Sunday, 31 May 2009

3D Marches on

Another 3D related record was broken this weekend when Pixar's UP opened in 1,534 3D theatres out of a total of 3,766.

With an estimated total take for the weekend of $68 million, this is the biggest 3D release so far, and Pixar's reputation and popularity should cement 3D in the public's mind as much as the often-touted AVATAR.

The fact that industry leading animation giant Pixar decided to jump on the stereoscopic bandwagon is proof that this is not your grandad's 3D - or your older brother's. Like it or not, it's here to stay.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Boring Stuff That I Like

In preparing for one of my papers, I came across Terry Ilott's Budgets & Markets: a study of the budgeting of European Films, which is a thorough examination of thirteen different European films, some hits, some failures, looking carefully at their budgets and marketing plans.

The language in the book is enough to drive any pure cinephile nuts, as it argues that Europe should adopt more of the Hollywood techniques (audience and market research) and develop a much more business-savvy industry, in order for it to compete with the US.

The statistics in the book undermine its own argument, however, since it cites France as the only European country that has a healthy film industry and that has been able to contain the American invasion of product that has so completely overwhelmed the UK, for example. France's mixed system relies on heavy state subsidy.

Not that there aren't lessons to be learnt: apart from a few privileged auteurs, filmmakers should have to explain who the films they are making are for...

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Inverse Proportional Trailer Rule

This is a very unscientific study, but it seems that the better the trailer, the worse the film, and vice-versa. I've held this opinion for a while now, as it seems that the more heavily stylised, the emptier the character, the dumber the plot, the easier it is to make a good film trailer.
The most recent example of this is Sherlock Holmes. The trailer is funny, full of action, cheeky, knowing, beautifully shot, and you can almost feel yourself reaching for your pocket to buy a ticket. But there is really no chance this could be a good film, given it's directed by Guy Ritchie, movie criminal number one.

Any trailer by Michael Bay usually can put me in the 'summer mood' but the films are always 100% awful. On the opposite side of things: Children of Men had a very unclear, messy trailer and it was one of the best films of its year.

Does anyone have any other examples?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Inglorious Basterds Review

From our programmer Jason Wood:

After the major disappointment that was Death Proof, Tarantino's bloody and unbowed war movie is a surprising success. Structured in chapters, the film is a gloriously OTT and irreverent revisiting of Enzo G. Castllari's The Inglorious Bastards that also takes in the war movies of Sam Fuller and Robert Aldrich and Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti western series. Some of the set-pieces are brilliantly executed and unlike Death Proof the film is not enslaved to its B-movie origins (but retains some lovely retro touches). Michael Fassbender as a toffiish British colonel confirms his stature as one of Britain's strongest acting talents and the rest of the cast including a number of genre stalwarts) are similarly well-marshalled. The use of music is characteristically strong, including a revisit of Bowie and Moroder's theme to Paul Schrader's Cat People. Definitely not for the squeamish, which is just how Tarantino's fans (and after Death Proof he is lucky to still have some) like it. Christopher Waltz carried off the Best Actor award as the sadistic and self-serving Nazi ‘Jew hunter’. Broadsheet reviews have been poor – with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw failing to understand it given his comments re the narrative – but this shouldn’t harm it’s box office prospects. The lengthy running time might…

Note: this review appeared originally in the Picturehouse Blog.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Palme D'Or - what does it mean?

Commercially speaking, there are only two awards that can make a difference: an Oscar or the Cannes Palme D'Or. Haneke's The White Ribbon (distributed in the UK by Artificial Eye) has just collected the Cannes top prize. Will it translate into admissions? Here's a look at the previous 5 years:

2004 - Fahrenheit 9/11 - £6.5 million
2005 - The Child - £100,000 (aproximate figure)
2006 - The Wind That Shakes the Barley - £3.65 million
2007 - 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days - £300,000 (aprox figure)
2008 - The Class - £1 million ( estimated)
2009 - The White Ribbon - ?

Apart from The Child and 4 Months, which were incredibly challenging subject matters for audiences, involving abortion and child trafficking, the prize seems to have box office gold attached to it. We'll have to wait until the autumn months to find out.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Summer Lineup

The summer months are a difficult time for arthouse cinemas. With good weather, nobody wants to be indoors, adults have less time because children are on holiday, and Hollywood releases all its huge tentpole films this time of year, swallowing up all the potential attention away from the smaller films.

So here's this summers biggest films:

Terminator: Salvation - 3 June. This could be a healthy re-boot after the awful T3. Christian Bale can do no wrong it appears. Easily one of the biggest films of the year.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - 19 June. More Michael Bay awfulness. The trailer is as enjoyable as this gets, but it won't stop it from making a ton of money. (notice the tendency to add a colon to film titles these days).

Ice Age 3 (in 3D).- 1 July The least annoying (apart from Pixar) of the hilarious animals comedy franchises. 3D should boost what is probably going to be the least interesting of these films.

Public Enemies. - 1 July. I know Universal have high hopes for this (£12-£15 million in the UK)and you certainly can't go wrong with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale taking the roles DeNiro and Pacino played in HEAT. Add Oscar winner Marion Cottiliard and it would seem difficult to screw it up. It all depends on whether the female audience will come out for Johnny.

And now the summer gets crowded:

7 July - Bruno
15 July - Harry Potter 6
24 July - Taking of Pelham 123
31 July - Land of the Lost
7 Aug - GI Joe
21 Aug - Inglorious Basterds

I think the sleeper hit of the summer won't be any of these, but rather COCO BEFORE CHANEL, the biopic of Coco Chanel starring Audrey Tatou. This has LA VIE EN ROSE numbers written all over it.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Yes Cannes Do

More reports from the front lines of Cannes from our programmer Jason Wood:

The Time that Remains
Unfolding over four episodes, The Time That Remains is a semi-autobiographical work from Palestinian director Elia Suleiman that covers the period in his family’s history spanning 1948 until recent times. Inspired by the diaries of his father, a resistance fighter, the film also takes in the letters of Suleiman’s mother to the various members of his family who were forced to leave the country. Described by the director as ‘an attempt to portray the daily life of those Palestinians who remained in their land and were labeled ‘Israeli-Arabs’, it is a successful synthesis of style, politics and personal diary, at the centre of which is the director’s own Keatonesque performance. Like Suleiman’s earlier Divine Intervention, The Time That Remains manages to blend humour and deft social/political commentary and there are a number of beautifully visual gags that put one in mind of Roy Andersson. On the whole, I must confess that I found this to be less immediately satisfying than the director’s earlier Divine Intervention, but like Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman, this is a Cannes title to which I find my memory returning with some frequency, discovering fresh thoughts and pleasures each time.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Haneke knocks it out....

...of the park according to our programmer, Jason Wood. HIDDEN was hailed a masterpiece and made over £1 million in the UK, a rare achievement for a foreign language film. After what many considered the misstep of his American remake of FUNNY GAMES, he seems to be back on form. I'll let Jason speak for himself:

The White Ribbon
The equal of anything Michael Haneke has made, The White Ribbon is set in a Protestant village in northern Germany on the eve of World War I. A series of disturbing and distressing incidents take place, which gradually assume the character of a ritual of punishment and torture. Beautifully composed in black and white by Christian Berger, this is a brilliantly executed and intellectually stimulating work that creates an air of mystery, suspense and dread from the very first frame. The film, like Hidden, is characteristic of Haneke in that it provides clues rather than answers. This is a rich and detailed work to be enjoyed on multiple levels; seeing it will be one of the essential requirements of the coming year.

Cannes Update

Tarantino's INGLORIOUS BASTERDS was never going to have an easy time with the critics, but no one expected Peter Bradshaw's one-star review in the Guardian.

Our programmer, Jason Wood, who is a Tarantino-sceptic, loved it, which gives me hope. Lately Bradshaw can't seem to give any film a middling review. It's turkey or masterpiece with him. Basterds is set to open in August and I have huge commercial expectations for this. Tarantino (despite Death Proof) still has a huge following, and is one of the few directors whose name means something to cinemagoers.

Almodovar's BROKEN EMBRACES screened to Bradshaw's approval and the film is set for a end of August bank holiday opening (the same slot Bad Education and Volver used to great success.) Working with Penelope Cruz in her new-found Oscar-winner status should guarantee huge box office. The rumours of Almodovar curating the next Brighton Festival certainly have us excited.

Other little gems that Jason has reported back on: Alan Resnais' new film, WILD REEDS, with my favorite contemporary French actor Matthew Amalric, and POLYTECHNIQUE a French film that recalls Elephant in its subject matter.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The One and Only

On Thursday 21st at 7.00pm BBC 1's THE ONE SHOW will be showing a segment about the 100 Years of the 1909 Cinematograph Act that was filmed at our cinema. It was presented by Giles Brendwith and features interviews with David Trevor Jones (head of the Cinema Theatre Association) and yours truly, plus lots of lovely footage of our cinema.

Monday, 18 May 2009

where are the films?

Putting all your proverbial film eggs into one basket is no longer an option in the brave new world of multimedia, multichannel, multiplatform options that audiences (or is it consumers?) have to choose from.

Here at the Dukes, despite being older than most technologies bar film, we like to keep up with the times and offer our customers a little bit of everything.

Thursday and Friday last week we hosted two concerts as part of The Great Escape music festival and on Saturday we hosted the UK's biggest Eurovision Party.

Next week we have Phill Jupitus and Phil Wilding doing their 'Perfect Ten' podcast on Saturday, Kristin Hersh on Wednesday, and (phew!) Richard Herring and Andrew Collins do their own podcast live on stage on Thursday...

Meanwhile, we'll be screening five different main features, including an American indie, a Kubrick re-issue, a Scandinavian comedy, an American classic and a kids' film. Who needs video-on-demand, pay-per-view, cable or satelitte? It's all here at the Dukes.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


The Picturehouse team continue their adventures in Cannes, with endless screenings and some celebrity hangouts (see picture above of programmer Jo Blair and Quentin Tarantino).

So far their top five:


Apart from Woodtsock, none of these are sure-fire hits and will struggle to find an audience in the UK. But that's what Picturehouse is here for.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Cannes 2.0

The Picturehouse team is out in Cannes, and you can follow their movements via their fantastic blog or via twitter.

So now my envy at not being there can be accentuated by seeing smug pictures of the team hanging out with filmmakers and starlets on the beaches of France. Not really.

Check them out: Picturehouse Blog and follow them at Picturehouse Twitter

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Inglorious Basterds

While in France earlier this week, we visited the war museum La Coupole, a former Nazi V2 rocket factory and launch site. An impressive, Bond-like structure with 5 metre-thick concrete walls, the place was not only a reminder of Hitler's determination to conquer Britain, but also of the particular brutality of his army.

Quentin Tarantino is bringing us Inglorious Basterds, a remake of an Italian Dirty Dozen rip off from the 70s. The trailers so far suggest Guns of Navarone meets Kill Bill, and if he can avoid the self-indulgence of Death Proof, he might have another hit on his hands. All will be revelaed in Cannes later this month, where the film will screen.

In the meantime, you can't go wrong with Sam Fuller's The Big Red One as one the best WW2 films ever made.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Parlez vous francais?

We're heading off to a mini-holiday in France tomorrow and it got me thinking about the state of the French film industry. Held as an example around the world, the French model largely subsists due to an amazing exhibition sector.

Below is a comparison of some key figures that highlight the differences between French and UK exhibition sectors. Note how France has a higher percentage of national films, independent cinemas, fewer multiplexes and finally 16 million admissions per year more than the UK.

Population 64 million
Admissions 178 million
Number of Multiplexes 164
Screens 5362 Screens 3514
Percentage of French Films 35.6 %

United Kingdom
Population 60 million
Admissions 162 million
Number of Multiplexes 265
Percentage of UK Films 28.5% (includes UK/US co-productions)
(2007 figures)

The French market is distinguished from the UK by the significance of the vertically integrated national players within it. All three principal exhibition circuits are in fact also present in the distribution sector, where they are solidly established, with a cumulative market share of over 30%. The maintenance of the positions of the three circuits protects the market against the penetration by US players into all segments of the film industry, as is the case in the UK (MEDIA Salles Country Profiles, 1992).

When we were in Paris last year we were amazed at the sheer size and scope of the amount and variety of films available to see on any given day in the capital. Around 300 different features play on any given day, in an incredible collection of cinemas, from small arthouses to huge multiplexes. Viva la France!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

To go where no film has gone before

I saw STAR TREK last night at the Odeon at a midnight show, with our Trekkie bar manager Sarah and her boyfriend Ulysses. While I enjoyed the film and thought it was a loving and clever recreation of everything that made the original series so great, I also had a strong feeling that this is going to be one of the biggest films of the year.

The ingredients are all there: a built-in fanbase, a young, sexy cast, plenty of action, sci-fi, amazing effects, a bit of romance, a relatively short running time, and a relentless pace that while never gives up is not tiring like so many Michael Bay films.

If the history of the box office of Star Trek shows us anything, is that audiences prefer the films when they are light and entertaining, rather than self-important. Hence Star Trek IV is the number one on the chart, followed by First Contact.

I'd say this has huge blockbuster potential: around £30 million in the UK alone.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Uk Box Office vs City Screen Box Office

The differences between the national box office chart and the City Screen chart highlights the disparity between mainstream audiences and the arthouse customers.

The weekend of 24-26 April, the number one film in the UK was State of Play. At Picturehouse cinemas, though, it was In the Loop. The number two film nationally was Monsters Vs Aliens, which didn't even make the top five at Picturehouse sites.

Fast & Furious, the number three film nationally, didn't even appear to play at almost any Picturehouse sites. What does this demonstrate? Perhaps that we're not competing with the multiplexes, since often we're not even showing the same films, but rather complementing them. That the diet of films aimed at tweens is NOT the only option out there if you know where to look.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Bank Holiday Idleness - Pelham123

There's a remake of The Taking of Pelham 123 coming out soon with Denzel Washington, John Travolta and James Gandolfini. Tony Scott directs. My brother worked on the 2nd Unit (where all the fun stuff happens) and here are some pics from the set. Yes, they set up car stunts with hot wheels. Awesome.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Our very own films reviews show

Felicity Ventom, Assistant Manager at the Dukes and multi-talented musician, comedian, and now broadcaster, hosts Flick's Flicks, a monthly review show that is streamed online and covers all the films that play at the Picturehouse group.

How she finds the time, I will never know!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The summer begins

The sun is out, and a spin-off franchise is released. It must be summer. X-Men Origins: Wolverine opened worldwide this weekend (in fact you could see the film from Tuesday night at the Odeon!) and in the US it's most likely going to take around $90 million.

Not bad for a film that's been available to download for months, received middling reviews, and was released in the middle of a global flu panic. Movies are, after all, the last refuge for people to escape. Thank goodness.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Exhibition Responds to Swine Flu

The Cinema Exhibitor's Association has released a statement regarding swine flu to its members. Here's an extract:

It is obviously important for exhibitors to be prepared for the problem, without overreacting or indicating to the public that they think cinemas are in any way more vulnerable than any other place of entertainment where members of the public gather. Our recommendation to members at this point is therefore that they simply track official information.

In Mexico, key film releases are being delayed due to the outbreak. How far will this spread? Talking to my mother the other day, she was recalling how cinemas would close in some summers in the late 1940s in New York City due to polio epidemics. So we've been here before right?

Either way, things look gloomy with a very hot summer predicted by the Met, a global pandemic and the recession grinding on. Here's to rain, jobs and swine flu becoming the new bird flu.