Mental director PJ Hogan: box office success for Australian films is about word of mouth – not marketing

Films can rely on marketing for a strong opening weekend, but success or failure at the box office is ultimately about word of mouth, says one of Australia’s leading directors.

PJ Hogan, whose film Mental, starring Toni Collette, opens today at the box office told Mumbrella’s Colin Delaney: “Australians, when they chose to go to watch an Australian movie, it’s completely about word of mouth – marketing will only get you an opening weekend.”

“If you’ve got the goods and the distributor allows enough time for the film to build, they’ll show up,” he said.

Hogan said of Australian cinema audiences: “I can’t pretend to be knowledgeable about why Australians don’t go to see Australian films. I tell you what I have noticed – they either turn up in droves or they don’t turn out at all.”

“When I left the country it was at a time when Australian films, really had Australian audiences, that was the time of Strictly Ballroom, The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Muriel’s Wedding, and then we lost them, and I don’t know why.”

With Mental, the director turns his lens on Australia for the first time in 18 years since his debut feature film, Muriel’s Wedding.

Mental, also written by Hogan, is based on his real-life crazy nanny Shaz played by Collette and his mental family. It stars Anthony LaPaglia, Liev Shreiber and Rebecca Gibney.

The film is distributed by Universal Pictures.


  1. Sandy George
    4 Oct 12
    3:43 pm

  2. Why this unceasing eagerness to continue the myth around a so-called disconnect between Australian films and Australian audiences? It is SO tiresome.

    Since Jan 1, 2011, we’ve had Red Dog doing $21m and Happy Feet 2 doing $11m and The Sapphires doing $13m (and rising). Only 55 films from anywhere have done more than $10m over that period and that’s 55 out of about 750 films (my estimate from looking at the MPDAA charts) .

    The theatrical market in Australia is worth a $1bn per annum. The way Australian films are standing up against the massive competition should be applauded. It ain’t easy to make a great film and some of those coming down the pipeline look fan-bloody-tastic.

    The very best of luck to PJ Hogan and Universal with the release of Mental today.

    But, go on (sigh) bring on the debate. Yet again.
    Sandy George

  3. Celia Butters
    4 Oct 12
    6:25 pm

  4. Well if PJ thinks word of mouth is going to help this movie, wrong. It is absolute rubbish that only Toni Collette gave some credibility. I can see the outrageous nature of the script trying to match the serious coming of age/acceptance themes, but really, Mental is a loud, unfunny, crude mess that Anthony Lapaglia may have had fun making, but delete it from his resume. This brings Aussie films down, again.

  5. Martin Long
    5 Oct 12
    7:06 am

  6. The last time I checked, word of mouth WAS marketing! And I wish success to Australian films that are good enough to develop great WoM campaigns…

  7. Nicky
    5 Oct 12
    9:41 am

  8. Australian audiences now have greater choice and easier access to better content. That’s it. There’s no ‘secret’ formula. Think about the landscape in 1994 and compare it to today. Audiences were less connected and forced to wait a considerable amount of time for releases both on TV and in theatres.

    Ditto to everything Sandy said above.

  9. norelle feehan
    5 Oct 12
    10:33 am

  10. I saw it last night – here is my word of ‘mouth’ via typing – there are a number of scenes that make it totally glorious (ie the opening) and worth the ticket price well and truly. Possibly could be edited here and there but I think that about most films. The daughters are all fantastic. Liev was great … yes I recommend.

  11. Ken B
    5 Oct 12
    12:07 pm

  12. Agree saw it a little while ago, I thought it was pretty good, not a masterpiece but worth a look…Toni Collette is great and the girls were awesome…

  13. Tim C
    8 Oct 12
    7:04 pm

  14. Mental is a brave, wild ride. Toni Collette is great and Liev Shriever’s Aussie accent is phenomenal.
    I don’t get why Australians feel the need to be so uber critical of local product.
    Why is that?

  15. Megan George
    29 Oct 12
    6:37 pm

  16. Mental is a great movie – brave, truthful and fun. Cheers to PJ Hogan and all the team who brought this classic to life!