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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).