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MOVIE CONVENTION 2001

The Gold Coast turned on the sunshine and the movies in equal measure as 750 film industry delegates, a handful of politicians and a dozen media ate & drank the Royal Pines Resort out of house and home* last week at the 56th Movie Convention. Delegates ducked between darkened cinemas and sunlit poolside meals and rubbed shoulders with their clients, friends and competitors in an atmosphere somewhere between showbuzz and show-me-the-money. Andrew L. Urban & Louise Keller report.

They survived a fake ice storm, donned blonde wigs en masse, got lei-d at a barbecue, caught a unique version of Big Brother with their colleagues as participants, extracted commitments from the Arts Minister and his Labour shadow to protect their business, dined and wined for a week - and saw half a dozen new movies, not to mention dozens of trailers from upcoming releases, including a 26 minute teaser from The Lord Of the Rings.

(All screenings were held at the Pacific Fair Cinemas – except for the TLOR footage, which screened at the Mermaid Cinema, where extensive additional security was put in place. Mobile phones and all bags had to be left outside, and guests were guided through metal detectors, by order of New Line studios, according to Roadshow executives.)

The ice storm (paper squares blown about in front of the screen by windmachines and lit with two hefty para-lights) was a novelty intro to footage from Fox’s new animation hope for 2002, Ice Age. The blonde wigs were used as a theme attention grabber for Legally Blonde, whose 30 year old Australian director, Robert Luketic, also came along. (See Andrew L. Urban’s interview in Urban Cinefile on October 11, 2001.) They were garlanded with leis at a tropical themed barbecue hosted by the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia.

“The delegates and the convention are a delight…”

Even the staff at the Royal Pines Resort got into the wigs for breakfast. The 330 room, 500 acre, 2-golf course resort, hosting the event for the 6th time, is used to this sort of thing, as General Manager Christine Pritchard points out. “The delegates and the convention are a delight…” Makes a change from orthodontists or IT nerds, I suppose.

So does the sight of International Star of the Year, Geoffrey Rush, wondering through the Lobby Bar barefoot in his white, hotel-issue bathrobe at 6.15pm, casually conversing with the CEO of the Film Finance Corporation and a journalist.

There was a trade show at the Convention, where cinema seats, lollies and popcorn (5 versions) were on display, along with gizmos I didn’t recognise. Then there were the talkfest sessions, which ranged across several industry issues. There were sessions. . .

On review of film classification:
The rating of DVDs – especially where additional material and/or computer games are included with a movie – will be a crucial part of a major review of the guidelines for classifying films that begins this month, in which the OFLC (Office of Film & Literature Classification) will call for industry and public discussion. The Director of the Office, Des Clarke, told the Convention the Office was concerned that existing guidelines do not adequately address the digital circumstances, where a movie is only part of the contents.

Extra scenes or the content of computer games could alter the sort of consumer advisory notice that should be applied. He also pointed out how different values might apply in movies and in computer games. The review will canvass all relevant issues, including questions like should there be an R rating for games; at present games which rate higher than MA are justv refused a rating and cannot be sold.

The most passionate and frequent complaints the OFLC receives, said Clarke, were to do with trailers in cinemas. He cited some where a PG rated film (Shrek) was preceded by trailers for Final Fantasy, which is rated M – and the trailer was not classified. On the question of the ratings themselves, he agreed with a suggestion that there was a lot of confusion regarding the M rating when it was expressed as M15+.

The only restrictive classifications are MA and R. An M rating does not restrict persons under 15; it is an advisory. MA restricts under 15s, unless accompanied by an adult. And R is restricted to over 18 year olds.

On digital cinema:
There are currently about 110,000 cinema screens around the world, and only 30 of them use digital projection – all of the Disney’s. The rest still rely on the old fashioned but remarkably effective film projector. In November 2001, a 20 metre screen will be used to run a test of a digital projection and management system developed by Kodak and its partners. Limited sales are expected by mid 2002, so don’t hold your digital breath. Digital cinema is several years away, and will have to do some catching up to match the quality of 35mm film.

On parallel importing of DVDs:
Federal Arts Minister Peter McGauran went away from this year’s Movie Convention clutching a smiling, fluffy promotional toy, a bag of cinema lollies – and the sound of 750 cinema operators, film distributors and producers clapping. He had just told them what they wanted to hear.

The Howard Government will not relax the parallel importation guidelines. What’s more, he implied that the Government will ignore the advice it is getting from the competition watchdog, ACCC, which is in favour of parallel importing for DVDs and videos. For distributors and cinema operators, this is welcome news – and Labour’s arts spokesman Bob McMullen was on hand to confirm Labor’s parallel stand, while Senator Aden Ridgeway pledged the Democrats’ stand, and outline a broader policy approach that calls for a wideranging national cultural policy.

Relaxed guidelines for the parallel importing of DVDs would mean some films would be available on DVD in Australia before or very soon after their cinema release here. The industry believes (and cited the New Zealand example to bolster its case) that this would have drastic consequences for cinemas, especially in regional Australia.

On tax concessions for film investing:
Minister McGauran told the industry that the Government was seeking to clarify and make clear the status of tax breaks for film investors in foreign productions, in the wake of rulings by the Tax Office regarding Moulin Rouge. He also pointed out that the application by investors was not rejected under 10B of the Act but under Section 4.

On more funding for film production:
On the eve of a national election, neither party’s arts spokesman was able to say anything meaningful in response to the perennial quest for more funds by filmmakers.

On the voluntary business code:
The voluntary code regulating dispute resolution between distributors and exhibitors is working, delegates were told, although there are still examples of friction and some small regional cinemas continue to complain they are being unfairly treated by some of the bigger distributors. Some, said Ross Jones from the ACCC, still tend to force unsuitable terms on small cinemas. The ACCC has so far refrained from recommending legislation to back the voluntary code, and John Dickie, Chairman of the Code Administration Committee, ended on a positive note, saying the code had certainly increased flexibility between the parties.

On site sharing by cinema chains:
The sharing of cinema complexes by competing cinema chains can be likened to an airport where different airlines use the same facilities, said Ross Jones, responding to questions about the incidence of chains sharing a single complex, eg in Sydney and Brisbane.

Jones said as long as each exhibitor operates independently and there is no collusion that would increase ticket prices, the arrangements seemed satisfactory from the ACCC’s perspective.

*Convention consumption:
9750 bread rolls
350 kg lamb
500 kg chicken
310 kg salmon
3200 tomatoes
600 heads of lettuce
350 kg potatoes
3500 bottles of wine
5600 bottles of beer
4000 bottles of soft drink

Published August 23, 2001

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Movie Convention 2001
Royal Pines Resort
August 14 – 18, 2001


Bryan Brown - Lifetime Achievement Award


Geoffrey Rush - International Star of the Year


Lifetime Achievement Award: Bryan Brown
International Star of the Year: Geoffrey Rush
Australian Star of the Year: Eric Bana

Gold Australian Box Office Award – Highest Grossing Film of the Year:
Shrek (A$30 million and still grossing)

The Hoyts Box Office Achievement Awards are presented to the distributors of films which gross in excess of $10 million in the 12 months prior to the Convention; this year there were 23 qualifying movies, including two Australian films – The Dish and Moulin Rouge.

The Awards are sponsored by Hoyts Cinemas.

MOVIES SCREENED FOR DELEGATES:


The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie


America’s Sweethearts


The Bank


Legally Blonde


The Others

Plus
Rush Hour 2
Rat Race
and
26 minutes footage from The Lord of the Rings

TRAILERS







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