Australian vs UK Cinema: which audience has it best?

Australian vs UK Cinema: which audience has it best?

Having just returned from a two year stint working in UK Cinema, Access Reel’s writer Sian Dhu takes a look at who has it better, Aussies or Poms?

As a kid I hated being an Australian film goer. I always felt deprived.

It seemed like every second film came out in the UK ages before we got it, and others we never even got on video let alone at the cinema. None of the big stars ever made the long haul to our golden shores to attend premieres…it was depressing.

So needless to say I was rather excited when I landed work in Operations Management for one of the largest cinemas in England’s South West.

First impressions solidified my opinion of UK cinema topping ours, with average ticket prices at the time of my arrival an affordable £5.84 (approx. $8.50) while the Aussie average was a less appealing $12.26.

Though with Aussie salaries generally higher, this ‘perk’ of UK cinema was, in hindsight, not impressive at all.

Determined to maintain my opinion of UK cinema’s superiority, I looked at admissions. Surely the UK Box Office slaughtered Australia’s? Surely the UK cinema industry was more financially lucrative?

In 2010 the UK Box Office took £988 million or a staggering 1.4 billion Aussie dollars. I was sure our little backwards population didn’t stand a chance of beating those figures!

Yet in reality we only just fell shy of them, with a $1.12 billion total revenue.

Infact, Australia has one of the highest cinema attendances per capita in the world. The Cinema Exhibitors Association has us ranked second only to America, with our most recently recorded per capita reading 4.1, while the UK stumbled into fourth place at 2.7 per capita.

Though with the glamour of UK cinema winning me over, I had my blinkers fixed on tight!

Every other weekend saw the occurrence of glamorous world premieres with plush red carpet and A-list stars.

I queued in freezing temperatures, sleeping on the footpath, to join the mosh-pit that was the Harry Potter Deathly Hallows premiere… this was awesome. No way could boring Aussie cinema top this!!

Yet it was soon after this World Premiere experience that my blinkers started slipping…

New films hit UK screens each Friday. Yet in Aus, new films are released on Thursdays – add the time difference and Australia gets universally released films atleast 1.5 days before the UK.

Enduring the torture of seeing facebook flooded with status updates from Aussie friends who had watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows a full two days before it hit UK screens finally ripped the blinkers from my eyes.

After this disappointment, holes in UK cinema became glaringly apparent.

As an Aussie viewer we enjoy some of the most lax censorship in the world. Our film rating system carries no restrictions until MA15+  and even then if an adult guardian accompanies them, a 5-year-old could watch a MA15+ film no worries.

The UK rating system is much tougher, applying restrictions at 12, 15 and 18 years.

Take the countless Saw 2D Movies. The UK applied a 18+ certification: No ‘UK-ians’ under 18 could see it. What did we give it in Aus? MA15+: A kid of any age could have seen it if they convinced someone over 18 to accompany them.

Call it immoral, call it damaging to our youth but ultimately we are lucky:  We can see just about any film we want at almost any age!

Sure there’s more variety on UK screens. It’s geographic location means it gets more prints and, yes, they have a better digital system which enables easy live streaming of concerts and events. But the reality is attendance for these ‘live screenings’ were generally dismal, so we can’t be missing out on much!

With all this in mind, I find myself struggling to name a victor. Which is best? UK or Aussie cinema?

The figures suggest we win: we have a greater attendance when population is considered. Surely this suggests Aussie cinema is more exciting? What else would make more people come (other than the lack of other exciting things to do in Australia…but let’s not think about that!)

The laidback rating system also tips things in our favour (though parents may disagree!)

Infrastructure is better in Aus with our sprawling cities allowing for bigger, more immersive cinema complexes with parking. UK inner city cinemas often result in a squash of tiny screens and a lack of a foyer or parking.

However, out here on the arse-end of the world we do fail on the star-power and glamour front, and we fail to provide two flavours of popcorn  – whats with that?! Where’s the sweet and salted popcorn options as standard?! Come on Aussie cinema; lift your game!

Hmmmm… the jury stands divided… can I call it a draw?

Sian's love for movies spawned from having a tight mother whose generosity stretched only to hiring movies once a week for entertainment. As a pre-teen Sian spent more pocket money then she earned on cinema tickets and thus sought a job at the cinema. Over the next decade she rose to be one of the greats in her backwater, six-screen cinema complex, zooming through the ranks from candy bar wench with upselling superpowers, to pasty projectionist, to a manager rocking a pencil skirt. Sian went on to study Journalism at university though feels her popcorn shovelling days were far more educational