Thursday, 31 December 2009

2009: What A Year....

This year has been a fascinating one from an exhibition perspective. I feel lucky that I have been able to chronicle some of the adventures that our industry is undergoing on this blog.

In the biggest technological shakeup exhibition has undergone since the move to sound in the late 1920s, cinemas across the UK (and the world) are switching to digital fast. After what seemed to be an industry dragging its feet over whether to be or not to be (digital), the steam train of 3D has forced their hand and at least in the UK, an avalanche of switch overs has occured in anticipation of AVATAR. The gamble seems to have paid off.

The real political and economic effects on the UK's official bodies is yet to be felt, as the UKFC and the BFI merge, and we get a new Tory government that will most certainly cut spending.

Personally, my trip to the cinema manager's training in Venice was invaluable in terms of networking and learning about the realities of the cinema business in Europe. Attending a world-class festival was pretty exciting too. The papers I have written for my MA paper which focused on marketing, government support for exhibition and an in-depth study of City Screen allowed me to speak to some intelligent, polemical, powerful and downright controversial figures in the UK film industry. It's been a steep learning curve.

I must mention Jim at Bigger Picture Research for providing the numbers and the necessary analysis that is so often absent from any discussion about film.

Things to look out for next year: the make or break of 3D, the survival of independents in the wake of the switchover, and the ability of the exhibtion sector to fully exploit the new formats and channels.

I'll be attending the Berlinale this year with some of my new European contacts and returning to Venice again this time as a coordinator for the manager's course. Some of my other projects will include my dissertation (which will be about cinema networks) helping Cine Esteli get back on its feet, and a possible trip to Chile for a conference on Latin American cinema (and a quick visit to my brother). So an exciting year all round.

Despite the bells of doom ringing across the world, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, millions of people still go to the movies, and thousands of films are made, distributed and exhibited with great passion and enthusiasm by an army of people that are clearly not in it for the money.

My top 10 films of the year:

- UP

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Monday, 28 December 2009

US Box Office

Numbers for the Uk are not forthcoming due to the bank holiday, so here are the American figures. AVATAR continues to dominate, with SHERLOCK HOLMES coming in a close second. This is officially the biggest weekend in box office history. AVATAR now has a worldwide take of $617 million.

1. Avatar - $75M
2. Sherlock Holmes - $65.3M
3. Alvin & Chipmunks: The Squeakquel - $50M
4. It's Complicated - $22.1M
5. Up In The Air - $24.5M
6. Blind Side - $11.73M
7. Princess And The Frog - $8.6M
8. Nine - $5.5M
9. Did You Hear About The Morgans? - $5M
10. Invictus - $4.3M

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Splendor Cinema Podcast 1

So, we've started a podcast. Robert Beams and me sat down on Sunday and had a chat about our favourite films of the year and here's the result. More to follow....

Splendor Cinema Podcast 1

Christmas Appeal - Cine Esteli

Some of you might have heard me banging on about CINE ESTELI, a single screen 1950s cinema in Esteli, Nicaragua. I spent nine years (1985-1994) in Nicaragua and watched quite a few films at this cinema (including some seminal viewing experiences like BLUE VELVET). It's still operating but is in risk of being closed given poor infrastructure and low admissions. I am trying to get the place refurbished and help Eric, the guy who runs it, to be able to programme something other than Hollywood leftovers.

Actress GRETA SCACCHI has agreed to be a patron of the cinema and will be attending our fund raising screening of CINEMA PARADISO on the 29th December at 6.15pm

We've got a Facebook page for it here.

Please do come along and join us for a great cause and a fantastic film.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Uk Box Office 18-20 Dec

As expected, one of the biggest films of the year (or the decade, if you believe the hype) opened this weekend and it seems the entire industry, from critics to audiences, got behind it. Although there is consensus that the plot and dialogue are clunky, that didn't stop TITANIC from becoming the highest grosser in film history. The numbers are impressive in every category, and there is obviously no precedent as no other 3D film has ever opened this wide. Adding up its $73 million from America plus its worldwide takings, the film is very close to recouping its budget within the first week or release. This should (but probably won't) silence the 3D nay-sayers. It might be a gimmick, but it's the commercial salvation of the business.

1- AVATAR (£8,362,708) - Includes previews, IMAX, 3D and 2D.
2- ST TRINIAN'S 2 (£1,582,125)
3- A CHRISTMAS CAROL (£1,001,530)
4- NATIVITY (£577,238)
5- PLANET 51 (£451,280)
10- 2012 (£171,827)

Sunday, 20 December 2009

District 9 Competition - Now Closed

One of the best films this year was Neill Blomkamp's directorial debut DISTRICT 9, which gracefully and intelligently wove politics into an entertaining sc-fi story, blending documentary and action filmmaking techniques.

I've got some Blu-Rays and DVDs to give away, so please email me the answer to the following question at

- What film based on a video game was Neill Blomkamp slated to direct for Peter Jackson?

Competition closes on 28th December.

Monday, 14 December 2009

UK Box Office 11-13 Dec

After six weeks in release, Disney's A CHRISTMAS CAROL made its way to the top spot, demonstrating why they released it so early in the first place. This is the last week they have to use all those 3D screns before AVATAR comes along on Friday.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE debuted at second place, with a less than spectacular number, which possibly shows two things: 1-the book is more popular in America, and 2-This appeals more to Spike Jonze/arthouse fans than children (we were very busy at The Dukes). Unbelievably, A SERIOUS MAN hangs in the Top 10 4 weeks after release with just over 100 prints.

1- A CHRISTMAS CAROL (£1,538,620)
3- PLANET 51 (£771,433)
5- TWILIGHT: NEW MOON (£757,822)
6- NATIVITY (£673,585)
8- 2012 (£474,513)
9- THE BOX (£251,496)
10- A SERIOUS MAN (£133,209)

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Quick Update

Things are a bit mental for me right now, both personally and professionally, hence the radio silence lately. Apologies, faithful readers!
To follow next week: a round-up of the year's best films, a competition to win DISTRICT 9 DVDs and Blu-Rays, and a podcast with guests from our own staff.

So until then, all the best...

Monday, 7 December 2009

UK Box Office 4-6 Dec

This week PARANORMAL finally booted Bella and Edward off the top slot, as the marketing campaign of people experiencing 'strange' events after seeing the film takes a life of its own on, including an amusing (and completely false) anecdote about Spielberg getting locked in his office after seeing it. New releases this week include the sub-par animated PLANET 51, Richard Kelly's THE BOX, and ME AND ORSON WELLES which came in just outside the top 10. A SERIOUS MAN, with just 80 prints (expanded from an initial 50) has surpassed £1 million, not bad for such a limited release. Next week, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE will smash its way to the top spot.

2- TWILIGHT: NEW MOON (£1,624,049)
3- A CHRISTMAS CAROL (£1,526,476)
4- PLANET 51 (£1,097,530)
6- 2012 (£878,297)
7- NATIVITY (£687,348)
8- THE BOX (£474,935)
9- THE DESCENT PART 2 (£241,246)
10- A SERIOUS MAN (£233,357)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Best Film of the Year?

This month Sight and Sound publishes its annual round up of the best films of the year, where over 100 critics and academics rate their Top 5 films of 2009. The system is very flawed, as it includes films that only critics at festivals could see, or films that haven't been released theatrically this year (but will in 2010).

Also, many critics intentionally mention films that they know have no chance of distribution in a last ditch attempt to gain some notoriety for titles that would otherwise dissappear.

That said, the highest rated feature of 2009 according to the most respected and acclaimed people that write about films is A PROPHET. Released in January next year, you lucky people can see it at The Dukes on Sunday as it's the closing film of the CINECITY Film Festival. Directed by Jacques Audiard (who crafted the superb THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED) this is an enjoyable, powerful, masterful movie that remains proof that artistry need not be divorced from crowd-pleasing.

As of this post, there are plenty of tickets left for A PROPHET, so come on down and see for yourself if this, in fact, the best film of 2009 (or 2010?).

Monday, 30 November 2009

UK Box Office 27-29 Nov

Twilight fans must be watching NEW MOON again and again, as it has dominated the Top 10 once again, taking over £4 million over the weekend, taking its cumulative take to a spectacular £20 mil and change. One of the biggest hits of the year. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY debuted with a not unimpressive £2.5 million.
Crass action thriller LAW ABIDING CITIZEN didn't make the splash it made in the US when it opened, and Bollywood film DE DANA DHAN took an amazing £6,210 per screen, managing to slip into the Top 10 with only 48 prints.

1- TWILIGHT: NEW MOON (£4,300,533)
3- 2012 (£1,834,810)
4- A CHRISTMAS CAROL (£1,803,821)
5- LAW ABIDING CITIZEN (£1,482,949)
6- NATIVITY (£785,911)
7- HARRY BROWN (£334,410)
8- DE DANA DHAN (£298,098)
9- A SERIOUS MAN (£242,958)
10- FANTASTIC MR FOX (£221,129)

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Last night we had what was for many the biggest highlight of our Cinecity Film Festival: a screening of THE ROAD with a Q&A with director John Hillcoat and Nick Cave. John and Nick are patrons of our Festival and of course, famous Brighton residents (Hove in the case of Nick).

The evening was sold out far in advance - and the bleak, grim (but beautifully realised) film was well received by the crowd. The Q&A, hosted by our former programmer and now Curzon Head of Programming Jason Wood, was funny and informative. At one point, John asked Nick about his role in FANTASTIC MR FOX, confusing him with Jarvis Cocker. Nick replied with a smile: "I wasn't in Fantastic Mr fucking Fox!". It was interesting to learn that Ridley Scott asked Nick to write the script of Cormac Macarthy's Blood Meridian. And he passed! "I didn't want to be the guy who fucked up Blood Meridian".

And so the Festival continues with loads of great films until the 6th December. Working for a cinema that hosts a Festival means you can't see many films, but so far I was able to see THE ROAD at a press screening on Tuesday, and CODE NAME: MELVILLE, a documentary about one of my favorite filmmakers, Jean-Pierre Melville. So far, nothing has blown my mind - but on Friday I'll be seeing Mark Lewis' moving image work at the University of Brighton Grand Parade...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Film Quiz with Andrew Collins

Andrew Collins is a writer, broadcaster, editor, blogger and one half of Collings & Herrin, the hilarious podcast double act which he records with Richard Herring and who will be playing the Dukes on the 8th December. Andrew took time from his work on I LOVE 1984 to reply to my questions:

What is your favorite cinema in the country?

Living in London, I am inordinately fond of the Curzon Soho, as it's my arthouse hub, and behaves as any cinema should: it's friendly, approachable, assumes intelligence and adulthood, serves fresh coffee and alcohol, and keeps its actual screens in the basement, allowing the ground floor and mezzanine to exist exclusively for refreshments and sitting around in sofas. They chalk the names of the films up above the doors to the screens. The toilets have regularly-replaced film posters up in them. It costs a little more than the average multiplex, but they show films that aren't on at the multiplex, so it's a surcharge worth forking out. I am not a cinema snob - I do the bulk of my cinemagoing at multiplexes - but I cannot adjust to the idea that certain among the younger generation go to the cinema to chat and text, rather than, hey, watch the film. When I was a kid, having enough money to go to the cinema was a big event - there's no way I would have wasted it by talking during the film. We've lost that church-like respect for the film. At least at the Curzon, the type of films generally attract grown-ups who like films. And you can take a beer in!

What is your first memory of moviegoing?
My grandfather took me to the Odeon in Northampton on the Market Square - a cinema that was turned into a bingo hall while I was growing up; quite a shock - to see The Jungle Book, sometime in 1970? I was about five. I know I loved the film, although the darkness freaked me out a bit. I was bought the 1967 Disney soundtrack album, which you followed in a storybook contained within the gatefold sleeve - this was my first ever record - and I learned every word off by heart, including the lyrics. I still love the film, although the regular trip to the cinema - the ABC on Abington Street, after the Odeon closed - to see the latest Disney cartoon punctuated my childhood. Another early memory is when my Dad rented a cine film featuring clips from The Aristocats and showed it on a projector we'd borrowed, at a birthday party. I couldn't believe we had a Disney film in our front room!

What is your strangest/weirdest/scariest experience at the movies?

Strangest was the only time I have ever willingly left the auditorium during a film - it was in 1984, and while watching Stephen King's Christine with my friend Kevin, I had to rush to the toilets to vomit. All I remembering thinking was, "I'm missing the film!" I returned to my seat and picked up where I'd left off, but Kevin was kind enough to come back to the cinema at a later date so I could see it in full. What devotion to King! I clearly remember seeing Blade Runner, the second time around (which is what cinemas used to do in those days before video really set in), and there was a man in there who laughed, loudly, all the way through it. He was clearly a bit touched, but it spoiled the film somewhat. Nobody complained, it being England. I remember vividly my first ever cinema experience in New York, seeing LA Stories, ironically, on my own, one rainy afternoon - it really cheered me up. I also remember seeing Oliver Stone's U-Turn in New York and being dismayed by how much noise the audience made. Incidentally, my first ever date, 1978, aged 13, was to Star Wars at the ABC in Northampton. Jackie was her name. I was too engrossed in the film to even attempt to put my arm around her.

What film or film-related project are you proudest to have been involved in?

The Radio 4 series Back Row, which I was the launch presenter of in 2000, a job I kept for almost three years, before handing over to Joe Cornish of Adam and Joe, the Jim White, if I remember correctly. The show was later rebranded as The Film Programme and it's presented by Francine Stock. During the years I hosted it, every week without a break, I interviewed so many fantastic film people, from David Lynch and Robert Altman to Woody Allen, Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks, Ernest Borgnine, Joel Coen, Peter Fonda, William Goldman ... however, it was the legends of British cinema who remain among my most cherished interviews: Ronald Neame, Lewis Gilbert, Sir John Mills, even Robert Donat's son Brian who gave such great insights into his famous father. The programme was a golden opportunity to speak to those who actually make, or made, movies.

What is one thing the film industry in the UK could do to be more successful?

Work the scripts harder. I'm not going to name any names, but I see so many British films whose screenplays appear to have gone through hardly any drafts. When I worked on EastEnders we used to have to write up to seven drafts of an episode. In Hollywood, as we know, scripts are rejected and rewritten and passed to other writers and fine-tuned and table-read and polished and gagged up and script-doctored to within an inch of their life. I know this costs money, but sometimes, the final product would be worth it. I think it was Alan Parker who first pointed this out as a weakness of some British films. As a TV scriptwriter I am doing myself out of a job by observing this, but there's a huge difference between writing for TV, especially a series, and writing a single movie script. Writers can't be expected to make that leap without a lot of help and a lot of editing. While I love the fact that there's a fine tradition of "authored" pieces in this country, in TV and in film, the industrial approach of Hollywood can bear fruit.

Monday, 23 November 2009

UK Box Office 20-22 Nov

There was no contest as TWILIGHT: NEW MOON swept away records and every other film on the Top 10 - with a whopping £11,653,328 from midnight on Thursday till Sunday evening. This was a spectacular number, no matter what the hype was. It broke records in 25 different territories, and became the second biggest weekend opening in the UK after QUANTUM OF SOLACE last year. Ouch. It's the third biggest opening weekend in US history and by far the biggest November weekend ever. On the other side of the film spectrum, the new Coen Bros movie A SERIOUS MAN debuted with a strong £5,940 screen average (it's only on 51 prints!).

1- TWILIGHT: NEW MOON (£11,653,328)
2- 2012 (£3,493,807)
3- A CHRISTMAS CAROL (£2,207,511)
4- HARRY BROWN (£723,174)
5- UP (£641,953)
6- FANTASTIC MR FOX (£453,877)
8- A SERIOUS MAN (£302,985)
9- THE FOURTH KIND (£181,105)
10- THE INFORMANT! (£177,753)

Thursday, 19 November 2009


When TERMINATOR: SALVATION opened in May this year, the consensus was that it was a terrible movie. That didn't stop it from making a ton of money, but still, I didn't expect much from the man who brought us CHARLIE'S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE.

So I popped the DVD in (out on Monday) last night with zero expectations, and was surprised to find it wasn't the worse film ever made. Full of plot holes and slightly irrational characters, it was nonetheless enjoyable - I wasn't bored at any point. It certainly had a lot more going for it than the other big robot movie this year, TRANSFORMERS 2. Of course nothing can replicate the Cameron double punch of T1 & T2, but that's a pretty high standard.

So, I've got a really cool box set with a real life size T-600 head and a Blu-Ray of the film to give away if anyone wants to give the movie a second chance. Email with JOHN CONNOR in the title with the answer to the following question:

- Which actor played Kyle Reese in THE TERMINATOR (1984)?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

UKFC announces cuts

The UK Film Council (UKFC) is cutting its budgets left and right. The one that has the most impact, from our own perspective, is the massive cut in the Prints & Advertising fund, which existed to support specialised cinemas' chances in distribution. This is indeed bad news for smaller films with a shot at a wider audience.

Of course we're in a new era of recession and fiscal discipline, yet it always baffles me that there seems to be money for some things (banks) and not for others (cinema), and even the little money available for this particular area goes to London-centric projects (the new BFI centre) and of course, as always, no support for exhibition.

When all the independent and arthouse cinemas in the UK have closed down and there is nowhere for the new Mike Leigh, Ken Loach or Andrea Arnold film to go - what future will the industry have beyond the US-backed Harry Potters and James Bonds?

Milan Visit

Sorry for the delay but I arrived and plunged straight into catching up at the cinema. My visit to Milan was brief and not very film-focused, but I did manage to see a few cinemas. And of course talked cinema business with Esther (Switzerland) Maureen (The Netherlands) Julie (France) Manuele (Italy) and our host Francesco (Milan).

So, here are some pictures - enjoy!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Francesco e i suoi fratelli

One of my favorites films of all time is Visconti's ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS and tomorrow for the first time I shall visit the city in which the movie takes place: Milan. I'm there for the weekend meeting with people I befriended in Venice.

My roomate from Venice, Francesco, is a Milanese who works at the splendidly named BARZ AND HIPPO - and we'll be joined by other cinema people from France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Hopefully I'll get a chance to peruse Milanese cinemas - pics and blogs to follow.

Fly Me To The MOON (on Blu-Ray) - NOW CLOSED!

One of the best films of the year, and a beautiful surprise, was Duncan Jones' debut MOON. I've discussed here how the release of the film didn't really match the extraordinary demand for it. If one film demanded a digital release (for quality of screening and flexibility in booking) MOON was it.

Thankfully we now have the DVD and BLU RAY release of the film, and there are no shortage of goodies on the film, including extensive insight into the production, special effects, and includes Duncan Jones' short film WHISTLE, which hints at what was to come.

I've got some exclusive clips of Duncan Jones answering some of my questions which you can find here and here.

SPLENDOR CINEMA has got some Blu-Rays and Moon T-shirts to give away - all we need is for you to answer a question:

- Duncan Jones is the son of a famous rock star. Which one?

Email with the answer and MOON in the subject line.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Cine Esteli

Some of you may know that I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years in Nicaragua, and half of that time in the northern mountain town of Esteli. A rural community, there was only one cinema in the main town square, Cine Esteli. I saw everything from RAN to BLUE VELVET here, and it remains an oasis of film in an otherwise difficult and culturally poor area.

The cinema is now in a state of disrepair (bats are nesting in the auditorium!) and I am trying to help the current manager, Eric Membreno, to fix it up and extend its life, programme and audience.

I've started a Facebook page here: Cine Esteli Facebook, and we're hosting a fundraising night at the Dukes with a screening of CINEMA PARADISO on the 29th December. Please do join the group and come along to the screening. We'll be thinking of other ways of helping as time goes by.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Uk Box Office 6-8 Nov

Robert Zemeckis' motion-capture version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL debuted at number one, with, once again, the majority of its take (£1.3 million) coming from 3D. Its overall weekend number is quite low for such a high-profile project, but I always though they released it too soon. The reason for the premature release reflects the lack of 3D screens available in the country (everyone, including City Screen, is gearing up for AVATAR).Disney had to get in early to capture that income now.

Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT remains a top earner, dispelling any notions that this was not going to be a worldwide phenomenon. How much of it is morbid fascination and how much is genuine admiration for Jackson's talents, who knows. THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS had a healthy opening and JENNIFER'S BODY qualifies as an unmitigated disaster.

1- A CHRISTMAS CAROL (£1,806,282)
2- THIS IS IT (£1,350,320)
3- UP (£1,293,662)
4- THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (£1,206,981)
5- THE FOURTH KIND (£851,182)
6- THE FANTASTIC MR FOX (£782,855)
7- JENNIFER'S BODY (£467,069)
8- SAW VI (£345,495)
9- AN EDUCATION (£278,423)
10-COUPLES RETREAT (£213,871)

Next week sees the release of TAKING WOODSTOCK, WHITE RIBBON and 2012.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Film Quiz with Phil Wilding

Philip Wilding is a journalist, broadcaster, podcaster, blogger and now author (Cross Country Murder Song is his debut novel, out soon) who I came to know through the hilarious Perfect 10 with Phill & Phil, a podcast recorded with the fantastic Mr Phill Jupitus which made its live debut at The Dukes in May. He kindly took time out from hassling blondes and drinking lager to answer some questions for us.

What is your favourite cinema in the country?

Yours (the Dukes) for many reasons, not least it’s where I did my first proper live gig and it sold out, it’s a beautiful room too and full of people who appreciate and love film. Score!

What is your first memory of moviegoing?

Watching Peter Pan and asking my mother to turn it over as the ticking crocodile was scaring me, the whole cinema laughed. People can be such bastards...

What is your strangest/scariest/most exciting moviegoing experience?
I once attacked a man while watching Batman Begins for talking on his mobile as the film was playing, I wish I’d killed him, the asshole.

What film or film-related project have you been involved with that you’re proudest of?
I’m very proud of the fact that I write for Empire, I literally just interviewed Andy Serkis before I wrote this and I didn’t feel like I wasted his time with my questions, that’s always a proud moment when you’re talking to someone who’s working a day long junket.

What’s one thing the UK film industry could do to improve success?

Make better films, some are inspired, a lot are just fucking risible.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Flick's Flicks - November Issue

Brighton's Film Festival

It seems like everywhere you look these days, a new film festival has sprouted up. Many non-film industry people see this with some skepticism, as they can appear to the outsider as elitist gatherings for press and 'business' people. The reality is that there are almost as many types of festivals as festivals themselves, from huge international, celebrity-studded events like Cannes to small, local affairs like our own CINECITY.

Given the amount of films released around the world each year, often festivals are the only place for films to be shown, and the circuit serves as a secondary form of distribution, giving access to audiences to films that some companies feel they can't make a profit on.

CINECITY is a hybrid of types of festival. We have some celebs (Nick Cave), we have some previews of big films (MICMACS, A PROPHET) but we also have moving image (Mark Lewis), short films, local filmmakers, director and place-specific strands of programming. It's open to the public and because it doesn't get the attention that something like the London Film Festival, it means there are more tickets available for our customers.

I think the more film festivals the better. If you're lucky enough to live in a city like Brighton, with a fantastic showcase of cinema like CINECITY - don't take it for granted and come see a load of films!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Film Quiz with Phil Clapp

The Cinema Exhibitor's Association represents about 90% of all exhibitors in the UK, and advocates on behalf of the industry with the Government and other film industry sectors, particulary distributors. Phil Clapp is the Chief Executive of the CEA, and before that he worked at the Department of Culture Media and Sport. He's been at the CEA since 2007.

What is your favorite cinema?
Not sure I have a favourite – and that’s not just a diplomatic answer given my day job. Anywhere were a film is well-presented, the staff seem to take an interest in your cinema-going pleasure and the audience adds to rather than detracts from the experience. There are a very long list of cinemas which fit the bill.

What's your first memory of cinema going?

All seems a very long time ago now, but most probably seeing Disney’s THE ARISTOCATS at the now long-defunct Concorde Cinema in Bristol. Either that or Saturday morning matinees in the early 1970s at the Rex Cinema in Bedminster…

What's your strangest or most exciting experience of moviegoing?
Strangest was probably the late evening premiere of MAMMA MIA at CINEXPO last year. I sat and watched in wonderment as an audience of hard-bitten industry veterans were whipped into a state of near frenzy. I recall Universal Exec Duncan Clark signing off with ‘We think this will make you some money….’

What film or project have you been involved in are you proudest of?
I think the challenges we face in supporting small and medium-sized cinemas in navigating the transition to digital cinema cannot be overestimated. So - at the risk of tempting fate – I think the work we are currently involved in through the establishment of a UK Digital Funding Group could well be a project of which the CEA and the wider industry can look back on with a great deal of pride.

What's one thing the industry can do to be more successful?
I think the industry needs to continue to be able to see itself as the consumer sees it - as one of a number of leisure opportunities available to them at a time when leisure time is increasingly pressured. By ensuring cinema remains THE place to see a film, and an affordable and escapist night out, it won’t go far wrong.

UK Box Office 30 Oct - 1 Nov

The King of Pop apparently is the only one capable of knocking UP off its number 1 spot. That said, its final number includes Wed-Thu figures; still impressive for a collection of rehearsal footage. FANTASTIC MR FOX held up really well with almost no percentage drop-off from the previous weekend. AN EDUCATION came in strong with over £4K screen average, providing us (and the whole arthouse sector) with some much needed relief. Confusingly, 9 debuted at number 8.

1- THIS IS IT (£4,806,318)
2- UP (£3,437,909)
3- FANTASTIC MR FOX (£1,540,856)
4- SAW VI (£939,292)
6- COUPLES RETREAT (£499,754)
7- AN EDUCATION (£389,671)
8- 9 (£329,657)
10- DEAD MAN RUNNING (£198,035)

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Moviegoing Parisian Style, Part 3

Last night we spent our final evening in Paris (not the whole night mind, we did other stuff too) in one of the city's legendary independent cinemas, LE CHAMPO. Appropriately, for Halloween, we got tickets for the 20th Anniversary print of BEETLEJUICE. Nikki had never seen it before and I hadn't in at least a decade - I wasn't sure if my fond memory of it was just an illusion. Despite a projector that clearly needed its lamp replaced, the film was fantastic, and has held up wonderfully, full of the Burtonian (?) touches which we now consider his inimitable style.

Once again, a cinema with no concession stand and a bizarre ticketing system which only allows you to buy tickets minutes before the performance. Part of the charm or just a retrograde form of exhibition? Either way, only in Paris would an all-nighter Burton marathon sell out(see poster).

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Moviegoing Parisian Style, Part 2

Yesterday afternoon we strolled over to STUDIO GALANDE, a tiny one screen arthouse cinema in the St Germain district, famous for hosting Rocky Horror Picture Shows every weekend. We saw Woody Allen's latest, WHATEVER WORKS. I think the film is a true return for Allen, not only to his native Manhattan where all his classic work is set, but also to his 'earlier, funnier' movies.

The cinema was enthusiastically run by a young chap who was clearly projecting, ushering and box officing all at once. There were probably only about 10 of us in the audience, but the signs around the building said ROCKY HORROR - SOLD OUT -clearly the cinema's only steady income stream.

We walked downstairs to comfortable, if lacking in legroom, leather seats and started (quietly) munching on snacks. This is the biggest difference between arthouse cinemas in the UK and France: we were the only ones eating. Today we are planning to go to Le Champo, where, to mark Halloween, they are screening all of Tim Burton's gothic ouvre. It brings a smile to my face to think that at the Dukes we are showing CORPSE BRIDE for our Halloween party too.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Moviegoing Parisian Style

Today I went to see DISTRICT 9 at the UGC Les Halles in Paris. It's a 25-screen mega-multiplex buried in the heart of the concrete monstrosity that is the Forum Les Halles. Right next to the UGC is the Cinema Biblioteque Francois Truffaut and the Forum Les Images, an arthouse cinema. Before you judge me, know that I have been meaning to see D9 for months and that I don't speak French.
The only problem I ran into was understanding when the aliens spoke, as the only subtitles were in French. Other than that, the film, as so many others have pointed out, is fantastic and instantly enters my Top 10 for the year. It's rare to see such a perfect balance of ideas, action, style and substance in a single two hour package.
Nikki and me are hoping to visit some other cinemas before we leave (she wisely skipped today's screening to go swimming) and I shall update you on any of those visits.
Au revoir!

Monday, 26 October 2009

UK Box Office 23-25 Oct

There's not stopping UP: for the third week it remains number one, for a total of nearly £20 million. Ouch. The annual torture porn fest SAW took £1.7 mil and Wes Anderson's FANTASTIC MR FOX took a modest £1.5 million, proving how difficult a sell this thing was.

1- UP (£3,793,587)
2- SAW VI (£1,736,289)
3- FANTASTIC MR FOX (£1,506,367)
4- COUPLES RETREAT (£932,170)
8- ZOMBIELAND (£323,815)
9- FAME (£218,110)

The other films that opened this week:

THE COVE - £17,956

Thursday, 22 October 2009

UP and away

Tonight I popped over to the Odeon to see UP in 3D. I usually don't review films here, as this blog is about the business, not a critic's corner. However, I feel that this film turns a corner in many ways - artistically, yes, but also with wider ramifications for the business. Has Pixar beat Cameron to the industry-changing film of 2009?

The film itself is by far the best Pixar picture - and I rate WALL-E very highly indeed. It doesn't play by the rules of conventional Disney or even Hollywood rules, with unlikely heroes, bizzare plot lines, dark twists and quirky turns that don't exactly seek to please small children.

The technology itself is almost as memorable as the miracle that is the film. I have seen almost all the 3D releases and this is by far the best of the bunch. The true test is that I quickly became used to the marvellous three-dimensionality and completely forgot I was wearing the clunky REAL-D glasses.

If anyone had any doubts about the future of 3D, Pixar's complete embracement of the technology and their careful and deliberate use of these new colours on their palette should erase those concerns. You'll have noticed that in last box office figures that UP's release played as follows: 35% of the cinemas played in 3D, yet 65% of the revenue from the film came from that 35%. People, when given the choice overwhelmingly are choosing 3D. End of story.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

New BFI Centre

News emerged last week that the government was giving the BFI £45 million to build a new National Film Centre on the Southbank, just behind the London Eye.

The estimated budget is around £166 million, so that leaves the BFI still short over £100 million. While the news of public investment in exhibition is great, personally I think spending this money on saving the hundreds of cinemas that are facing the the threat of closure would have been money better spent.

The BFI Southbank has only recently experienced a massive revamp and serves its function very well. How the BFI are going to get £100 million in this economic climate (particulary when they are merging with the UKFC to save money) remains to be explained.

From this very skeptical blogger's perspective, this initiative seems like a headline-grabbing move from a government in trouble. What do you think?

Monday, 19 October 2009

UK Box Office 16-18 Oct

This week UP continues its undisputed reign, while rom-com bromance Vince Vaughn-Jon Favreau reunion COUPLES RETREAT debuts at number 2. Terry Gilliam's troubled production THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR PARNASSUS came in with at number 3, buoyed by Heath Ledger's final on screen appearance. Here's the Top 10:

1- UP (£5,161,152)(Only 35% of the screens were 3D, but took 63% of the total)
2- COUPLES RETREAT (£1,347,567)
5- ZOMBIELAND (£576,932)
6- FAME (£455,477)
7- TRIANGLE (£260,526)
8- HALLOWEEN II (£237,429)
9- LOVE HAPPENS (£217,696)

Hard to believe that Tarantino's INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, at nearly three hours long, with middling reviews and in three different languages, has surpased the £10,000,000 mark. It shows that positive word of mouth can overcome any obstacles. A classy campaign from Universal didn't hurt.

Friday, 16 October 2009

In the Back Row

My partner Nikki and I had our first date at the Odeon Leicester Square (X-Men 2, not that I remember the plot) a few years back, and many Dukes customers often tell me about their first dates in the back rows of our cinema. Imagine if we showed more 'date' movies!
A new survey commisioned by the Evil Empire (I beg your pardon, I mean the Odeon) reveals what most of us already knew: that people like kissing in the dark. We've had proposals and weddings at the Dukes, and hopefully that's all...
On that note, a new book has been published, called BACK ROW BRIGHTON, which has collected memories of movie-going in Brighton. There's a whole chapter on us.

So next time you're with a loved (or lusted) one, kick back, get comfortable, and keep your hands to yourself.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Sorry for the lack of posts. I am at University until Saturday (just started the second year of my MA in Arts & Cultural Management) so have piles of books to read and miles of reports to scan.
I am also quite busy trying to save Cine Esteli, a cinema in the Nicaraguan town of Esteli, where I spent my high school years. I saw BLUE VELVET here nearly 20 years ago and although it's no art deco palace, it holds a special place in my cinematic memories, and of course more importantly, its the only cinema in that part of the country and deserves to remain open (and not turned into a supermarket, as it might).
Anyway - more on that later.
In the meantime, I thought you'd be amused by Cineworld's pathetic and counter-productive efforts to stop piracy at their cinemas - as narrated by Jeremy Nicholas.

Monday, 12 October 2009

UK Box Office 9-11 Oct: Up We Go

Every weekend, a new 3D milestone is established. Pixar obliterated any possible competition with the release of UP, taking more than the rest of the Top 10 put together. Of the nearly £6.5 million, £4.1 million was in 3D. Cinemas across the country were rushing to fit 3D equipment in advance of the release, for a total of 260 different cinemas. New entry ZOMBIELAND landed in number 3, with Ricky Gervais hanging on for dear life at the runner up place. Here's the numbers:

1-UP (£6,411,836)
3-ZOMBIELAND (£945,256)
4-FAME (£906,877)
5-LOVE HAPPENS (£558,361)
6-HALLOWEEN II (£522,261)
8-SURROGATES (£324,779)
9-DISTRICT 9 (£214,396)
10-500 DAYS OF SUMMER (£125,107)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

How do we get paid?

One of the hottest topics in media today - if not the ONLY topic - is how content providers can make a living in the new world, where the internet provides us with movies, TV, news, books, magazines and newspapers for free.

A conference in London debated these issues with every view under the sun, from erecting pay walls (as evil empire ruler Murdoch has suggested) to modifying the business model in the first place (ala iTunes).

Whatever happens, the genie is out of the bottle and it ain't going back in. In a massive shift, we'll see established content providers dissappear over the next few years with only the most creative and imaginative providers suriviving the revolution.

This would seem to be an opportunity for new, democratic media to emerge, one that isn't ruled by the corporate bottom line (and thankfully the BBC serve that role in the UK) and can provide a wider variety of content that isn't delivered top to bottom.

However, I fear that this won't be the case, and the powerful lobbysits will simply twist the weak governement arm into legistlation (as the recent u-turn from Mandelson on P2P shows) that will prolong their monopoly. This will delay innovation and advances in consumer benefits.

As Alain Delon says in Visconti's masterpiece THE LEOPARD: Everything must change so that nothing will change.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

London Arthouse Alliance

In Amsterdam, arthouse cinemas got together and agreed on offering an unlimited card scheme to customers, (like the Cineworld Unlimited Card here) called CINEVILLE. While in Venice I met Raymond Walvarens, the director of the RIALTO cinema, and one of the forces behind the idea.

This made me think that a similar idea for London arthouse cinemas would be fantastic. According to Raymond, admissions have grown, the scheme pays for itself, and it's increased loyalty and frequency of visits from the arthouse crowd. The arthouse market spends so much time competing with each other that we can easily forget that we need to be fighting the real competitor, the mulitplex, who increasingly progamme more and more arthouse (particularly cross-over titles that are our bread and butter) and who use their marketing machines to take the little disposable income audiences have.

An unlimited card would incentivize audiences not only to visit our venues more, but also to take risks on films - buying an arthouse unlimited card would not only be an economically sensible thing to do, it's also an investment in quality. Quality of the programme, but also of experience. Our venues are better at customer service, at providing drinks and food, at showing the film in the right format, at the right sound level, in a safe and comfortable environment.

The cons to the deal are huge: what about each individual cinema or group of cinemas? Would they lose their identity? Would they lose members? How do we even get competing exhibitors in the room?

Understanding the common problems and challenges we share and finding solutions can solidify our sector, increase our market share, and consolidate the marketing presence of our type of cinemas. United we could stop the hemorrhaging of customers to their local multiplex. I'd be interested to hear of anyone thinks this is possible, particularly from the exhibition sector.

Monday, 5 October 2009

UK Box Office 2-4 Oct

Once again FAME stays on top, beating Ricky Gervais for the number one position. 3D films continue to take a lot of money, including the reissue of TOY STORY in 3D. I saw this in Venice and think it's the best 3D so far. Incredible that a 15 year old kids' movie can take over a million quid in a marketplace filled with children's product. That's PIXAR for you. Good to see DISTRCT 9 cleaning up, five weeks after release.

The other new release this week, PANDORUM, seems better suited for a straight-to-video release, and frankly didn't deserve even the palrty £350K it took. And then something as classy, smart and engaging as ARMY OF CRIME takes a tenth of that. Oh well.

1- FAME (£1,784,109)
2- THE INVENTION OF LYING (£1,734,427)
3- TOY STORY 3D (£1,391,309)
5- SURROGATES (£591,804)
6- DISTRICT 9 (£404,374)
7- PANDORUM (£345,945)
8- 500 DAYS OF SUMMER (£245,610)
9- THE SOLOIST (£208,962)
10- DORIAN GRAY (£139,432)

Friday, 2 October 2009

Flick's Flicks

The new episode of Flick's Flicks is up and running. A really cool little show, shot at Picturehouse cinemas, including the Duke of York's, and presented by our very own Felicity (Flick)

Watch it here.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Win Free All Tomorrow's Parties Tickets

I just finished watching ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES, the film that documents the ATP Festival that takes place every year at Camber Sands, where a chosen musician or band curate the whole weekend.

The film was directed by Jonathan Caouette (TARNATION) and is a beautifully edited collection of footage gathered from fans attending the festival. This is not the kind of film I usually go for, but the editing skill was superb and elevated it beyond the vanity project it could have been.

On a side note, I was very impressed with WARP's press screening facilities online, where I saw the movie. It streamed into my computer with no hiccups in high res and fantastic sound quality.

We're giving away three pairs of tickets for our screening on 24th October at midnight. Just email me at with the answer to the following question:

- What Scottish band came up with the idea for All Tomorrow's Parties?

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Colin Firth and Me

Last night we hosted a Green Party fundraiser screening of IN PRISON MY WHOLE LIFE, a documentary about Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist on death row accused of the death of a Philadelphia policeman. He's always claimed innocence, and many prominent celebrities and activists have taken up his cause.

Colin and Livia Firth are producers of the film, and were at The Dukes to promote it. They were interviewed by Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas (who is running for MP in the next general election).

The audience for the film was probably about 50% screaming female fans, 15-65, all looking for a chance to talk to Mr Darcy. What they made of the film, who knows. The fact that they showed up to watch this documentary is a testament to the power of celebrity. It's good to see some celebrities using it for good.

Fresh from his Best Actor win at Venice, Colin me and talked Festival faves and Italian politics. Turns out he's a massive Todd Solondz fan, and has deep knowledge of the intricacies of print versus broadcast power of the Italian media. Nice chap.

Monday, 28 September 2009

UK Box Office 25-27 Sep

This weekend the kids from FAME ruled the box office with the remake of the 1980 Alan Parker movie, made safe for the High School Musical generation. Bruce Willis isn't what he used to be in the action genre, opening in third place with SURROGATES, and THE SOLOIST confirms Universal's fears about the proposects of Joe Wright's oft-delayed Oscar bait. THE GODFATHER had a decent screen average of £1,436 given the length and good weather this weekend. Here's the full list:

1- FAME (£2,408,211)
3- SURROGATES (£960,116)
4- DISTRICT 9 (£558,954)
5- THE SOLOIST (£371,097)
6- 500 DAYS OF SUMMER (£335,622)
8- DORIAN GRAY (£233,603)
9- GAMER (£209,255)
10- CREATION (£193,540)

Guardian Mention!

Despite my posts constantly trashing the quality of journalism at The Guardian, we've been mentioned this weekend in their Blog Roll column, alongside some other really cool blogs. We've arrived!

Thursday, 24 September 2009


In the spirit of giving good stuff away, the nice folks at Revolver Entertainment are offering some free DVDs of the film SYNECHDOCHE, NY. You'll remember we played this at the cinema in May, and for a moment it seemed like Kaufman was coming over for a Q&A, and then he cancelled. To show that we hold no grudge, we're hosting a little competition.

Here's the official synposis of this particulary challenging, interesting and clever film: Having written Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Charlie Kaufman's hotly anticipated first outing as director is a singularly inventive affair. As rewarding as it is dazzlingly perplexing, it is the story of theatre director Caden Cotard (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and his drive to produce his masterwork.

The film is being released on 12th October on DVD and Blu-ray.We have three copies of the film to giveaway, on either DVD or Blu-ray, courtesy of Revolver Entertainment. Answer the following question:

- What is Charlie Kaufman's brother in ADAPTATION called?

Email me at with the answer and I'll get back to the lucky winners.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Tweet! Tweet!

Last night I realised we had hit a tipping point in our use of Twitter. Dozens of people who follow us on Twitter (and whom we follow) were in attendance at our screening of CASABLANCA, and the next morning there was a lively online exchange about the evening.

We only signed up to Twitter in January, but have found plenty to talk about with our 1,100-odd followers: films, projection, cake, programming and the quality of the sound. I also use it to point people in the direction of this blog (and will be doing it with this post as well). We try not to sell anything, as we have other channels for that. It's just about talking to our audience in an informal and fun way, and yes, we hope that as a consequence of this chat, you'll come to the cinema more often.

Some of the people we hear and get lots of love from are @nikkib, @LaGirafa, @caracourage,@mockduck; we appreciate the frequent visits from @laurencehill, and sarcastic comments from ex-staff members @dipperr and @rosielikescats. There are hundreds of others out there and the dialogue reminds us that you're thinking about us even when you're not in the building.

So as we turned 99 years old last night, the room was filled with people brought together by a technology only a few years old. The old and new metaphors could write themselves.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Happy Birthday Dukes

On September 22nd, 1910, crowds lined the streets outside a brand new building in Preston Circus, where Dame Violett Menotta, a famed West End actress, was opening a new cinema with an elegant Edwardian frontage on the site of an old brewery.

The Byways of Byron was the very first film to play, and the Dukes one of the earliest purpose-built cinemas in the UK. After 15 years in town halls, churches, penny gaffes and tents, the cinema had grown up, moved out and got its own place. Four years later an usher from the Dukes would fire the opening salvo of World War II in France, and cinema building would come to a halt until 1918.

Still standing, unaltered (apart from the naughty legs) the Duke of York's is the oldest cinema in the UK, and in my humble opinion, the best. Not only is it a architectural beauty, it has bags of atmosphere and a truly eclectic programme. It also serves as a cool venue for all kinds of stuff and seems to attract really cool people as staff and customers.

Tonight, we're celebrating by showing CASABLANCA and using all the money we make to repair our old clock. As they used to say, 'bring her to the Dukes, it's fit for a Duchess'.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Cambridge, Day 5: The Red Shoes

Today I saw Park Circus' restored and remastered digitised version of the classic THE RED SHOES. It was spectacular. The Jack Cardiff-photographed Technicolor just leapt off the screen, and the story, acting and mise-en-scene was not what I expected at all. This is one of those films that has been on my list of must-sees for years, and I just never got 'round to it. It was funny, moving, beautiful, and an invigorating, fast paced rollercoaster of a movie.

I probably won't have time to watch any other films tomorrow or Monday as I'll be working long hours at the cinema. I had a brief chat today with filmmaker Jon Amiel, who was presenting his new film CREATION. Nice guy, I always thought he was American!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Why economics dictates 3D will survive

In Tuesday's Guardian, Cory Doctorow wrote a widely circulated piece about how 3D won't work in the long run. His main argument is that 3D is a cinema-only experience; as he says:
Movies, after all, rely on the aftermarket of satellite, broadcast and cable licenses, of home DVD releases and releases to airline entertainment systems and hotel room video-on-demand services – none of which are in 3D. If the movie couldn't be properly enjoyed in boring old 2D, the economics of filmmaking would collapse. So no filmmaker can afford to make a big-budget movie that is intended as a 3D-only experience, except as a vanity project.

This might be true in 2009, but in the next years a few things are going to happen that will make 3D more than a kids' movies feature: 3D Television, reduced costs of 3D filmaking and finally, respectable filmmakers using 3D for non-mainstream films. Sony have put their muscle behind it. Moore's law dictates that the costs of 3D will diminish.

He also argues that cinema-owners who've shelled out big money to retrofit their auditoriums for 3D projection don't want to tie up their small supply of 3D screens with art-house movies. They especially don't want to do this when there's plenty of competition from giant-budget 3D movies that add in the 3D as an optional adjunct, a marketing gimmick that can be used to draw in a few more punters during the cinematic exhibition window

This is completely untrue - once you have a digital projector, adding 3D capabilities is only an extra £10,000. This is a small investment when you consider the extra cash you can make with 3D product. The real challenge that cinemas face is converting to digital in the first place, but that debate is completely separate from the 3D argument.

Once more, Doctorow:
In 10 years, we'll look back on the current round of 3D films and say, "Remember that 3D gimmick? Whatever happened to that, anyway?

I think it'll be the opposite - when Martin Scorsese wins an Oscar for a 3D film, or the new MAN ON WIRE is in 3D, or the glasses fall out of the equation and we just expect to see things on screen the way we do in real life - in three dimensions - then we'll look back and see 2D the way we see silent cinema or black and white cinematograpy - a relic (a beautiful relic) of the past.

Cambridge Day 4

Today I watched WHITE LIGHTNIN', a violent, lighter-fluid soaked, perverse biopic of tap-dancing white trash legend Jesco White. Imagine WALK THE LINE, now imagine the complete opposite: no redemption, no love story, no Hollywood-tinged clean-up. This is the real deal. Not sure if its suitable for most audiences (lots and lots of violence), and actor Edward Hogg's boyish good looks and perfect teeth don't really fit the character he is playing, but still this is a ballsy, dynamic film.

I made a mistake in my earlier post - I thought today was Saturday an instead of WHITE LIGHTNIN' I thought I'd be watching THE RED SHOES. Oh well. That's tomorrow. Till then.

Picture caption: The Cambridge film poster collection. Oh to have the space.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Cambridge Day 3

Today was the kick off to the Festival and I saw my first film: BIRDWATCHERS. A stunning film, heartbreaking, beautiful and dare I say it, important. We're showing this at the cinema.

There was a champagne reception at the bar, and then a screening of ARMY OF CRIME, which unfortunately I missed. The staff at the Arts Picturehouse are really an enthusiastic and creative bunch, and have made a series of short films with no budget, and are showing them tomorrow night. Check out the trailer here. It's genius.

Tomorrow I am working 4pm till closing time, so I'll be aiming to watch the restored version of THE RED SHOES which is playing as part of a Jack Cardiff retrospective.

If you ever wondered what a 70mm print looks like, check out the pic of the print of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS I found in the Cambridge projection room!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Cambridge, Day 1&2

I arrived in Cambridge yesterday to work at the Arts Picturehouse for the Cambridge Film Festival, which was set up in 1977 and is run by Tony Jones, a legend in UK exhibtion circles.

I'm here just to support the management team and help out in anyway I can. I also hope to see some films while I am here. The Festival kicks off tomorrow, and today I got a grand tour of the building, including one of the most amazing projection boxes I have ever visited (and one of the few to include 70mm!).

Free Sony Blu-Ray DVDs - closed now!

This blog is normally not where you come to enter competitions, but the prize is pretty good, so I thought I'd let you guys decide. Free stuff is always nice. Specially free movies.

Sony are going all out in trying to promote the new standard format for DVDs, Blu-Ray. They've launched a new website for their catalogue and new releases and they're enhancing all the new BLU-RAY DVDs with what they call MovieIQ, an interactive feature that allows you to gain insight into the movie as you watch it. I often find myself googling or IMDB'ing movies as I watch them at home, and this is like a natural extension of that.

Here's a demo of what it looks like.

If you want to try this out yourself, Sony are giving away a bundle of Blu-ray films including ANGELS AND DEMONS, THE INTERNATIONAL, CADILLAC RECORDS, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, CASINO ROYALE and THE DA VINCI CODE. Ignore the dodgy Dan Brown titles and you got yourself a nice little collection there.

To win all you have to do is email with the answer to the following question:

- What is the name of the failed (but far superior) videocassette format from the 1980s, which lost the format war to VHS and is now used exclusively amongst professionals?

Good luck!

Sony Blu Ray website: SONY BLU RAY

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Patrick Swayze 1952-2009

You surely have heard that Patrick Swayze died yesterday of the pancreatic cancer he'd been fighting since 2008. Swayze was far past his late 1980s stardom, and although he was the subject of much mockery, I always had a soft spot for him.

One of his earliest roles was in Coppola's excellent teen drama THE OUTSIDERS, where his tough-guy persona was quickly established. Fans of the ridiculous right-wing fantasy RED DAWN will remember him as Jed, leader of the 'resistance'. But his emblematic part was in DIRTY DANCING, where he rode the wave of a cultural phenomenon and became a world-wide sex symbol. Now a cheesy classic, that film was originally a true independent, made with no budget by a minor studio.

My favorite Swayze movie has to be Kathryn Bigelow's POINT BREAK, where he plays a surfer-bank robber- adrenaline junkie. The energy and dynamism he projects is one of those intangible things that have nothing to do with acting chops. Another fine moment came late in his career in DONNIE DARKO, where he played with his own public persona to great effect.

Monday, 14 September 2009

UK Box Office 11-13 Sep

DISTRICT 9 held the number one spot for a second week in a row, proving you don't need a huge budget or big stars to turn a smart script into a hit. DORIAN GRAY opened in third place. SORORITY ROW, JULIE & JULIA and ADVENTURELAND all opened modestly, and Tarantinos' BASTERDS defies critics and a long running time to achieve almost £10 million at the UK box office.

Here's the breakdown:

1 - DISTRICT 9 (£1,183,457)
2 - THE FINAL DESTINATION 3-D (£839,881)
3 - DORIAN GRAY (£587,687)
4 - 500 DAYS OF SUMMER (£580,692)
5 - SORORITY ROW (£543,745)
6 - JULIE & JULIA (£467,522)
8 - ALIENS IN THE ATTIC (£262,874)
9 - FUNNY PEOPLE (£218,209)
10 - ADVENTURELAND (£209,343)

Friday, 11 September 2009

Nicolas Roeg

Last night I attended Jason Wood's book launch at the Riverside Studios, where a brand-new, second edition of his book 100 AMERICAN INDEPENDENT FILMS was being promoted. A fantastic BFI pocket edition, it features 100 great indies and is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject.

Legendary filmmaker Nicolas Roeg (DON'T LOOK NOW, PERFORMANCE, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, WALKABOUT) was there and when the first film due to screen (SUTURE) was cancelled, I ended up having a few drinks with the director and his lovely wife Harriet.

Turns out Nicolas grew up in Brighton as a child, and has great childhood memories before his parents moved to London. He's a humble, friendly guy whose personality doesn't match the superb, epic catalogue of films he's created. We talked films (he loved INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS) and technology (he loves YouTube) and memories (he shot a film with Joan Collins at the Riverside Studios in the 50s).

If only the screening of THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE had been as memorable. The new Soderbergh is flat - unsexy, boring and a tad pretentious.

It's a rare thing that you get to have a fun, relaxed and informal conversation with someone you admire so much. I've raved about Roeg's films for many years and I think he's due a revival - certainly most of his work is timeless and features some of the most striking cinematography ever committed to film. It's up to the chaps at the BFI to get a retrospective going.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Venice Day 10 - The End

Back in the UK after 10 long days on San Servolo island, and although the quality of the presentations wasn't great, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet and network with 50 other cinemas, plus 20-odd other industry professionals, as well as watch some films at the Mostra. I also made some fantastic new friends. Who knew people who work at cinemas were so nice?

I am completely exhausted, but tomorrow I'll be attending a preview of Soderbergh's THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, where Jason Wood will be launching a new edition of 100 AMERICAN INDEPENDENT MOVIES.

And on Tuesday I'll be heading off to the Cambridge Film Festival, where I'll be working as a manager at the Arts Picturehouse. I'll be blogging about stuff from there all next week.

Sorry I've been out of the loop with regards to most non-Venice related things, but by Monday we'll be back to normal.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Venice, Day 8 & 9

I took the day off yesterday from the CICAE courses and saw five films at the Mostra: Michael Moore's CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY, Claire Denis' WHITE MATERIAL, TOY STORY in 3D, Franco Rossi's classic 1959 MORTI DI UN AMICO and finally Oliver Stone's doc SOUTH OF THE BORDER. I'll run through these briefly:

The morning started at 8.30am with the new Michael Moore doc, which, depending on your opinion on the controversial filmmaker, you will find moving, enraging, funny and completely necessary, or manipulative, crass and simplistic. Moore is the Spielberg of the doc genre: sentimental, populist (and popular), and a master of his craft. I loved it and given the subject matter, I predict it will be another hit after the failure of SICKO outside of the US.

Straight afterwards I saw WHITE MATERIAL, starring Isabelle Huppert as a coffee plantation owner in an unnamed African country in the middle of a civil war. The ingredients for a fantastic film were all there: Denis' superb camerawork, Huppert in another obssesive role, explosive subject matter - but it left me cold. I have a feeling a lot of people will like this.

Me and Bastien (arthouse cinema manager from Belgium) needed some light relief so we went to see TOY STORY in 3D. Director John Lassetter and Festival Director Marco Muller were in attendance. It was by far the best 3D experience I have had - it appeared as though the filmmakers knew, in 1995, that this would eventually be shown in three dimensions.

We killed the two hours till the Stone doc by checking out MORTI DI UN AMICO, a 1959 Italian film (co-written by Pasolini) about two friends in Rome. It was perfect. The classic Italian mix of comedy and melodrama, it was a perfect palate cleanser after Pixar.

Finally, SOUTH OF THE BORDER is the latest in Oliver Stone's series of documentaries (he did COMANDANTE about Castro and PERSONA NON GRATA about Arafat) about enemies of the United States. Basically a series of interviews with leaders of the new leftist governments in Latin America, it's fascinating for someone with an interest in the subject but will have limited theatrical future.

Festival anecdote: as I was waiting to see SOUTH OF THE BORDER, the door to the smaller screening room opened (it was also the exit door for the Sala Grande) and standing in front of me was George Lucas. He said 'excuse me', and I let the bearded Jedi Master through. He's alot shorter than I thought.

Tomorrow is my last day here, and I probably won't have any time to watch any other films. I'll update with some final thoughts tomorrow.