Moviegoers Not Interested in Visiting 'Australia'

Nielsen Tracking Numbers for Upcoming Epic Show Little Fan Interest Among Core Demo

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LOS ANGELES ( -- The latest audience research numbers from Nielsen NRG reveal that with just two weeks to go before the film enters wide release, the campaign for Baz Luhrmann's $130 million epic "Australia" is not connecting with the core moviegoing audience -- and not even Oprah could change that.

Overall, the film has a 5% unaided awareness, and only 60% of respondents said they were aware of the movie when its title was mentioned to them. Among those who were aware of the film, only 29% expressed definite interest, and only 6% said it would be their first choice at the box office.

Land without men
The marketing numbers are even grimmer among males: Among those under 25 years old, "Australia" registered only 4% unaided awareness. When supplied with the title of the film, only 48% of under-25 males said they were aware of it, and of those who were aware, only 19% expressed definite interest, while only 2% said it would be their first choice.

That's not so surprising, given the ages of the film's stars, Nicole Kidman (41) and Hugh Jackman (40). But among older males, Mr. Luhrmann's epic fares poorly, too: "Older" males (defined as those over 25) had a 3% unaided awareness. Supplied with the title, awareness jumped to 64%, but only 27% expressed definite interest, while only 6% said it would be their first choice at the box office.

Females under 25 -- a natural target for the romantic historical drama -- are equally unmoved, at least so far: They reported 5% unaided awareness. When prompted with the title, 55% said they were aware, but only a quarter of them expressed definite interest. And of those who were aware, only 4% said it was their first choice.

Oprah excited
On Nov. 10, Ms. Kidman and Mr. Jackman appeared on Oprah Winfrey's talk show, which was dedicated to the film's opening. Said Ms. Winfrey, "I have not been this excited about a movie since I don't know when."

And indeed, her enthusiasm appears to have paid off -- but only among older women who watch her show: Among that demo, the film is tracking reasonably well. With women over 25, "Australia" has 6% unaided awareness, but when supplied with the title, 71% said that they were aware; 40% of those aware said they had definite interest in the seeing the film, and 12% said it was their first choice.

As one rival marketing chief grimaced, "That's good, but older females are the hardest to get to go to the movies, especially when your partner takes one look at the movie and says, 'Not a fucking chance. Take a girlfriend.'"
Ms. Kidman and Mr. Jackman's Nov. 10 appearance on Oprah seems to have paid off among older women who watch the show.
Ms. Kidman and Mr. Jackman's Nov. 10 appearance on Oprah seems to have paid off among older women who watch the show. Credit: Harpo Productions, Inc.

What to do?

"Spend!" laughed the marketing chief, adding, "If you can't get young girls interested in this movie, I don't know how you come out of this. There's just too much [Academy Award] competition then."

A spokesman for Twentieth Century Fox said that neither of the studio's co-presidents of marketing would comment on their plans to reverse the film's sagging numbers among males and young women.

Early reviews mixed
If the studio was banking on reviews to do the heavy lifting, it might be disappointed. The film premiered in Sydney last night, and early Aussie reviews have been mixed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the News Corp.-owned Herald-Sun (a corporate sibling to Twentieth Century Fox) calls it an "incredible film" that "has international blockbuster written all over it," but other critics were less enthusiastic. The Australian found it "ultimately erratic" while The Age said that it was "not a bad film" but "far from a great one and certainly not destined to be a classic."

Adding to "Australia" 's headaches: its lengthy run time. Even if successful, at a hefty 165 minutes, turning over audiences (thereby increasing box office) will be a problem.

The film is as crucial to Twentieth Century Fox as it is to Australia itself. Fox has had a rough year at the box office, with none of its summer films crossing the $100 million mark, and more than a few embarrassing duds, such as the pricey Eddie Murphy flop "Meet Dave."

Kidman needs a hit
"Australia" is also potentially important to native daughter Ms. Kidman: The star has been in a string of back-to-back flops in multiple genres: "The Invasion" (horror), "Margot at the Wedding" (drama) and "The Golden Compass" (fantasy). To wipe out on her home turf would be especially humiliating.

And for 21 million Australians, Mr. Luhrmann's film is hoped to be a panacea. Local press have hailed it as possibly ushering a new era of engagement with local audiences, one that could restore the Australian tradition of "telling our own stories." Some hope it will serve to educate viewers about Australia's role during World War II, while others are hoping it can resuscitate the Australian tourism sector: A $26 million Tourism Australia ad campaign has tied into the film.
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