Hollywood Is Coming To Australia For A Boom To Mirror The Early 2000s

27/10/2015 4:07 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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Robert Pearce

There was a time when it seemed every other Hollywood blockbuster was filming in Australia.

Keanu Reeves was being spotted on his motorbike between The Matrix takes, extras were corralled for Spiderman street scenes and studios were being kept busy with the likes of Star Wars Episode II and Mission Impossible II.

For the local industry, it was a hot injection of talent, money and jobs that lasted from 1999 when the Australian dollar was 64 cents per U.S. dollar through to about 2005, when it was 76 cents.

The last boom

1999 The Matrix -- AUD 0.64

2000 Mission Impossible II -- AUD 0.58

2001 Moulin Rogue! -- AUD 0.52

2001 Planet Of The Apes -- AUD 0.52

2002 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones -- AUD 0.54

2003 The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions -- AUD 0.65

2004 Godzilla: Final Wars -- AUD 0.73

2005 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith -- AUD 0.76

2006 Superman Returns -- AUD 0.75

Screen Australia head of business and audience Richard Harris told The Huffington Post Australia the the exchange rate was the key driver in offshore production, but it wasn't not the only factor.

"The American studios look around the world at a whole range of things -- the ease of doing business, safety, the availability of crew and facilities," Harris told HuffPost Australia.

"One of the things we have going for us over Morocco or Bulgaria is English language. We do drive on the wrong side of the road here, but they can get past that.”

He said the late 90s to the mid 2000s were a convergence of talent and ease for production.

The Australian dollar, however, climbed steadily upwards on its way to hitting parity in 2011 and suddenly, the cost of filming in Australia was no longer economical.

As Deakin University professor Deb Verhoeven told HuffPost Australia booms and busts were just part of the landscape.

"It's part of the industry in Australia that one minute, you'll be working on a low-budget student film and 20 minutes later, you'll be on the set of a $100 million blockbuster," Verhoeven said.

"We have an industry of fits and starts, where one minute, it's raining and the next minute the work has dried up and you need to be able to cope with those circumstances."

sydney matrix

Fast forward to today and conditions are swinging in the film industry's favour. The Australian dollar has dipped to a 2015 average of 0.76 to the U.S. dollar and the big boys are back in town.

Pirates of the Carribean 5 wrapped filming last year on the Gold Coast, Mel Gibson is filming scenes for his U.S war drama Hacksaw Ridge in western Sydney, and locked in for next year are blockbuster sequels Thor: Ragnarok and Prometheus 2.

Australian politicians are stimulating the industry as well, with $47.25 million invested into both Thor and Prometheus, with an expected return of $300 million in offshore investment and the creation of 3000 jobs.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also this month confirmed a recent visits to Los Angeles and New York included wooing the likes of Walt Disney, Marvel, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers.

The Australian film industry, meanwhile, has had a record-breaking year, surpassing the all-time box office record of $63.4 million set in 2001 with 2015 currently at $64 million.

10 top Australian films at the domestic box office for 2015 (as of October 7)

Mad Max Fury Road: $21.65 million

The Water Diviner: $10.18 million

Oddball: $10.12 million

Paper Planes: $9.65 million

Last Cab to Darwin: $7.15 million

Blinky Bill The Movie: $2.32 million

That Sugar Film: $1.71 million

Holding the Man: $1.14 million

Ruben Guthrie: $0.42 million

Manny Lewis: $0.41 million

Verhoeven said local films were key in finding a balance between the booms and busts.

"At the moment I think the industry as a whole ecology is working on trying to balance that out so when there are offshore productions in town, it's still important to have a focus on local projects as well," Verhoeven said.

"It's about keeping the whole industry strong."

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