Annual Screen Australia drama report shows record-breaking $1.9 billion expenditure

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• This year’s result was nearly double last year’s spend

The 31st annual Screen Australia Drama Report shows a record-breaking level of expenditure on drama production in Australia in 2020/21 of $1.9 billion, made up of $874 million on Australian projects and $1.04 billion on foreign projects produced or post-produced in Australia. 

The result – nearly double last year’s spend, and more than 50% above the five year average – was driven by a range of factors, including: projects postponed into the year by Covid shutdowns; low levels of Covid-19, the attractiveness of Australia as a production destination, the strength of local production teams and infrastructure; foreign titles encouraged into Australia by key Australian creatives; and a strong slate of new Australian projects.

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said people working in the screen sector should be proud that despite the challenges of the pandemic, the sector enjoyed a record year in 2020/21.

“It is pleasing that the production of local Australian content has had its biggest year, in addition to Australia’s notable success attracting foreign productions, which have provided valuable jobs and training opportunities to the industry,” Minister Fletcher said.

“This achievement reflects the hard work and skills of our screen professionals and the talent of our storytellers, along with the success of the targeted incentives with which the Morrison Government supports this key industry.”

Screen Australia’s CEO, Graeme Mason said, “It’s important to look at both of the production years that were hit by the pandemic. We were on track to break records in 2019/20, and what we are seeing now is the hard work of the Australian industry, who adapted and continued to work through COVID, paying off.

“It’s simply unprecedented to have 10 big foreign productions shooting here in Australia, and especially notable that so many had key Australian creative involvement. From Chris Hemsworth starring in Thor: Love and Thunder and Escape from Spiderhead, to Bruna Papandrea, Nicole Kidman and others bringing the adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers to Australia. A mix of local and global talent and finance drove this extraordinary result. Australia cemented its reputation as a leading destination for international productions in 2020/21, thanks not only to our world-class cast, crew, facilities and stunning physical locations and Australia’s lower rates of COVID-19 but also due to the incentive and investment framework supported by the Federal, state and territory governments.”

“For the first time in this report we can see the specific role of SVOD investment, where spend on Australian titles reached $116 million in 2020/21. Over the past five years we have seen average production budgets for Australian SVOD drama expand from $800,000 in 2016/17 to $13.5 million in 2020/21. Spend and cost are just one of several measures of drama production, but it is worth noting that spend on Australian SVOD drama has grown and that the combined spend on drama by FTA and SVOD platforms is at similar levels as that traditionally spent by the FTA sector alone.”

The 95 Australian titles that began production in 2020/21 generated $874 million of spend in Australia, up 57% on 2019/20’s result and setting a new record for spend by Australian titles. This included a record $125 million on local online drama titles, up 20% on last year. Australian local titles accounted for 46% of the total expenditure in Australia.

63 foreign backed projects (including PDV-only titles) generated $1.04 billion spend, more than double that of 2019/20 and a new record for spend in Australia by foreign titles. This included a record spend of $793 million on three features, two TV dramas and five online dramas that commenced shooting in Australia. Spend on foreign PDV-only titles (titles that only had post, digital and visual effects activity in Australia) also reached a record $246 million, up 48% on 2019/20’s result.

Total Australian Expenditure:

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Of the $1.9 billion total spend in Australia, New South Wales and Queensland achieved record spends in 2020/21, with 48% ($912 million) and 29% ($553 million) of the national share respectively. Spend in Victoria dropped slightly to $307 million, while South Australian spend reached $96 million – a reduction on last year’s record year, which was driven by production of Mortal Kombat. Spend in Western Australia dropped to $29 million, while the combined spend in the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania and the Northern Territory tripled to $18 million.

The Drama Report uses data from industry to provide an overview of the production of local and foreign feature, television and online drama titles, as well as post, digital and visual effects (PDV) activity. All production expenditure is allocated to the year in which principal photography began.

The full report can be seen here.

Top Image: Claudia Karvan, The Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Deborah Mailman AM, Dr George Miller AO at Screen Australia’s Drama Report briefing (Photo credit: John McRae)

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