’s Something About Mary
(Fox)

The Nephew
(Globe)


Wrongfully Accused
(REP)

Strike
(REP)


Saving Private Ryan
(UIP)

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:
trade fair;
technical seminar;
charity golf tournament;
Kodak Marketing Award;
Australian Box Office Achievement Awards;
Australian Star of the Year Award

Kodak presents three dimensional movie posters for foyer promotions;
A portrait studio facility to incorporate customer’s portrait in a movie poster;
Sony’s Dynamic Digital Sound with new DFP-3000 digital processor;







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