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Is 2015 the year Australians will flock to see local films?

Story by Luke Buckmaster
As appeared in The Guardian Tuesday 7 April 2015

Long-haired hippies back from the dead, blood-splotched nurses with torn uniforms and a huge horde of fellow freaky looking zombies with melting faces and ripped jawlines stumbled into Sydney’s Moonlight Cinema in February, hungry for carnage.

This was neither your average crowd nor your average screening – rather, the rambunctious premiere of Australian-made fright fest Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. It was merely a warm-up for the big event which came one week later, on “Friday the 13th”, when thousands flocked to more than 75 cinemas across Australia to attend public screenings.

The box office haul for that evening alone was $85,000. Comparatively, last year’s West Australian-set action/drama Son of a Gun (starring Ewan McGregor) made less than $150,000 over the course of its entire theatrical run.

Fast forward a few weeks and actor-cum-documentary film-maker Damon Gameau is warming up for his first Q&A for That Sugar Film. The debut director embarked on an epic nationwide tour, addressing packed crowds and completing 64 sessions in just over three weeks. “It was a fascinating way to release the film because we got to have 64 opening nights,” Gameau says. “To get such immediate feedback on something you’ve spent years on was enormously satisfying.”

On Easter Sunday, That Sugar Film’s box office tally crossed the $1m mark. It is currently the third most successful Australian documentary feature film of all time.

That Sugar Film: how 60 days of eating ‘health food’ led to fatty liver disease Read moreWhile Gameau was extolling the dangers of sugar-laden diets, another team of film-makers were screening an anti-coal-seam gas doco called Frackman in dozens of locations across rural New South Wales. The audience were an eclectic bunch: farmers, nanas, environmentalists and everybody in between. One by one the sessions (also matched with Q&As) sold out, or came close to it. Before Frackman had opened in the city it had collected more than $100,000 from the bush.

Weave these stories together and you get an electrifying narrative for Australian cinema, which started 2015 with a kick, a bang and (in Wyrmwood’s case) several thousand litres of fake blood.

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Frackman is touring nationally check session times

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