Thursday, 31 December 2009

2009: What A Year....

This year has been a fascinating one from an exhibition perspective. I feel lucky that I have been able to chronicle some of the adventures that our industry is undergoing on this blog.

In the biggest technological shakeup exhibition has undergone since the move to sound in the late 1920s, cinemas across the UK (and the world) are switching to digital fast. After what seemed to be an industry dragging its feet over whether to be or not to be (digital), the steam train of 3D has forced their hand and at least in the UK, an avalanche of switch overs has occured in anticipation of AVATAR. The gamble seems to have paid off.

The real political and economic effects on the UK's official bodies is yet to be felt, as the UKFC and the BFI merge, and we get a new Tory government that will most certainly cut spending.

Personally, my trip to the cinema manager's training in Venice was invaluable in terms of networking and learning about the realities of the cinema business in Europe. Attending a world-class festival was pretty exciting too. The papers I have written for my MA paper which focused on marketing, government support for exhibition and an in-depth study of City Screen allowed me to speak to some intelligent, polemical, powerful and downright controversial figures in the UK film industry. It's been a steep learning curve.

I must mention Jim at Bigger Picture Research for providing the numbers and the necessary analysis that is so often absent from any discussion about film.

Things to look out for next year: the make or break of 3D, the survival of independents in the wake of the switchover, and the ability of the exhibtion sector to fully exploit the new formats and channels.

I'll be attending the Berlinale this year with some of my new European contacts and returning to Venice again this time as a coordinator for the manager's course. Some of my other projects will include my dissertation (which will be about cinema networks) helping Cine Esteli get back on its feet, and a possible trip to Chile for a conference on Latin American cinema (and a quick visit to my brother). So an exciting year all round.

Despite the bells of doom ringing across the world, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, millions of people still go to the movies, and thousands of films are made, distributed and exhibited with great passion and enthusiasm by an army of people that are clearly not in it for the money.

My top 10 films of the year:

- UP

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Monday, 28 December 2009

US Box Office

Numbers for the Uk are not forthcoming due to the bank holiday, so here are the American figures. AVATAR continues to dominate, with SHERLOCK HOLMES coming in a close second. This is officially the biggest weekend in box office history. AVATAR now has a worldwide take of $617 million.

1. Avatar - $75M
2. Sherlock Holmes - $65.3M
3. Alvin & Chipmunks: The Squeakquel - $50M
4. It's Complicated - $22.1M
5. Up In The Air - $24.5M
6. Blind Side - $11.73M
7. Princess And The Frog - $8.6M
8. Nine - $5.5M
9. Did You Hear About The Morgans? - $5M
10. Invictus - $4.3M

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Splendor Cinema Podcast 1

So, we've started a podcast. Robert Beams and me sat down on Sunday and had a chat about our favourite films of the year and here's the result. More to follow....

Splendor Cinema Podcast 1

Christmas Appeal - Cine Esteli

Some of you might have heard me banging on about CINE ESTELI, a single screen 1950s cinema in Esteli, Nicaragua. I spent nine years (1985-1994) in Nicaragua and watched quite a few films at this cinema (including some seminal viewing experiences like BLUE VELVET). It's still operating but is in risk of being closed given poor infrastructure and low admissions. I am trying to get the place refurbished and help Eric, the guy who runs it, to be able to programme something other than Hollywood leftovers.

Actress GRETA SCACCHI has agreed to be a patron of the cinema and will be attending our fund raising screening of CINEMA PARADISO on the 29th December at 6.15pm

We've got a Facebook page for it here.

Please do come along and join us for a great cause and a fantastic film.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Uk Box Office 18-20 Dec

As expected, one of the biggest films of the year (or the decade, if you believe the hype) opened this weekend and it seems the entire industry, from critics to audiences, got behind it. Although there is consensus that the plot and dialogue are clunky, that didn't stop TITANIC from becoming the highest grosser in film history. The numbers are impressive in every category, and there is obviously no precedent as no other 3D film has ever opened this wide. Adding up its $73 million from America plus its worldwide takings, the film is very close to recouping its budget within the first week or release. This should (but probably won't) silence the 3D nay-sayers. It might be a gimmick, but it's the commercial salvation of the business.

1- AVATAR (£8,362,708) - Includes previews, IMAX, 3D and 2D.
2- ST TRINIAN'S 2 (£1,582,125)
3- A CHRISTMAS CAROL (£1,001,530)
4- NATIVITY (£577,238)
5- PLANET 51 (£451,280)
10- 2012 (£171,827)

Sunday, 20 December 2009

District 9 Competition - Now Closed

One of the best films this year was Neill Blomkamp's directorial debut DISTRICT 9, which gracefully and intelligently wove politics into an entertaining sc-fi story, blending documentary and action filmmaking techniques.

I've got some Blu-Rays and DVDs to give away, so please email me the answer to the following question at

- What film based on a video game was Neill Blomkamp slated to direct for Peter Jackson?

Competition closes on 28th December.

Monday, 14 December 2009

UK Box Office 11-13 Dec

After six weeks in release, Disney's A CHRISTMAS CAROL made its way to the top spot, demonstrating why they released it so early in the first place. This is the last week they have to use all those 3D screns before AVATAR comes along on Friday.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE debuted at second place, with a less than spectacular number, which possibly shows two things: 1-the book is more popular in America, and 2-This appeals more to Spike Jonze/arthouse fans than children (we were very busy at The Dukes). Unbelievably, A SERIOUS MAN hangs in the Top 10 4 weeks after release with just over 100 prints.

1- A CHRISTMAS CAROL (£1,538,620)
3- PLANET 51 (£771,433)
5- TWILIGHT: NEW MOON (£757,822)
6- NATIVITY (£673,585)
8- 2012 (£474,513)
9- THE BOX (£251,496)
10- A SERIOUS MAN (£133,209)

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Quick Update

Things are a bit mental for me right now, both personally and professionally, hence the radio silence lately. Apologies, faithful readers!
To follow next week: a round-up of the year's best films, a competition to win DISTRICT 9 DVDs and Blu-Rays, and a podcast with guests from our own staff.

So until then, all the best...

Monday, 7 December 2009

UK Box Office 4-6 Dec

This week PARANORMAL finally booted Bella and Edward off the top slot, as the marketing campaign of people experiencing 'strange' events after seeing the film takes a life of its own on, including an amusing (and completely false) anecdote about Spielberg getting locked in his office after seeing it. New releases this week include the sub-par animated PLANET 51, Richard Kelly's THE BOX, and ME AND ORSON WELLES which came in just outside the top 10. A SERIOUS MAN, with just 80 prints (expanded from an initial 50) has surpassed £1 million, not bad for such a limited release. Next week, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE will smash its way to the top spot.

2- TWILIGHT: NEW MOON (£1,624,049)
3- A CHRISTMAS CAROL (£1,526,476)
4- PLANET 51 (£1,097,530)
6- 2012 (£878,297)
7- NATIVITY (£687,348)
8- THE BOX (£474,935)
9- THE DESCENT PART 2 (£241,246)
10- A SERIOUS MAN (£233,357)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Best Film of the Year?

This month Sight and Sound publishes its annual round up of the best films of the year, where over 100 critics and academics rate their Top 5 films of 2009. The system is very flawed, as it includes films that only critics at festivals could see, or films that haven't been released theatrically this year (but will in 2010).

Also, many critics intentionally mention films that they know have no chance of distribution in a last ditch attempt to gain some notoriety for titles that would otherwise dissappear.

That said, the highest rated feature of 2009 according to the most respected and acclaimed people that write about films is A PROPHET. Released in January next year, you lucky people can see it at The Dukes on Sunday as it's the closing film of the CINECITY Film Festival. Directed by Jacques Audiard (who crafted the superb THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED) this is an enjoyable, powerful, masterful movie that remains proof that artistry need not be divorced from crowd-pleasing.

As of this post, there are plenty of tickets left for A PROPHET, so come on down and see for yourself if this, in fact, the best film of 2009 (or 2010?).