The Great Gatsby Watch down under, part 3

The film “The Great Gatsby” continues to fascinate Australians, with Sydney-siders particularly engaged.

The Australian distributor of the film, Village Roadshow, released a fascinating news item this Monday 3 June 2013, headlined “The Great Gatsby:  Biggest Australian Film Opening Ever”.  As I detailed in my post of May 20, 2013, “Gatsby” is not actually an Australian film – although it was fully made in this country.  The word “Australia” or “Sydney” never appears.  Not one character is identified as Australian or speaks with a recognisably Australian accent.

But yet.  But yet here we are claiming the film as our own.  Yesterday even Sydney Morning Herald film writer Garry Maddox referred to it as an “Australian film” in his interesting article entitled “Great Scott: Sydney is Gatsby scene-stealer”, which features a number of the actual locations in Sydney where “Gatsby” was shot (many likely to become shrines, if this excitement keeps up).

The Roadshow release starts this way:

Not only is Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” the number one film at the Australian Box Office …. It is also the biggest opening weekend for an Australian film ever.  “The Great Gatsby” has grossed an amazing $6,789,193 on 587 screens (includes 2D & 3D) nationwide from Thursday to Sunday.

There is no doubt that “Gatsby” is a hit (and I am relieved to hear that).  It has passed $100million (US) in the North American box office.  According to Box Office Mojo, as of Monday 3 June, the box office sat on $129,315,576, plus an additional $120million outside North America.  The opening North American weekend (10-12 May 2013) ran about $50million (US), compared to an Australian opening weekend of about $6.8million (Aus).  There is a well-known adage that the standard American box office should receipts should run about ten times the Australian box office for a “typical” film, setting aside exchange rates (which are currently close to parity in any case).  On that basis the Australian opening box office should have been close to $5million, but instead came in about 1/3 above that ($6.7million) – in other words, the initial results appear to show that “The Great Gatsby” is likely to be more successful, pro rata, than in North America (which includes the USA and Canada).

Not that surprising, I guess – but remember that this is a fully American story, not an Australian story.

If we accept “The Great Gatsby” as an “Australian” film, we must then accept the following films as all Australian, as all were shot in this country:  “Accidents Happen” (shot near where I live in Sydney’s north), “Matrix”, “Matrix Reloaded”, “Matrix Revolutions”, “Mission Impossible II”, “Star Wars – Attack of the Clones”, “Star Wars – Revenge of the Sith”, “Narnia – Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, “Dark City” and more.  Last I looked, I don’t think any of these films were ever counted as “Australian” in box office results or were entered in the “Australian Film Awards”.  So then why “Gatsby”?  Three words – marketing to Australians.

I don’t mind the marketing hype; that’s one of the reasons I love film – the hype is great fun.  But it’s foolish to pretend that an adaptation of one of America’s great novels is somehow an Australian film.   It also diminishes Australian stories.

To be continued.

(Below: “The Great Gatsby” outdoor illuminated bus shelter poster in Sydney on Mona Vale Road, May 2013.)

Gatsby outdoor poster Sydney bus shelter

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