Thursday, 30 April 2009

Cinemas in a Pandemic?

I was wondering, as we are in the middle of this 'swine flu' hysteria, rather selfishly, how it will affect cinemagoing. If things go according the doomsayers at the WHO, authorities will probably have to close cinemas (as all public spaces).

I have a feeling we won't get that far and as Simon Jenkins said in yesterday's Guardian, it's much ado about nothing.

But the facts have never gotten in the way of a good old fashioned mass panic, so we could be in for some slow weeks ahead.

Last night two customers were seen emerging from the cinema wearing face masks, which brought up many questions: surely if you were that concerned about catching it, you wouldn't go to the movies, and secondly, why weren't they wearing them on their way in? Did something about the plot of IN THE LOOP trigger a panic?

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Pathe No More

CHERI is the new Stephen Frears film, starring Michelle Pfeiffer as a 'retired courtesan' in pre-World War I Paris. Kathy Bates also stars. The film was initially distributed in the UK by Pathe, the French company that is also a major exhibitor in France.

However, effective 13th April, Warner has taken over all of Pathe's distribution duties in the UK. Cheri will be the first title under the new regime, and it will be a test of how a major handles a smaller title. Warner Independent, the boutique arm of the studio, ceased to exist in 2008, famously almost condeming Slumdog Millionare to a straight-to-DVD release. Whether they will be able to bring the expertise that makes titles like The Dark Knight or Harry Potter franchises so succesful remains to be seen.

Cheri has a top cast and director and should appeal to fans of classy period dramas. With the right marketing and release this could be a solid earner for Warners. The good news is that the marketing team remains at Pathe, so we hope for some continuity...

Monday, 27 April 2009

Shifty gives way to In The Loop

As I predicted here, SHIFTY ran into some trouble when it opened on Friday and we've decided to pull some of its show times this week and play more shows of IN THE LOOP. Yes, a small indie film is losing shows, but at least it's losing them to another British film, and a very good one at that.

I think the challenges that marketing a film like SHIFTY presents are vast, and despite it being a fantastic film, well reviewed and full of energy, it was always going to struggle finding an audience.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Nic Cage carries on

As I mentioned in the 'About Me' bit, my brother is a focus puller. The technical name for this is First Assistant Cameraman, and his responsibilities are far wider than making sure the camera is in focus, but that's the name. Anyway, he's just started working on the new Nicolas Cage (equine-faced, as Mark Kermode calls him) film, 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice'.

Nicolas Cage's transformation from quirky character actor and serious thespian to cartoon-faced action star is now complete. He's completely abandoned any pretense of anything else and now churns out, under Bruckheimer's wing, big, loud, (literally) explosive films, year in year out. That'll keep him away from the Dukes' slate for now. We're safe.

Next Week

Our two new films opening next week present quite a challenge. We don't shrink from it, and this is what running an arthouse cinema is all about - taking risks. Rolling the dice with two films like this has become less frequent, but it's an essential part of who we are and what people expect from us. Our programmer is an expert on finding the gems among the hundreds of films released each year.

MODERN LIFE, a French documentary about a rural community in France that is slowly dying out in the face of globalisation, is such a gem. But is there an audience for it? In 2004, we all thought that the era of the blockbuster documentary had arrived. Fahrenheit 9/11 and Supersize Me were hugely successful and subsequently a whole array of doc features were released, to diminishing returns. There is a sense in the arthouse sector now that topical documentaries are a no-go area and fewer get picked up at festivals.

Also opening is SHIFTY, a microbudget Brit film that at first glance appears to be a standard geezer drug-dealing movie, but upon closer inspection reveals a fantastic, warm, superbly acted little film. Again, the market for films like this would appear to be there (KIDULTHOOD, ADULTHOOD, BULLET BOY) but SHIFTY falls into that strange nether land between a film aimed at urban youngsters or an arthouse film for the chattering classes to discuss 'youth' issues. The marketing seems to be aiming for the former, yet it's playing in Picturehouse cinemas across the nation, the preferred destination of the latter.

The only way these two films have a fighting chance is if this terrific weather ends soon....maybe you'll catch me on the roof of the cinema doing a raindance.

In The Green

IN THE LOOP opened this weekend at The Dukes, one week 'off date' (ie one week after its release in other cinemas) and despite it playing at the Odeon, and sunny weather, is doing spectacular business.

What does this tell us? 1) In The Loop appeals to an adult, discerning audience. 2) They don't mind waiting to see it at The Dukes and 3) There is enough room in Brighton for the multiplex and us to survive.

That rare ocassion, a British film with no major stars, with five star reviews and solid box office, In The Loop opened with a £4,509 screen average (compare that to the number one movie, Monsters Vs Aliens, which had a £3,979 average over the same weekend) and benefited from the Damian McBride scandal breaking the same week it was released.

Results from this weekend at the Dukes are set to be around the same as the national opening weekend figures (as far as screen average), showing the film has legs and is getting fantasticly positive word of mouth.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Public Enemies

Today I started working on editing our new brochure, our first summertime programme. Public Enemies is our big blockbuster summer film this year. Those who know me, know I am a Michael Mann nut. So personally, I am quite excited. But how will this play? On paper, a Johnny Depp/Christian Bale crime movie should be a no brainer. But plenty of Mann's films fail to deliver commercially, perhaps because his style is an acquired taste. His biggest hit to date is the Tom Cruise thriller Collateral.

The release date, July 3rd, is right in the middle of two tentpoles: Ice Age 3 (which is a 3D release) the week before and Bruno the week after. This leaves the market for males looking for action and Depp-crazed females pretty clear. My guess is the long running time and depressing storyline (ironically, Dillinger found his final fate at a cinema) will mean a solid but not spectacular opening and eventual final box office of around £10-15 million. (My guess is around $100-110 million in the US). Violent, 'serious' thrillers with big name casts such as 'The Departed' have limited appeal.

In terms of business at the Dukes, I speculate around 6-7,000 admissions for the two week run.

why splendor?

The name of this blog is inspired by the 1989 Etore Scola film Splendor, a marvellous little film starring Marcello Mastroianni and Massimo Troisi. It tells the story of the Cinema Splendor, (you can see a picture of it in the heading of the blog) the local at a small town in Italy. It's the story of exhibition in the 20th century, and manages to be funny, moving and really relevant if you've ever worked in a cinema.

Sadly it's not available on DVD in the UK and I can't get hold of any prints to show it at the Dukes.