Mad Max is potentially one of Australia’s most successful films. At the very least, it was one of the earliest Australian films released to really develop a reputation within itself and for the Australian film industry. “Alan Finney orchestrated successful campaigns for films including Muriels Wedding, Romper Stomper and The Castle“, however, perhaps his most successful marketing campaign was that of the original Mad Max film release in 1979.
With regards to the release of Mad Max, Lumiere Cinemas’ Paul Coulter said at the time that “It was one of the earliest campaigns, I remember, that really grabbed peoples attention”.
Finney went against convention when marketing Mad Max. “You can never go hard with an Australian film until you can show them because they rarely have a well known cast” Finney said. Mad Max was no exception to this. The film was some of the earliest work of George Miller and Mel Gibson alike meaning that the credibility of the production team/cast was not a key factor in marketing the film.
And so, with knowledge of the script and an impeccable feel for the market, Finney decided, “it would be best to flout tradition to give the film a profile”.
Firstly, as referred to on the “How Did He Do It” page of this blog, Finney withheld the trailer for Mad Max but only to an extent. He still allowed snippets of the film to surface. “Finney ditched plans for a trailer in favour of smash-and-crash snippet advertising”. Adverts such as the one shown (right) were strategically shown in an attempt to grasp at the attention of the public.
In a further convention defying move, Finney organised for the Mad Max film, upon its release, to only be shown in suburban drive-ins and limited its exposure within the city to only one location – the upmarket East End Cinema. At the time of the release of the Mad Max film, Village owned the Cinema Complex consisting of multiple theatres. Furthermore, what is possibly an even more attractive characteristic, the technology at the cinema enabled films to be shown in 70mm film which further enhanced viewing experience. It was these aspects of the marketing campaign that, when combined, contributed to a large number of people intrigued by the films promotion and inevitably going to see it.
Distribution is the name of his game and “his job is to maximise the returns from the box office and he was totally focused on this role“. In the box office in Australia, Mad Max grossed $5,355,490 (AFI Box office statistics). Being a 1970’s film where tickets were only $3.70, it can be said that these figures would translate to approximately a $20,000,000 today as the film had 1,447,430 admissions (AFI Box Office Statistics). To further put this into perspective, other Australian films released in the same year such as The Odd Angry Show, Tim, and Thirst all failed to exceed box office figures over $1m showing the success of Mad Max to be even more extraordinary. “Finney definitely contributed to the success of Mad Max however, how much he contributed is hard to say: film distributors never appear in the credits“. Over 10,000 people attended the Mad Max premier at the East End Cinema – A record breaking number (East End Cinema). This information, in conjunction with other films Finney marketed such as Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert shows a strong correlation between Finney’s influence and the success of a film; especially in relation to other Australian films.