Monday, 29 June 2009

Monday Blues

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the critically lambasted Michael Bay robot porn flick, made an astonishing $387 million worldwide in its opening weekend. It came just a couple of million short of breaking The Dark Knight's record last year.

With that depressing news in mind, things don't get better closer to home. Rudo Y Cursi, despite good reviews and the sex appeal of Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, didn't really take off. The hot weather and Glastonbury didn't help.

A cluster of popular films arrives in July: Public Enemies and Ice Age 3D on Friday, Bruno the week after, and then the film that will wipe us all away: Harry Potter. So that leaves about a week for each film to make its impact on the box office.

I've bought my hat and waistcoat for Friday - hopefully I'll see some of you at our red carpet premiere...

Friday, 26 June 2009

Flicks Flicks

Duke of York's Assistant Manager Felicity Ventom, who is also a talented singer-songwriter, comedian and TV presenter, has a little show call Flick's Flicks. It's monthly round up of movies and events happening at Picturehouse cinemas. She also interviewed the guys behind Rudo Y Cursi the other day, and here it is:

Michael Jackson

The big story obviously today is Michael Jackson's death. I won't mention any of the media circus around his personal life, but one important point to make about his career from a film perspective: his association with filmmakers.

From John Landis' groundbreaking thriller onwards, he always made it a habit to hire top-notch directors for his music videos, including Martin Scorsese (Bad), Spike Lee (They Don't Care About Us), David Fincher (Who is It?), John Singleton (Remember The Time) and Mark Romanek (Scream).

His influence on the music video, which in turn ended up influencing filmmaking styles from the 1980s onwards, can't be overstated.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Public Enemies Review

Well, the press embargo has been lifted and I can indulge you with my review of Public Enemies, which I saw at a screening hosted by the lovely chaps at Universal. It was at the Soho Hotel and they even fed us - mind you, I am not used to this kind of treatment so I was duly impressed!

Off the bat the screening suffered from being projected in 35MM. This film NEEDS to be seen in digital projection to fully appreciate the way it was made. If anything, the 35mm makes it seem like there is something wrong with the film. Thankfully, we'll be screening it digitally so I can't wait to see it again the way the director intended!

No matter what Michael Mann says, this is Heat Redux. Heat with Hats. Heat: the prequel. And that's a good thing. Heat is one of my favorite films of all time and the reason I am a Manniac. The plot and dramatic drive of the film are closely related to that 1995 masterpiece. The principal difference here, apart from the period setting, which he typically captures down to the last detail, is the huge stylist leap he takes by shooting the whole thing in high def digital, rather than film.

While Mann has dabbled in the technology since ALI in 2001, this is the first time he has abandoned film stock altogether. The result, combined with the return of cinematographer Dante Spinotti, with whom he collaborated on every film from Manhunter to The Insider, is one of the most dazzling works of cinematic camera work I have ever seen. The bleached out, dry effect of the digital lenses in the shining broad daylight helps drive home the period, and the nighttime sequences, particularly the shootouts, are spectacular because of the medium's capacity to capture light in a way film could never achieve.

Johnny Depp uses his million-dollar charm to make Dillinger a more sympathetic character than the real life version probably deserves. Bale thankfully abandons the raspy Batman voice and happily blends into the background as committed G-Man Purvis. Billy Crudup gives us hints of the hoover we later learned to hate without telegraphing the sleaze. Beyond the star-studded cast, the supporting players are outstanding, including a couple of refugees from The Wire (Domenick Lombardozzi, Peter Gerety) and Stephen Lang, longtime collaborator of the director, in an outstanding performance and FBI agent Winstead.

Critics argue that Mann's undisputed technical prowess distances him from his characters. I think that like Kubrick, that detachment is in the end more revealing and rewarding than the more immediate payoff. Al Pacino or DeNiro would have (and did in Heat) make the parts more their own. Depp and Bale are putty in the filmmaker's vision.

So, from my own personal perspective; another amazing Michael Mann film. From a commercial perspective, I think that without Depp and Bale this would have a really hard time finding an audience. Running time, subject matter and pace all run opposite the modern trends of popcorn blockbusters.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Box Office

Courtesy of Charles Gant at the Guardian comes this week's Top 10:

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 516 screens, £8,349,739
2. The Hangover, 428 screens, £2,249,747. Total: £7,716,785
3. Night At The Museum 2, 481 screens, £817,101. Total: £18,290,183
4. Terminator Salvation, 456 screens, £803,873. Total: £12,767,545
5. Angels & Demons, 323 screens, £353,872. Total: £17,939,463
6. Drag Me To Hell, 316 screens, £275,436. Total: £5,945,776
7. Star Trek, 282 screens, £239,909. Total: £20,901,905
8. Looking For Eric, 225 screens, £215,173. Total: £845,052
9. The Last House On The Left, 285 screens, £189,412. Total: £880,716
10. Last Chance Harvey, 242 screens, £159,534. Total: £1,769,174

I was amused at Mark Kermode's review of Transformers which described it as a film with a "rotten heart" and Michael Bay as a "pornographer". I can't say I disagree.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Double Standards

On Friday, the British Board of Film Censors (I mean Classification, apologies) gave BRUNO an 18 certificate. The filmmakers were apparently offered the choice of cutting the film for a 15, but declined.

It seems to me that the BBFC suffers from the double standards that allow unlimited violence and gore into a 15 (or even 12A) certificate, but bans teenagers from seeing sexual references on screen.

Both Ali G Indahouse and Borat had 15 certificates, so what's so different now?

It seems only yesterday that the uproar over allowing the disturbing The Dark Knight a 12A occurred. Have they learnt nothing? Meanwhile, super-violent CGI films like Terminator Salvation and Transformers 2 get 12As. So violence is better than sex? Come on, people.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Public Enemies Review...coming soon

I saw Public Enemies yesterday and will post my full review here very soon. Universal kindly invited me to a screening at the Soho Hotel, and there were some other City Screen people there as well, including our programmer Jason.
As soon as the reviews embargo is up I shall let you know my thoughts on the film. There are many of them.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Y Tu Mama 2?

Just finished watching RUDO Y CURSI, the new film from (roughly) the same team who brought us Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, the Mexican global hit that launched Gael Garcia Bernal as an international sex symbol.

This film plays on the dynamic between Diego Luna and Bernal nicely and has hilarious moments, but doesn't have the straight-forward commercial sexiness that Y TU MAMA had.

It moves at frightening speed, so you are never bored, and some of the more obvious plot holes disappear into the horizon before you can notice them. The football scenes are fantastic too, and you can almost taste the tortillas so authentic is the Mexican backdrop.

Opens 26 June.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Readers Recommend us!

In today's Guardian, The Duke of York's features as one the 'readers recommend' cinemas.

The other Picturehouse cinema to feature was the Belmont in Aberdeen.

Thanks to everyone who voted for us. We're not crazy about the list as it leaves out so many gems, but any list like this is always going to be incomplete.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Looking For Eric

As Charles Gant describes in his blog at The Guardian, LOOKING FOR ERIC didn't take off as its distributor Icon, had hoped for.

Heavy TV advertising and a wide release of 239 prints across the country, plus an intense press tour from Cantona himself didn't bring the average moviegoer out.

The good weather is holding (at least outside of London) and given that it's so early in the summer, audiences are not taking the sun for granted. So a combination of good word of mouth and rain are the only things that can take ERIC into hit category.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Depp Sells

For the first time ever, we put Johnny Depp's pretty cheekbones on the cover of the Duke of York's programme. This has resulted in the edition being so popular that we've had to order a re-print.

When talking to Shephali Patel, head of marketing for Universal Pictures UK, she confirmed what many of us suspected: Johnny Depp is box office gold. Women love him, men want to be him, he has arthouse credibility and commercial appeal. Sex, prestige and danger. No wonder he is at the centre of the PUBLIC ENEMIES campaign.

It would be interesting to see what effect using Johnny's face on the cover has on VANITY FAIR sales.

I hope this all bodes well for PUBLIC ENEMIES.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Michael Moore is Back

I know there is a general backlash against Michael Moore, but I love his films and tend to agree on his politics, so there you go.

The new political and economic climate is perfect for the man who brought us ROGER & ME. When his work coincides with the right backdrop, he can hit it big. FAHRENHEIT 9/11 is one of the Dukes biggest films ever.

Wide or Deep?

Reading Seth Godin's Blog I came across this post which really made me think about the way we do business at The Duke of York's.

In it, Seth argues that a business can either go deep (specialising in one area, becoming an appointment destination - for us, that would be making our core arthouse programme a bigger part of our offer) or wide (offering a little bit of everything to everyone, which is what I think we're doing).

Mainstream films, crossover films, arthouse films, repertory, documentary, events, music, comedy, opera, theatre, even TV broadcasts (Eurovision). This is a brief (but not complete) summary of what we offer at The Dukes. You could extend it to the food and beverage - we sell Stella, but also Harvey's Pale Ale. We sell M&M's, but also homemade cake.

I personally think that given our position as the only independent cinema in Brighton, we have a duty to serve multiple audiences for multiple reasons. Perhaps a wider offer would help other struggling cinemas across the country? (God knows there are plenty of them)

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Robert Pattinson Night

Inspired by the Picturehouse Blog, we are putting on a Robert Pattinson night on Friday September 11th, with a double bill of HOW TO BE and TWILIGHT.

The popularity of the late shows of TWILIGHT and LITTLE ASHES shows that Brighton has its own Pattinson fanclub and we are more than happy to oblige...

Tickets will be on sale very soon.

Best Cinema in the UK?

The Guardian are asking its readers to comment on a blog post as to what is the UK's best cinema.

Guardian Poll

Please do vote for us. I think it's a tie right now between the Broadway in Nottingham, the Cameo in Edinburgh and us.


Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Charles Gant's Box Office Analysis

Charles Gant, film editor at Heat magazine and author of the fantastic 'Numbers' column for Sight & Sound, has a Box Office Analysis blog over at The Guardian that is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject.

Gant's 'Numbers' column is the best thing in S&S these days and when starting my own blog, I only aspired to come a little close to his clever, witty and insightful writing.

So check it out here

Public Enemies Premiere

On Friday 3 July we'll be hosting one of our infamous fancy dress red carpet premieres at The Duke of York's, with the theme, obviously, being 1930s gangsters and flapper girls.

We started this tradition back in 2007 when we hosted a spectacular Simpsons Movie premiere, and then again in 2008 with The Dark Knight. These nights have become the stuff of Brighton legend and we hope this one lives up to its predecessors.

As everyone knows I am giddy with excitement at the release of Public Enemies, and will be seeing the film on the 19th in London. Michael Mann is a personal hero and I am happy to see mainstream success at a big scale finally come his way (fingers crossed).

So book your tickets now!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

James Cameron Speaks

I read this over at Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily and really wanted to flag it up. Cameron rarely does press and this conference wasn't covered anywhere. Good ol' Nikki had someone on the inside though!

He talks Avatar and the future of 3D technology.

James Cameron Speaks

Looking for Eric

I just saw Looking for Eric at a preview at the Dukes, along with the staff. It was strange, watching a Ken Loach film in which the audience laughed throughout and clapped at certain scenes. At the end, everyone stood up and gave it an ovation.

The commercial potential of this film is huge, and distributor Icon seem to feel the same way, with their marketing campaign going wide, trying to break out of the arthouse ghetto Loach has been stuck in most of his career.

Icon had great success transforming Woody Allen's Match Point into a crossover success by skillfully ignoring the fact that it was an Allen project, and similarly, here the emphasis on the very bright and bold poster is on Cantona.

The feel-good ending should get the 'Slumdog' factor going and word of mouth (plus reviews) will be positive. The expensive advertising campaign includes a lot of TV ads and Cantona making charming appearances on all the chat shows.

Roll on Friday!

Saturday, 6 June 2009


My nephew Chris is working on the new Angelina Jolie movie, SALT, directed by Philip Noyce. It's about a CIA agent called Salt (Jolie) who is falsely accused of betraying the agency.

Chris used his iPhone to snap these shots. In them, you can see Angelina and Liev Schreiber's chairs (Schreiber plays a character called Winter), Jolie talks to New York Governor Bill Patterson, an finally an elaborate car stunt set-up.

It comes out next summer. Enjoy!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Digital Dawn

Yesterday I attended the Cinema Exhibitor's Association's (CEA)'Digital Roadshow', a conference that travelled the country talking about digital technology, 3D, and what cinema owners/operators are going to do about it. The meeting at the Odeon Bayswater was the final stop on the tour.

The central point of the gathering was to rally support behind an initiative to fund digital technology equipment for everyone BUT the major chains, who can clearly afford it themselves. Phil Clapp (CEA CEO) and Peter Buckinghman (UKFC Distrib and Exhibition Head Honcho) were actively recruiting independent cinema owners and small circuits to join their effort to create a consolidated bargaining position when it comes to securing the new, essential, digital technology.

Why does this matter? Because up to 300 independent cinemas could face closure if they don't switch to digital in the next few years. The average cost of the kit is about £60K and most indies can't afford it. There is no more public money for it, and the distributors couldn't care less, as these independents represent less than 10% of the UK Box office.

So well done to the CEA and the UKFC for trying to sort things out.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Summer in the City

One of the distinct differences between the cinemagoing public in the UK and the US is the attitude towards the weather. In the US, hot weather pushes people into air-conditioned movie theatres to see the movies that Hollywood lines up for the sunny season.

In the UK, the summer is a harder proposition as the Brits can't seem to go indoors if the clouds are gone. This is clearly a cultural legacy from the legendary bad weather that besieges the British Isles most of the year.

That said, there is a slow shift towards more attendance in the summer, as evidenced by the record attendance figures in 2007 (Simpons Movie, Transformers) and 2008 (Dark Knight, Mamma Mia!). It's still a hard sell for arthouse however, as specialised cinema is still linked to the colder weather.

In 2004, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Motorcycle Diaries managed to stage a succesful summer release, and in 2006, Volver was a late August hit. If the film builds enough momentum, the weather will not stop audiences from finding the films they want to see.