The Great Gatsby watch down under, part 6

July 28, 2013

For some months now, I have been following the success of Baz Luhrmann’s film “The Great Gatsby”.  After eight weeks of release, the film is still playing in 161 Australian cinemas with a total box office of Aus$26,918,096, according to Urban Cinefile.  As of 28 July 2013, it still achieved a weekly box office of $467,788, although that was down 31% from the previous week.

The North American reception of “Gatsby” is fascinating:  “Gatsby” is by far Luhrmann’s most successful film there, having grossed US$143,888,405 as of 25 July 2013 (according to Box Office Mojo), with a recent increase to 302 cinemas (for reasons I do not know).

Gatsby has grossed approximately US$186,200,000 outside of North America (56.4% of its worldwide US$330million total).  Outside of North America, the film has fared best in Australia, closely followed by the United Kingdom.

Compare “Gatsby” to “Australia”, Luhrmann’s next “biggest” film.  According to Box Office Mojo, “Australia” grossed US$211,342,221 worldwide, a full 76.6% of that outside of North America.  Although “Australia” is, at heart, a very “Australian” story, the Australian box office for that film in 2009 (US$26,521,500) is very close to the “Gatsby” box office (US$24,588,158).  Given the four years difference in ticket prices and the fact that “Gatsby” is still playing in Australian cinemas, it’s highly likely that the two films will end up performing similarly here in Australia.

So, two conclusions:

  1. “The Great Gatsby” is definitely Luhrmann’s American hit.  While $143 million is not “break out”, it’s certainly strong – and places Luhrmann for new projects.
  2. Following the “ten percent rule” (see David Dale in The Sydney Morning Herald of 19 May 2008), which states “movie distributors have relied on the formula that a big US movie will make in Australian dollars roughly one tenth of what it makes in US dollars”, “The Great Gatsby” is over-performing here in Australia almost by a factor of two:  Aus$26,918,096 compared to US$143,888,405 is not 10%, but approaching 19% of the North American box office.  So the “local” Luhrmann/produced in Sydney/Australian stars factors all certainly have made a difference.

The Great Gatsby Watch down under, part 4

June 9, 2013

Here is the fourth installment in my monitoring the results of the release of the film “The Great Gatsby” here in Australia.

In the June 1-2, 2013 The Sydney Morning Herald weekend “Spectrum”, book columnist Susan Wyndham reports that release of the film of The Great Gatsby has:

Created ‘a huge sales bonanza’ for the novel, and Scribner (in the USA) is selling more than 100,000 print and e-book copies a week.  Although Gatsby is out of copyright and many publishers have a version, Scribner was Fitzgerald’s publisher in 1925 and has a ‘heritage’ edition with the original cover and a movie tie-in edition appealing to different markets.

She goes on to describe what is happening in Australia, where Nielsen BookScan reports that, “From January to mid-March of this year (2013), average combined sales of 10 editions of The Great Gatsby … were about 750 a week.  Since April 21, average combined sales have risen to about 3200 copies a week.”

What’s next?  Hemingway?  Luhrmann does The Old Man and the Sea?The Great Gatsby book cover blue

The Great Gatsby Watch down under, part 3

June 5, 2013

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

The Great Gatsby Watch down under, part 2

May 23, 2013

Continuing our reports on “The Great Gatsby” in Australia ….

The Australian Gatsby premiere happened last night, on a very cold and wet Sydney evening.  With a guest list of 1200, The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Andrew Hornery reports that “the Sydney premiere and after party eclipsed those in New York and Cannes”.

Film critic Sandra Hall reviewed the film in today’s Herald, giving it 3 stars out of 5, with the headline “All that jazz can’t hide a few flat notes”.  While praising Elizabeth Debicki and Carey Mulligan, she was critical of Baz Luhrmann’s constant edit cuts, as well as Tobey Maguire’s performance; as Nick he has to provide an emotional centre for the film, but – according to Hall – “he’s not nearly strong or interesting enough for the job”.

And here’s a fun Gatsby fact:  Garry Maddox also reports in today’s paper that Baz Luhrmann was “particularly proud of one achievement” – in the week that the movie opened in the USA, “The Great Gatsby sold more copies than in Fitzgerald’s entire lifetime”.

the great gatsby movie

The Great Gatsby box office results, continued

May 21, 2013

In my post yesterday, I predicted (and it was not hard) that the new “The Great Gatsby” film would be a hit, drawing substantially on older women – a group with relatively few theatrical film options.

Here is the latest press release (in its entirety) from Roadshow Films, the Gatsby distributor here in Australia:


Gatsby a roaring success around the world as Baz Luhrmann and Cast arrive in Sydney for Australian Premiere

Coming off the heels of an incredible event in Cannes, THE GREAT GATSBY released in 49 territories outside of the US/Canada, grossing a sensational $42.1m with 4.6m admissions from almost 8,400 screens. This is Baz Luhrmann’s biggest opening ever, 38% higher than AUSTRALIA in the same markets ($30.4m) and 3x higher than the same markets opening MOULIN ROUGE ($13.8m). Note that the 49 territories opening THE GREAT GATSBY this weekend represent approximately 70% of the international box office, with the following major markets yet to launch: Australia (May 30th), Mexico (May 31st), Brazil (June 7th), Japan (June 14th), China (TBD).

Proportionately, I do predict a higher earnings per capita for the film in Australia than in other countries.  Time will tell.

The Great Gatsby down under – part 1

May 20, 2013

If you live in Sydney (as I do), you would be forgiven for thinking that “The Great Gatsby” is an Australian film.  It was shot here in Sydney – at the Fox Studios not far from downtown, as well as a number of other nearby locations.  (It opens in Australia on Thursday 30 May.)  Gatsby is directed by an Australian (Baz Luhrmann), working with a mostly Australian crew – including his talented partner, production designer and costumer, Catherine Martin.  A number of Australian actors appear, some in reasonably significant roles (Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher), although not, I hasten to say, as Australians.  They play Americans, because – in case you missed it – “The Great Gatsby” is a classic American story, originally a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald first published in 1925.  And this is the fifth time that the novel has been filmed.  The screen version most people current remember was the 1974 movie that starred Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby, a mis-fire of a film (ponderous, slow and surprisingly un-memorable).

As the extremely large sign (see photo below, taken today – Monday 20 May 2013) on the wall of 150 William Street, Darlinghurst (East Sydney) shows, even Screen Australia is claiming the film.  The sign prompted me to ask if Screen Australia – Australia’s national government film production and culture funder – has invested in the film (why else promote it in this way?), but alas it does not appear that it did.  This is a Hollywood studio film, William Street notwithstanding (funding from and major distribution by Warner Brothers).

The Great Gatsby poster Sydney 20May2013

Don’t get me wrong.  I am looking forward to watching “The Great Gatsby”.  A great deal.  But remember, I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel as a teenager and loved it then.  I remember a long argument at age 20 where I defended Fitzgerald as a much better writer than William Faulkner (you don’t notice Luhrmann doing a film adaptation of “As I Lay Dying”, do you?), was disappointed in the Redford version and like Luhrmann’s work (click here for my post about his film “Australia”).  I just don’t think the film’s very Australian.

And who will be watching this film?  A short article by Garry Maddox in The Sydney Morning Herald on 16 May 2013 (“Women Take Lead Role in Gatsby’s Great Success”, p. 36; online headline reading “Baz woos the women”) reports that the “The Great Gatsby” is about to overtake “Moulin Rouge” as Luhrmann’s most successful film in the USA (easily outstripping “Australia”).  This is substantially due to “an audience otherwise ignored by Hollywood blockbusters lately – women”.  Audiences have been mostly female (59 percent) and older (69 percent).  There’s only one downside of what is assuredly going to be a hit in North America – people don’t want to see the 3-D version, with Box Office Mojo reporting that “a third of the opening weekend sales came from <that> format – ‘ an incredibly low figure for a live-action movie’”.

Does this surprise you?  Not me.  How many men do you know proclaim they loved “Moulin Rouge!”?  Not many, but sure enough the women did.  And despite his “tough guy” roles (“J. Edgar”, “Gangs of New York”, “Django Unchained”), Leonardo DiCaprio still appears to be a pretty boy, more appealing to women than to men (“Titanic” anyone?).  And seriously, are the >25 women so keen on 3-D?  No.  DiCaprio looks just fine in normal 2-D resolution.

Here’s a safe prediction:  Gatsby will be a great success in Australia, reaching many of the same audience as it has in North America – that “over 25 female” quadrant.  Yes, and some others.  Me, for one.

Interested in watching the red carpet opening here in Sydney at Fox Studios this Wednesday (22 May)?  I reproduce below part of the media alert from the distributors, Roadshow.  That’s a hefty (and all-star) list of celebrity guests, yes?


Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 at Hoyts, The Entertainment Quarter

WHAT: Red carpet arrivals at the Australian premiere of THE GREAT GATSBY

WHO: Filmmakers Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, together with cast members Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Steve Bisley, Vince Colosimo, Ralph Cotterill, Max Cullen, Arthur Dignam, Brendan MacLean, Kate Mulvany, Hamish Michael, Heather Mitchell, Barry Otto, Jack Thompson, Matthew Whittet, Felix Williamson, co-writer Craig Pearce and choreographer John ‘Cha Cha’ O’Connell.

Other celebrity and VIP guests include Premier of NSW, The Hon Barry O’Farrell; Simon Crean MP, George Souris MP, Andrew Stoner MP, Gillian Armstrong, David Berry, Emma Birdsall, Rafael Bonacela, Alice Burdeu, Simon Burke, Ita Buttrose, David Campbell, Sarah Jane Clarke, Collette Dinnigan, Laura Dundovic and James Kerley, Marta Dusseldorp and Ben Winspear, Kym Ellery, Larry Emdur, Dan and Marni Ewing, Manu Fieldel, Emma Freedman, Rebecca Gibney, Kylie Gillies, Delta Goodrem, Josh Goot, Peter Helliar, Deborah Hutton, Akira Isogawa, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Damien Leith, Emma Lung, Joel Madden and Nicole Richie, Ricky Martin, Reece Mastin and Rhiannon Fish, Darren McMullen, Heidi Middleton, George Miller, Peter Morrisey, Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch, Sally Obermeder, Gracie Otto, Neil Perry, Kate Ritchie, Benedict Samuel, Seal, Ryan Stokes, Maurice Terzini, Brian Walsh, Callan Ward, Kate Waterhouse and Luke Ricketson, Fleur Wood, Richard Wilkins, Dan Wyllie, Lincoln Younes and Carla Zampatti.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 22nd
Check-in 4pm Arrivals begin 5.45pm
Screening begins 6.45pm

WHERE: Hoyts, The Entertainment Quarter, Bent Street, Moore Park

From the uniquely imaginative mind of writer/producer/director Baz Luhrmann comes the new big screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby”. The filmmaker created his own distinctive visual interpretation of the classic story, bringing the period to life in a way that has never been seen before, in a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role.

“The Great Gatsby” follows would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, in association with A&E Television, a Bazmark/Red Wagon Entertainment Production, a Film by Baz Luhrmann, “The Great Gatsby.”

Opening in Australian cinemas on May 30, 2013, the film will be distributed in 3D and 2D by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.

Trailer can be viewed on Roadshow Films youtube channel: