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Hollywood banks on Aussie film industry

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It's not totally about MW or Warner Bros but it's close enough. Hollywood banks on Aussie film industry Friday Apr 21 14:46 AEST The Australian film industry, riding on the back of Superman, Julia Roberts and Oprah Winfrey, will help inject about a billion box office dollars into Hollywood's coffers in coming months. Among the blockbuster films Hollywood studios will release in 2006, four, including Superman Returns and Charlotte's Web, were made in Australia. The quality productions confirm Australia as a favourite shoot destination for Hollywood studios and their $US100 million-plus ($A136 million) productions. Australia also has a track record of making highly-profitable Hollywood films - ensuring studios return to make films downunder. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, shot at Sydney's Fox Studios, was the second highest-grossing film in 2005, collecting $US850 million ($A1.15 billion) worldwide, just behind the UK-made Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire's $US892 million ($A1.21 billion). Superman Returns, also made in Australia and set for worldwide release on June 29, is a frontrunner to be king of the global box office in 2006. "Without question, Superman Returns certainly has the potential to be one of the biggest grossing films of 2006," Paul Dergarabedian, the president of Hollywood-based box office tracker, Exhibitor Relations, told AAP. The studio behind Superman Returns, Warner Bros, and the Australian film industry have plenty riding on the superhero film being a success. Superman Returns reportedly cost $US250 million ($A339.7 million), making it one of the most expensive films ever made, but if it cashes in at the box office it will resurrect the Superman franchise and lead to profitable sequels just like Spider-Man. The two Spider-Man films, starring Tobey Maguire, so far have earned $US1.6 billion ($A2.17 billion) for rival studio, Sony Pictures, at the box office alone. Warner Bros successfully relaunched its Batman franchise last year with Batman Begins, which made $US370 million ($A502.75 million) at the global box office. Ausfilm's LA-based film commissioner, Tracey Montgomery, said early buzz indicated Superman Returns would be a box office winner. "I had lunch today at Warner Bros, and they are very excited about it," Montgomery said. Charlotte's Web, starring Dakota Fanning and with Roberts, Winfrey, Robert Redford and John Cleese providing the voices for some of the classic novel's animal characters, is also shaping up as a box office winner. The film was made in Melbourne and rural Victoria last year. "Family films generally do well and Charlotte's Web is a huge title," Dergarabedian said. Another Hollywood-funded family film made in Australia is the George Miller-directed animated movie Happy Feet. With the voices supplied by Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Robin Williams, the film about a group of singing penguins will also likely be one of the hits of 2006. The other major Australian-made Hollywood project is the action film Ghost Rider, starring Nicolas Cage and based on the popular comic book of the same name. This film, too, was made in Victoria. Hollywood continues to eye Australia as a film-making destination. Montgomery's office in LA is currently in talks with Hollywood studios about 27 potential feature films being made in Australia. There are also 30 potential independent films, 15 TV dramas and 15 European-backed projects also looking at Australia. Hollywood producer Rob Marsala, who made the small budget comedy-drama 48 Shades in Brisbane last year, said the Queensland capital was the perfect place to shoot the project. The film is based on the award-winning novel by Brisbane author Nick Earls. Marsala said the production was overwhelmed with support from the Queensland government and locals. 48 Shades will be released in Australian cinemas in August, then internationally. "There were so many advantages to shooting in Brisbane," Marsala said. "Firstly, the Pacific Film and Television Commission were behind us from the outset and the local Brisbane community was so supportive. "We had everyone from Tourism Queensland, Suncorp Stadium, Queensland University of Technology and Brisbane Boys College help us out so we were able to get amazing production values on our budget." ©AAP 2006

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