Friday, 31 July 2009

Fantastic Mr Fox Trailer

The Fantastic Mr Fox trailer is up. I love it. I looks and sounds just like a Wes Anderson movie. But with stop-motion animals.

Visit Brighton Guest Blog

The kind folk at the Visit Brighton Blog asked me to contribute:

Thursday, 30 July 2009

How it all works

Of all the questions people ask me, the most frequent is - how do films arrive? In a box? In a reel? The fascination with the mechanics of how we show films has always been there...I suppose it's the cousin of that other curiosity, how films are made.

The biggest treat for most people is a visit to the projection box, where our 1950/1970s hybrid projector lives alongside the more modern digital NEC and Doremi server. (The picture here is from when both 1950s projectors were working intact).

Films these days arrive in two formats: 35mm or Digital. When it's the former, it usually gets delivered in a box in five or six different reels (depending on film length, each reel is about 15 minutes long). These are then put together onto one big reel and played through the projector. Old fashioned systems used to play one reel at a time, with a second projector starting the next reel - this was called the changeover (recreated superbly in FIGHT CLUB) - the cue indicated by a mark on the upper right hand corner of the print - keep an eye out for that mark every fifteen minutes or so next time you watch a film.

When it arrives digitally, it's a little simpler (and less glamorous). We upload the drive, usually between 100-150GB (no bigger than a small book) into our 1.5 tetrabyte server, and hit play. I've already bored you with why digital is so much nicer (perfect focus, sound, no scratches, etc) and this is just one more reason.

So next time you sit back at the Dukes, see if you can tell the difference.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

New Episode of Flick's Flicks

Assistant Manager Felicity Ventom (aka Flick) is a multitalented individual, with music, comedy, and now TV presenting to her list of skills. The new episode of Flick's Flicks is out, a monthly show about films playing at Picturehouse Cinemas.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Guardian Gets It Wrong Again

As much as I admire The Guardian, and find it one of the few newspapers still worth reading, lately they have been on a losing streak. First the poorly written piece about British cinema by Andrew Pulver, which I took to task here, and then this provocative piece here written by Ivan Radford.

In it, Radford claims that cinema operators are 'riding the 3D gravy train' by charging an extra £2 for 3D screenings. This apparently is extortionate. He then gets a bunch of his facts wrong, including the price of the digital projectors, the box office revenue of the films he mentions, and he is unable to name the price of the 3D equipment required for cinemas. Well, I can tell you that the 3D polarizer itself is about £10,000, installing a new silver screen another £2,000, and then you need to pay the 3D supplier a percentage of the box office revenue. Add to that the digital projector itself (around £60,000) and the training costs, glasses, and maintenance, and £2 seems like not such a high price to pay.

Thankfully Phil Clapp, head of the Cinema Exhibitor's Association replied here. He breaks it down much better than I can why Radford is wrong, and how audiences, despite the higher price, have embraced 3D.

In addition, they have recently caused controversy by accusing comedian Richard Herring (and frequent Dukes guest) of racism. The row highlights some really poor journalism.

Is this caused by cutbacks in staff, leaving the few contributors they still have free to write unedited by more cautious minds? Or is it just laziness? Either way, it doesn't help the dying print industry to get so much so wrong, so often.

UK Box Office 24-26 July

This weekend HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE broke SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE's hold on the title of biggest grossing film of 2009, reaching £33.07 million on its second weekend out.

ANTICHRIST cracked the Top 10, surprisingly, given its certificate, subject matter and controversy. It certainly did great business at The Dukes. MOON came in at number 9, and given its exclusive run with us has been hugely successful.

Here's the Top 10:

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 586 sites, £5,176,950. Total: £33,070,181
2. The Proposal, 428 sites, £3,249,640. (New)
3. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, 507 sites, £2,151,251. Total: £25,257,783
4. Bruno, 445 sites, £1,212,641. Total: £13,153,625
5. The Hangover, 354 sites, £687,772. Total: £19,485,350
6. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 360 sites, £416,579. Total: £25,885,419
7. Public Enemies, 277 sites, £277,353. Total: £6,353,498
8. My Sister's Keeper, 283 sites, £224,320. Total: £5,602,199
9. Moon, 59 sites, £137,963. Total: £448,838
10. Antichrist, 38 sites, £99,092. (New)


When I say that the balance of public funding for the film industry is out of whack and that production receives a disproportionate amount of the funds available, I am not making this stuff up. The UK Film Council, in their 2009 Statistical Yearbook, outline public spending on film in 2008 as follows:

In millions
Production - £159.2
Distribution & Exhibition - £35.2
Training and skills - £21.4
Education - £18.4
Admin - £17.9
Archives - £12.1
Script development - £7.7
Export promotion - £6.7
Business support - £5.6

Notice how distribution and exhibition are bundled together. The figure of £35.2 million doesn't reflect the breakdown between the two completely different industries, and nowhere in the report is the split shown. Since 2006/07, when the UKFC spent £11 million on the Digital Screen Network, there hasn't been almost any investment in exhibition at all, despite the danger of closing many single screen and independent cinemas find themselves in, particularly in small towns and rural areas.

Another fact hidden by these figures is that the figures for training, script development, export promotion and business support are all accessories to production. None of these were available to exhibitors.

With multiplexes not supporting any British cinema apart from the Potters and the Bonds, where are all these fantastic homegrown pictures meant to be screened?

Monday, 27 July 2009

Comic-Con Roundup

Comic-Con wrapped yesterday. The world's biggest convention of its kind, it's held in San Diego each year, and it's an opportunity for studios to showcase upcoming sci-fi/fantasy/comic book based products to a friendly audience. Here are the highlights from the weekend:

- Clips from ALICE IN WONDERLAND 3D and panel with Burton and Depp. If there is a director that can take 3D to a more creative place, I'd put my money on Burton rather than Cameron.

- Finally people have seen extended footage of AVATAR. The reactions are mixed, with everyone agreeing it looks impressive, but less agreement on whether it makes sense. A high-ranking exhibition executive in London said it gave him a headache. Not good.

- Mike Judge's EXTRACT screening plus a Q&A with Judge. I'm a big fan of OFFICE SPACE and this sounds great, with Jason Bateman, and Ben Affleck apparently playing 'The Dude' from Lebowski.

-Robert Zemeckis has abandoned live action filmmaking and decided to dedicate his work to 3D & motion capture and he's previewed some of A CHRISTMAS CAROL here, with Jim Carrey. Apart from BACK TO THE FUTURE & ROGER RABBIT, I find Zemeckis' work boring.

Random mentions:
- Richard Kelly (DONNIE DARKO) has made THE BOX, a creepy parable with Cameron Diaz.
- NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake (more of a prequel, reboot, etc) unveiled with the guy who played Rorschach in WATCHMEN.
- WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE got a good reception and an endorsement from Maurice Sendak.
- SHERLOCK HOLMES panel with Robert Downey Jr. This looks better every day. Amazing trailer, great cast. Can Ritchie avoid screwing it up?
-Three films with the number 9 in the title: DISTRICT 9, 9 & NINE. Confused anyone?

Friday, 24 July 2009

The Debate Rages On

In today's Guardian, Andrew Pulver talks about a Renaissance for arthouse British cinema, and revives a debate that has been doing the rounds in the specialised film sector for some time: do exhibitors like City Screen do enough to support these films? The article also mentions City Screen Head of Programming Clare Binns as a scapegoat for the failure of certain titles.

Speaking as a City Screener myself, you can take my opinions with a grain of salt if you want, but I think that without City Screen there would be no Renaissance at all. As I mentioned in my previous post, lottery money keeps getting spent on making all these visionary, fantastically brave films, but no money is spent on making sure they find an audience. Without public funding, exhibitors have to programme their cinemas according to audiences' demands, not broadsheet critics'.

Most of the films mentioned in the piece all played at City Screen sites, including The Duke of York's. They didn't have long runs because the audience for them is small and the demand can be met with a couple of shows (or in the case of Sleep Furiously a whole week worth of shows). Andrew Pulver can't have it both ways - either there is a 'renaissance' for these films , all playing at Picturehouse cinemas, or City Screen is squashing their creativity by not playing them. Which one is it?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Venice Beckons

I'll be attending a 10-day course in Venice in late August organised by the International Confederation of Arthouse Cinemas (which sounds like Star Trek's version of a cinema group) which is funded by various European bodies.

They kindly invited me and even provided some financial support, and City Screen pitched in as well. Its the only course of its kind in the world, designed specifically for cinema managers, focusing on marketing, programming, funding and pretty much anything else related to running an arthouse cinema. We also get a pass for the Mostra di Cinema (Venice Film Festival), so at least the evenings should be exciting.

This course highlights the lack of exhibition-specific training that exists in Europe. It is assumed that running a cinema is no different than retail, and that popcorn is the real business. I think this is a truism that could only apply to the multiplexes, where uniformity of experience and efficiency are paramount. If we are to attract audiences other than teenagers, we need to offer something beyond an acceptably projected film and a pile of over-priced sweets. Atmosphere, service, quality (in programming and in food & beverage) and the sense of a night out - these are the qualities that adult customers are looking for. Skillset, the UK's funding body for training in the film industry, focuses most of its efforts on film production. The same way the UK Film Council focuses the majority of its funding on making films that often never arrive at cinemas. We've built, with Lottery money, a perfect cake-making machine but no conveyor belt to take these cakes to the public. A pile of squashed cakes sits on the shelves of filmmakers across the country. If I could extend my baking metaphor, we need more bakeries and less bakers!

I would say that if any other industry skills are transferable to the arthouse experience, it's not retail, but rather venue/club/bar management. Add to that a passion for cinema and a keen knowledge of your customer base. So hopefully I will pick up some of these skills in Venice. If not, a handful of great films and the 'Queen of the Adriatic' awaits.

Some good films set in Venice:
- Everybody Says I Love You (Woody Allen)
- Death in Venice (Visconti)
- Don't Look Now (Roeg)
- Casino Royale (Campbell)

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

UK Box Office

This weekend's UK Box office offers few surprises, with HARRY POTTER at the top of the list, and BRUNO dropping significantly. Good to see MOON in the Top 10 (opens at the Dukes on Friday).

UK top 10, 17-19 July
1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 584 sites, £19,784,924. (New)
2. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, 503 sites, £2,849,981. Total: £20,283,183
3. Bruno, 457 sites, £2,301,432. Total: £10,357,495
4. The Hangover, 359 sites, £881,514. Total: £18,142,083
5. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 405 sites, £678,743. Total: £24,919,977
6. Public Enemies, 360 sites, £470,651. Total: £5,728,410
7. My Sister's Keeper, 311 sites, £378,680. Total: £4,955,541
8. Moon, 57 sites, £157,867. (New)
9. Year One, 168 sites, £53,033. Total: £2,776,236
10. Night at the Museum 2, 203 sites, £49,570. Total: £19,560,553

Films I'm Looking Forward To This Year.

This is by no means comprehensive and may include things that end up being released next year, and is organised in order of release, not preference. It also includes some very embarassing titles.

- Aug 28th: BROKEN EMBRACES. Almodovar has never dissapointed me, and I could look at Penelope Cruz for hours.
- Aug 28th: FINAL DESTINATION 3D. I love this series, and I love 3D. Perfect.
- Aug 28th: HURT LOCKER. Kathryn Bigelow is awesome.
- 11 Sep: THE THING. Digital re-issue of Carpenter's classic. I've never seen this on the big screen, so yes. Most definitely a late show at the Dukes.
- 18 Sep: AWAY WE GO. I think Sam Mendes is a poor director, but Dave Eggers wrote this. So its all good in my book.
- 16 Oct: IMAGINARIUM OF DR PARNASSUS. Gilliam's return to pure fantasy. Hope it's more Munchausen than Fisher King.
- 23 Oct: THE FANTASTIC MR FOX. Wes. Anderson. End. Of. Story.
- 13 Nov (although this will probably move to January) THE ROAD. From the guys who brought you THE PROPOSITION, Dukes' members John Hillcoat and Nick Cave. Oh, and Cormac Macarthy (he's not a member though).
- 11 Dec: WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. This was my favorite children's book, and Spike Jonze directs. Dave Eggers wrote it, so again, all good.
- 18 Dec: AVATAR. History-changing cinema or the new PHANTOM MENACE?

Things I have no idea what the dates are: Miyazaki's PONYO, Malick's TREE OF LIFE, Chomet's THE ILLUSIONIST, and (most bizzarely) a remake of BAD LIEUTENANT, directed by Herzog and starring horse-face Nic Cage.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Alternative Content

Alternative content is the new buzz word in the film industry - for exhibitors, they are a saving grace that allow otherwise empty cinema screens to be filled with Opera, Theatre or even racing fans. For distributors, they are another piece of competing content taking up valuable screen time that would otherwise be showing their product.

Either way, its a growing market: the amount of alternative content events screened in the UK doubled in 2008 to 67, up from 31 in 2007. Opera experienced the biggest increase, from eight events in 2007 to 39 in 2008. The National Theatre have just joined Covent Garden and the Met in broadcasting their performances, and Helen Mirren in Phedre sold out faster than a Madonna concert.

This trend is on an upward climb and will probably remain that way as cinemas try and reinvent themselves as more than just places to see movies. Multiplexes are banking on 3D - the indies will need alternative content.

Don't be surprised to see cinemas (including this one) broadcasting football World Cup games in 2010.

Saturday, 18 July 2009


Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution, in which a a band of guerilla fighters overthrew the 40-year dictatorship of US-backed evil dude Somoza (as dramatized in the John Alcott-shot, Ron Shelton written, Nick Nolte-starring UNDER FIRE, an inspiration to my father to go to Nicaragua in the first place).

From 1985 until 1994, I lived in Nicaragua, which meant that my formative years of cinema going happened there. It was a strange and exciting place to watch movies, as it benefited from being on the socialist bloc's touring map. This meant a lot of Soviet, Cuban, Czech and Polish films,(like MOSCOW DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TEARS) but also, lots of Spanish-language arthouse, like Saura(CRIA CUERVOS...) Bunuel(LOS OLVIDADOS) and classics like SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, and Brazilian hits like LOLA AND HER TWO HUSBANDS. The complete lack of age certification system made for some awkward moments, but in retrospect it was a good thing, which is why I am ambivalent about restrictive age policies for children.

As my mom was involved in community art, we ended up showing 16mm films in poor neighbourhoods to hundreds of screaming children. The double bill was usually Chaplin's THE GOLD RUSH and Tomas Gutierrez Alea's THE DEATH OF A BUREAUCRAT. Both had enough visual gags and slapstick to keep even the most discerning 10 year old Nicaraguan boy laughing.

We also had some very commercial movie-going experiences, like queues around the block for DIRTY DANCING and a fairly awful disaster movie called HURRICANE (which was odd, given the amount of hurricanes that hit Nicaragua). These viewing habits, combined with visits to New York, where my brother would take me to the movies almost every day and I would spend hours at his video store watching things like FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF and RED HEAT, amounted to a genuine eclectic taste for the sublime and the trashy.

Viva la revolucion!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Harry Potter Breaks Records

Harry Potter opened on midnight showings across the world on Wednesday night, and managed to break the worldwide box office record for opening day with more than $104 million by combining the domestic gross of $58.18M and the international totals of $45.85M.

It also broke records here in the UK, with the biggest Wednesday night opening (£3 million) and in the US, a $200 million 5-day weekend opening is now possible.

The build-up from fans due to the delay in release from November last year has created a pent-up desire to see this film which has resulted in these spectacular numbers. Solid reviews (84% freshness at Rotten Tomatoes) will convince older viewers to give the film a chance as well.

This franchise still has legs, with two more films to follow, in 2010 and 2011. Once it finishes, the UK will struggle to find such a lucrative property to fuel its share of worldwide box office revenue.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Inlfation-Adjusted Top Films since 1975 in the UK

The UK Film Council have released the new Statistical Yearbook for 2009, a compendium of numbers that delight geeks like me. One of the new features this year includes an inflation-adjusted Top 20 chart of the most popular films of the last 35 years.

1975 is a great year to start counting, since it's the beginning of the modern blockbuster era with the release of JAWS that summer.

Here's the lineup:

1- Titanic (1997)
2- Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
3- Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
4- Mamma Mia! (2008)
5- Jaws (1975)
6- Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
7- Jurassic Park (1993)
8- The Full Monty (1997)
9- Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
10- Star Wars (1977)
11- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
12- Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)
13- Grease (1978)
14- Casino Royale (2006)
15- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
16- E.T. (1983)
17- Toy Story 2 (2000)
18- Shrek 2 (2004)
19- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
20- Quantum of Solace (2008)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Virgin Broadband Paving the Way

Virgin announced today its new generation of broadband services, with fat wide pipes pumping up to 10Mb of internet goodies into households. This is a major development for the film industry, which needs these higher speeds to accelerate its video-on-demand and streaming plans.

Already video-renting companies like Lovefilm are offering downloading services, and obviously customers are illegally downloading content left and right. If the industry can formulate a reasonably-priced, easy-to-use, high quality content delivery platform, customers will pay for it (as the success of iTunes has proven).

Malcolm Gladwell, in his review of Chris Anderson's (The Long Tail) new book, says that if the new technologies have shown us anything, is that there are no iron laws when it comes to the future of content delivery systems, and that free is not the only option. This will come to relief to everyone from filmmakers and distributors to cinema operators, who rely on customers spending money on films.

Bernard Dick, in his book Englufed, which chronicled the history of Paramount studios, says that exhibition is the key. He doesn't mean just cinemas, but anywhere a film is shown: internet, DVD, movie theatres, even iPhones. Finding the right way to deliver this content so that consumers will adopt it, and everyone can make a living, is the Holy Grail of the industry.

So well done to Branson, for (once again) being ahead of the curve.

Box Office Roundup

This week, to nobody's surprise, Sacha Baron Cohen's BRUNO ruled the box office. Although a smaller opening weekend number than BORAT (£5M vs £6.4M) it's a magnificent number for an 18 certificate film. Universal are releasing a 15 certificate version, allowing its prime audience, teenagers, to see the film in cinemas. That should guarantee a huge final number for the movie.

As I have mentioned before, the landscape is looking rough for arthouse, with no clear crossover hit. When COCO BEFORE CHANEL opens 31 July, distributors Optimum Releasing are hoping to reverse this trend. They certainly have a good track record at turning foreign languge titles into hits.

Here's the UK top 10:
1. Bruno, 456 sites, £5,000,229 (New)
2. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, 522 sites, £4,750,720. Total: £15,421,531
3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 469 sites, £1,449,282. Total: £23,580,163
4. The Hangover, 402 sites, £1,228,918. Total: £16,493,961
5. Public Enemies, 455 sites, £1,048,359. Total: 4,609,567
6. My Sister's Keeper, 351 sites, £675,948. Total: £4,075,837
7. Year One, 299 sites, £242,950. Total: £2,637,356
8. Night at the Museum 2, 283 sites, £106,420. Total: £19,475,421
9. Kambakkht Ishq, 52 sites, £104,849. Total: 551,294
10. Shortkut, 34 sites, £80,488 (New)

Thanks to Charles Gant at The Guardian for the numbers and analysis.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Harry Potter Arrives to Sweep Us All Away

Next Friday, the latest Harry Potter films arrives, making almost any other release irrelevant that week. The universal appeal of this film is hard to overestimate, as not only will children come out in droves, but also teenagers who grew up with the stories, and adults who read the books will flock to the multiplexes. Then of course the parents taking the whole family out.

Add to that huge anticipation given the delay in the film's release and the more grown-up themes (and glossy magazine photo-shoots) that have accompanied the marketing campaign and story lines, and there is no limit to what this film could gross from Friday.

What to do if you have a cinema and don't plan on showing HP6? You counter-programme and cater to the hardcore arthouse audience who have absolutely no interest in the young wizard. We are certainly doing that by showing eight different features, including Clare Denis' 35 SHOTS OF RHUM, Polish WW2 drama KATYN, Herzog's ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Michael Mann's HEAT, UK indie MOMMA'S MAN, Cuban film THE SILLY AGE and end of the world doc THE AGE OF STUPID - oh and fantastic THE MOON AND THE SLEDGEHAMMER. Phew!

Something for everyone. Except Harry Potter fans.

If you can't beat em, don't join 'em, ignore 'em!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Set Photos from The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Here are some pics by brother took on the set of the new Nicolas Cage movie, The Sorcerer's Apprentice. I can't really talk you through them, other than the big silver bird is clearly the Chrysler Building - and all of you know what the big green screen means, right?

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Jason Wood

Today I learned the sad news that Jason Wood, our programmer for the last five and half years, is leaving the company to become the new Director of Programming for the Curzon Group.

Jason, apart from being one of the top film programmers in the UK, is a great film writer, with several books published, including 100 Road Movies, 100 American Independent Films, The Faber Book of Mexican Cinema and Nick Broomfield. He's also regularly featured in The Guardian, Sight and Sound and is a regular moderator for filmmakers such as Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Roeg.

He wrote me this very classy message:

As you have hopefully no doubt been informed, I am leaving City Screen this coming Friday for pastures new. The decision to leave was a difficult and traumatic one and I leave with genuine sadness, regret and affection for the company. This sense of affection is equally applicable to the sites that I will no longer be involved with, and for obvious reasons the Duke of York’s is a cornerstone of this affection, both because it is my local, and because of the history and tradition it represents.

I’d like to place on record my thanks to you over the last few years. I think that we always had a very open and honest working relationship and I always valued your input, observations and suggestions. You have been instrumental in the success of the cinema both in terms of the films that it has shown and in terms of expanding the site into something entirely different: an exciting, and commercially viable multi-purpose venue. I am very sorry that I will not be part of the continued plans for expansion, but the Duke of York’s will continue to have my absolute support as a patron.

Please also pass on my gratitude to the rest of the staff and to those customers that on the many occasions I visited often stopped to comment how much they appreciated what we are doing.

The last five years working with Jason have been an education into the workings of the 21st century UK film industry, with huge hits (Volver, The Dark Knight, Fahrenheit 9/11) massive flops (Inside Deep Throat, Cars) and everything in between.

You'll be missed. Good night and good luck.


Mondays are typically holdovers day in the business. This is when the results from the weekend are in, and exhibitors and distributors negotiate to see what show times films will get (if any). For example, this Monday, our programmer arranged for a second week of Public Enemies based on the weekend business (which, while not spectacular, was not disastrous).
Mondays are tough for little films from small distributors, which often open on very small screen averages (the average box office revenue taken per screen in a weekend) and struggle to keep their screens. With over 500 films released a year in the UK, screen space scarce (specially in London), and blockbusters taking up most screens in multiplexes, it's difficult to stand out.
Because distributors spend most of their marketing budget upfront to build an audience from the opening weekend, if it doesn't perform from the Friday, its often hard to sustain the release, since all your advertising will be gone by the second week (unless you have a hit, in which case you can afford to increase your spend).
At The Dukes, despite being a single screen cinema, we are able to play nearly 300 distinct feature films a year (not counting private screenings). What that also means is that no film, no matter how big, plays for more than two weeks and more likely, it'll only play for one week shared with another title.
So what? It's a tough business, audiences are picky, and with so much bad product clogging the attention of customers, it's extra hard to get them to notice your little film.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

US/UK Box Office Results

UPDATE: The UK figures are in: ICE AGE 3D is the biggest 3D opener ever, with £7.64 million. The runner up, PUBLIC ENEMIES, took £2.23 million. Charles Gant provides some great analysis at The Guardian:

With decidedly mixed reviews in the quality papers for Michael Mann's latest, backers Universal will be moderately relieved with a £2.23m opening gross for Public Enemies, including Wednesday/Thursday previews of £635,000. The result cannot match star Johnny Depp's most commercially potent debuts, but is almost identical to the performance of recent Michael Mann films. Miami Vice opened in August 2006 with £2.23m, including £309,000 in previews. Collateral started its life in September 2004 with £2.24m, including £215,000 in previews. Public Enemies' period setting was a potential commercial obstacle for Universal, although at least the distributor could present its film as a clear alternative to the generic blockbusters currently clogging up multiplexes.

The children ruled the box office in America this weekend again, with TRANSFORMERS 2 & ICE AGE 3 takeing about $40 million each. This left the field wide open for a bit of counterprogramming, which Universal did with its adult crime summer movie PUBLIC ENEMIES. Taking $40 million over a 5 day period (which includes Wednesday and Thursday previews), it surpassed films like COLLATERAL and ROAD TO PERDITION, which bear comparison.

This is a formidable result, despite lukewarm reviews, period setting and long running time. Johnny Depp and gangster genre fans will have come out in full force to support the film. Takings at the Dukes were not bad considering the heatwave and the BBC Wimbledon coverage. (Hopefully) the rain should bring customers back to the cinema mid-week.

On that note: a great article about how Michael Mann mixes sound: Michael Mann Sound Design on Public Enemies.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Premiere Madness for Public Enemies

Here's a very small selection of images from our Public Enemies premiere. Please visit our Facebook or Myspace pages for the full set. Photos by Tim Richardson.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Digital vs 35mm

Looking at PUBLIC ENEMIES last night on our screen, I have have now completely abandoned any reservations about the new medium. Having seen the film on 35mm a couple of weeks ago, I can see how the digital version is vastly superior.

No reel joints, no scratches, no breaks in sound, rich deep blacks, stable image, perfect aspect ratio, and spectacular surround sound. No motion blur, no danger of a reel spooling off, no danger of the digital reader failing to read the soundtrack.


Tarantino is insisting that his new film, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, be screened in 35mm, and it is quite ironic (and annoying) coming from the man who digitally inserted scratches into DEATH PROOF. Showing a film digitally doesn't only mean a better experience, it also means a lot less work for our projectionist, who doesn't need to rewind the film (and at 152 minutes, Basterds will be quite a long rewind), and doesn't need to make-up and break-down the print at the beginning and end of the run.

In the wider context, a digital print can be uploaded onto our server and sent off to another cinema, without the need to produce hundreds of expensive 35mm copies for each cinema showing it. This means less expense for the distributor and a wider reach for films, particulary smaller ones.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Karl Malden 1912-2009

Veteran actor Karl Malden died yesterday, at the age of 97. No chance of a media circus here; Malden was a respected actor whose face you've seen in a hundred films however, he never really broke out as a major star due to his lack of matinee idol looks.

He's probably most famous for being Brando's sidekick in ON THE WATERFRONT and A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (for which he won an Oscar). His most popular role was in the TV series STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, co-starring with another Oscar winner, Michael Douglas. IMDB lists 70 different screen roles.

So, a solid, decent career. A comparison for our age might be someone like Will Patton, William Fitchner or Scott Glenn.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

New Inglourious Basterds Trailer

Linked from Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily: