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?