Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Best of 2010

Later this week Rob and I will record our 'Best Of' podcast - exactly one year ago, our very first podcast was a summary of 2009. Back then, I had probably seen more films than Rob had- now that ratio has reversed radically, with Rob having seen hundreds of films at the Dukes and festivals. My record is much poorer and therefore my list is less authoritative - but somehow I feel like my list wouldn't be too different anyway. Deciding what to include is difficult, and for me, it's just everything I've seen in the year, including things that haven't been released in 2010 (or might never get a release here).

Listen to an audio version of this and Rob's list on iTunes or on the Picturehouse site.

One of the most moving films I have seen in years. Simple, beautiful, perfect.
A mashup of Polanski, Cronenberg and Powell - yet completely at home in Aronofsky's obsession with self-destruction.
The most relevant of all films released this year - media and business exposed in a Citizen Kane-style tableau of greed and ambition.
Nobody can create a film history pastiche like Scorsese and still move you. His best in years.
Further proof that Korea (and its protectionist film policies) are near the top of the pile when it comes to talent. Gripping, surprising, completely original
A disturbing, powerful and wonderfully allegorical story that can be interpreted in a million ways.
As good as HAPPINESS - scary, poignant and brave.
A great 1970s movie - with a different production date this would be a New Hollywood classic.
A tiny film that proves you really don't need much money to create drama - just an eye and a subject.
10- REVOLUCION (compilation of short films, Carlos Reygadas' episode)
The Reygadas episode of this portmanteau is controlled chaos and cinematic genius. Proves he can do so more than 'slow' cinema.


Monday, 20 December 2010

UK Box Office 17-19 Dec

Disney opened TRON: LEGACY after an expensive budget ($170 million) and an equally expensive worldwide campaign ($150 million), and although I am skeptical about the legs on this title, it certainly did OK: nearly £2 million, and an over 4K screen average is nothing to be sniffed at. BURLESQUE, on the other hand, struggled out of the gate and stumbled along with just over £1K sreen average. Park Circus reissued IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, doing its 158th week of business and still going strong!

1- TRON: LEGACY (£1,954,589)(NEW)
2- CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF DAWN TREADER (£1,224,507)(2 weeks, total £4,773,562)
3- HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS - PART 1 (£870,110)(5 weeks, total £44,317,641)
4- THE TOURIST (£716,661)(2 weeks, total £2,913,208)
5- MEGAMIND (£566,806)(3 weeks, total £5,542,603)
6- BURLESQUE (£425,787)(New)
7- ANIMALS UNITED (£306,156)(New)
8- FRED: THE MOVIE (£252,117)(New)
9- UNSTOPPABLE (£157,051)(4 weeks, total £4,404,584)
10- DUE DATE (£75,227) (7 weeks, total £10,476,443)

Friday, 17 December 2010


The BFI announced yesterday a series of restructuring measures ahead of their new lead role in shaping film policy in the UK. One of the key decisions was to close the current gallery at the BFI Southbank and replace it with the BFI Library. This will come as a blow to moving image practitioners and enthusiasts, as there are few spaces like this, specially in such high profile locations. The rest of the announcement holds few surprises, with cost-cutting measures across the board, and a 'research centre' at Berkhamstead - an odd location for such a centre.

Here is what the BFI said in its announcement:

"At the core of the proposals are:

1) A plan to bring greater coherence to the cultural programme across the whole of the BFI, a move which will also reduce costs and create more incentives for fundraising and philanthropy. A new post of Director of BFI Public Programmes will lead a unified team of programmers across cinemas, festivals, distribution, digital and print.

2) An aim to further increase the number of people across the UK and internationally who can engage with the BFI's public programme and film culture. Digital technologies will play a critical part in this and the BFI proposes renewing infrastructure and investing in new skills.

3) Closure of the BFI Gallery at BFI Southbank as part of the prioritisation on those activities that only the BFI can deliver.

4) A proposal to move the BFI Library and reading room from its current location and create new facilities at BFI Southbank in the space currently used for the BFI Gallery.

5) Establishing a bespoke research centre for academics, the film industry and researchers in the heart of the BFI National Archive at Berkhamsted.

6) A stringent review of procurement processes to achieve economies; reducing overheads by making savings in support costs; boosting new business through the development of commercial opportunities both within the UK and internationally; a drive to increase fundraising income and philanthropy."

What this actually means in the short or even long term remains to be seen. Let's hope Greg Dyke knows what he's doing.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Uk Box Office 10-12 Dec

Another chapter in the NARNIA franchise rolls out, knocking POTTER out of the top spot but not out of the game. THE TOURIST opens stronger here than in the US, and SOMEWHERE makes a modest entry in the Top 10 with nearly 2K screen average. Look at the drop off in takings after MEGAMIND - the box office is up, but at the expense of the little guys.

2- HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 (£1,847,697)(4 weeks,total £42,389,209)
3- THE TOURIST (£1,298,193) (New)
4- MEGAMIND (£1,160,002)(2 weeks, total £4,500,086)
5- UNSTOPPABLE (£395,263)(3 weeks, total £3,978,235)
6- DUE DATE (£188,331)(6 weeks, total £10,259,040)
7- MONSTERS (£147,966)(2 weeks, total £678,083)
8- SOMEWHERE (£115,728)(New)
9- NO PROBLEM (£107,340) (New)
10 - THE AMERICAN (£107,020)(3 weeks, total £1,173,565)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Disney Trade Show '10

Yesterday I attended the annual Walt Disney Exhibitor's Trade Show, which is a chance for the company to show exhibitors upcoming 'product', as they like to call films, and take the temperature on their slate. I find these events interesting as they give you a good insight into the inner workings of one of the biggest distributors in the UK, and obviously, one of the biggest entertainment companies worldwide. The UK film division is but a small part in a global corporation which has dominated family entertainment for decades.

Recently, Disney has undergone some corporate restructuring, with changes of power at the top and some aggressive acquisitions. Dreamworks studios and Marvel are shiny new items in their baskets, and they were keen to show these purchases off. The Marvel stock, particulary, will provide huge profits for Disney. Their first film from this new brand will be AVENGERS, and subsequently all the sequels and spin-offs from that property.

We had a chance to see some early footage from CARS 2, trailers and 'sizzles' for REAL STEEL, THE HELP, WINNIE THE POOH (my personal favorite), JOHN CARTER OF MARS, I AM NUMBER FOUR, PROM, PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN and of course TRON. Apart from Winnie, none of these releases really excited me at all and really don't belong in any arthouse/indie cinema.

TRON, on which Disney seems to be betting a lot, looks to me like a dud. The 23 minutes we saw are visually impressive, but (like the original) lacks any humour or life in it. There is nothing inherently wrong with that as I admire the original, but I don't see hordes of teenagers coming out for it.

Finally we had a screening of TANGLED (originally titled RAPUZNEL, as it's based on that fairy tale). The film has impressive 3D animation, probably the best I have seen so far (including Pixar's UP and TOY STORY 3) and plenty of witty dialogue and sight gags, but I am really not the target audience for this film. I am not a big fan of the 'canonical' Disney feature stuff (bar the classics from the 1930s-1940s) and the soppy songs just put me to sleep - literally. But it's a classy piece of 'product' and will most likely do very well.

Monday, 6 December 2010

UK Box Office 3-5 Dec

Another week, another HARRY POTTER dominated box office. MEGAMIND took a big chunk of that family audience away, and homegrown indie genre flick MONSTERS came in strong at over £2K screen average.

1- HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 (£3,723,710) (3 weeks, total £39,129,043)
2- MEGAMIND (£1,913,050) (New)
3- UNSTOPPABLE (£859,201) (2 weeks, total £3,146,342)
4- DUE DATE (£389,875)(5 weeks, total £9,858,564)
5- MONSTERS (£336,390)(New)
6- THE AMERICAN (£283,417)(2 weeks, total £909,972)
7- LONDON BOULEVARD (£253,622)(2 weeks, total £1,059,713)
8- DESPICABLE ME (£136,282)(8 weeks, total £19,585,837)
9- THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST (£113,957)(2 weeks, total £418,787)
10- THE WARRIOR'S WAY (£105,132)(New)

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ed Vaizey's Speech

After yesterday's announcement which I summarised here, it's interesting to read through Culture Minister's Ed Vaizey's statement. One of the strangest elements of the statement was this section:

I want to continue to encourage other parts of the private sector to support British film as much as they can. I am therefore delighted that Odeon is announcing today a series of proposals to support the industry. They will reward Odeon Premiere Card holders with additional points every time they go to see a British Film; use their website to promote British films; and become a regular source of online information for British Film fans, including ODEON’s recommended “British Film Of The Month”. They will also consider giving guaranteed on-screen support to a British Film Of The Month, with a view to showing a wider choice of British films as a result.

Vaizey chose to highlight this quite paltry offer from Odeon as some kind of proof of the role that private business plays in our 'Big Society'. That this scheme will make no difference at all to the success of British film doesn't matter.

The minister on probably the most important topic of all for the industry:

In converting to digital technology, the cinema sector is experiencing its most significant change in perhaps 80 years. While this offers huge opportunities, we know it also represents a significant financial challenge to a large number of small independently-run cinemas across the country. That is why I am delighted that - with the support of the major cinema operators and studios – the industry is seeking its own solution through the UK Digital Funding Partnership. Recognising the social, cultural and economic value that many of these sites provide for their local communities, the Government very much supports the work of the Partnership in seeking to ensure that no cinema is left behind during this momentous change.

Unfortunately, a very vague statement that makes no commitments and offers no support beyond lip service. Leaving it only to the industry will guarantee that hundreds of cinemas will not be able to afford the equipment and risk closing down.

And finally, the most telling of all his statements:

Some people think there are two film industries in this country – the US film industry, and the UK film industry - and that somehow one side’s success is dependent on the other side’s failure. I do not share that view. I believe that the two industries are two sides of the same coin. We benefit massively from Hollywood’s investment in this country.

So no hope there for a homegrown, healthy, commercially robust UK film industry unless it's completely reliant on the studios. No chance of building a French-style business model that can enhance the British film profile at home and internationally unless it has a Warners logo on it.

If we have the properties (Potter, Bond, Narnia, etc), the actors, the writers, the directors, the studios, the locations, the tax credits - why aren't the projects originating here, with profits staying here beyond contractual work? Simply because the capital is missing. Maybe that's what a government strategy should persue: bringing the capital into the the equation.

David Thomson Vs Orson Welles

In this month’s issue of Sight and Sound, David Thomson makes his case for why he thinks Citizen Kane shouldn't win best film of all time once again in S&S’s 10 year all time critics poll in 2012.

For those not familiar with this particular poll, it’s a far cry from your normal film magazine’s 100 best films of all time, which are written by three people in an magazine office. This is a comprehensive poll of the world’s leading film critics (and in 2002, the world’s leading filmmakers) on their choice of the top 10 films of all time. It’s only conducted once a decade, and Citizen Kane has been named Best in every poll since 1962.

David Thomson belongs to a group of people (which includes the actor and writer Simon Callow, the late critic Pauline Kael and others) dedicated to promote the idea that Orson Welles was a ‘flash in the pan’ director that peaked with Kane and then mostly created unfinished mediocre work that was a product of his ‘troubled’ personality.

On the other hand, there is a group of people (which includes director Peter Bogdanovich, critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Joseph McBride, and of course, myself) that find Welles’ work fascinating in all its forms and decades, from his radio and theatre work in the 1930s to his ground-breaking cinematic work from Kane to F for Fake.

David Thomson, in his piece, offers no other evidence for ‘toppling’ Citizen Kane other than he thinks it’s been at the top for too long. In Thomson-esque fashion he writes a lot without saying much. What is evident from his article is that his vendetta against Orson Welles (even more perverse because it’s disguised as admiration) has not stopped, and will not stop until Kane is stripped of its title as the best film of all time.

Whatever your opinion of Orson Welles and Citizen Kane is, the poll is there as a serious, authoritative survey of critical opinion on what we call the canon. David Thomson can vote like everyone else in 2012. Why try and persuade voters to pursue a strategic vote policy? If we can’t vote with our hearts for things like films, what’s left? And what interest does Thomson have in knocking Citizen Kane?

Monday, 29 November 2010

UK Box Office 26 -28 Nov

In an ironic counterpoint to the confusion and mess that the publicly funded UK film industry finds itself in, Harry Potter, that very British franchise, takes its second week at the top of the box office with a gargantuan £8 million. A glut of new releases were unleashed in the wake of Potter, but none of them really broke out. Momentum's THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST failed to ignite the box office the way the previous two episodes of the trilogy did, a sign perhaps that the franchise has run its course.

1- HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (£8,195,294)(2 WEEKS, TOTAL £33,084,467)
2- UNSTOPPABLE (NEW) (£1,269,356)
3- DUE DATE (£895,078) (4 WEEKS, TOTAL £9,169,166)
5- THE AMERICAN (£437,781)(NEW)
6- DESPICABLE ME (£241,465) (TOTAL £19,394,155)
8- JACKASS 3D (£119,217) (TOTAL 5,437,504)
9- SKYLINE (£92,930) (TOTAL £2,645,266)
10-MACHETE (£90,144)(NEW)

UPDATED - The UKFC Outcome

This morning Ed Vaizey announced what would happen with the Lottery funds that the UK Film Council (UKFC) used to administrate. Ever since the UKFC got the boot in the summer, everyone has been speculating about where the cash would go. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has come under heavy criticism for abolishing the body without a plan for what to do next, which threw a lot of uncertainty and instability into an already fragile industry.

So today's announcement was heavily anticipated. Many already had predicted the main responsibilities would go to the British Film Institute (BFI), and they weren't wrong.
The main points are:

- The BFI gets £43 million for investment in film, an increase in the total Lottery sum.
- Regional screen agencies are gone, replaced by something called Creative England. (They take over responsibility for video games, too.) There will be three regional hubs as opposed to eight offices.
- Film London stays and gets the responsibility for inward investment in the UK.
- The Certification Unit (which decides how much money foreign film investors get) goes to the BFI.
- The tax credit that keeps American productions in the UK continues.

What does it mean? Well, the BFI are going to have to hire a bunch of people for starters. They are not really set up for distributing funds, so they'll need the right people and probably some bigger offices. What shape exactly Creative England will take is unsure, and of course, for the poor boy in the corner, exhibition, no news. Most likely the few funds that were available will disappear in the handover.

Another missing piece is a coherent digital strategy - what about new technologies for distribution/exhibition? The digital transition? The Digital Screen Network? Watch this space for some answers in the coming days.

Monday, 22 November 2010

UK Box Office 19-21 Nov

Harry Potter kicked off with its biggest opening anywhere, with over £18 million in the UK, $330 million globally, and $125 million in the US. Imagine what the gross would have been in 3D? The average in the UK was a staggering £31,000 per screen. Ouch. It doesn't hurt that, for example, our local Odeon is playing it 26 times a day in seven of their eight screens. Warners was even pressuring cinemas to drop their own release DUE DATE to make way for Potter. Shock and awe.

1- HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (£18,216,658) (NEW) (Charles Gant will tell us tomorrow if this is the biggest opening ever in the UK)
2- DUE DATE (£1,215,337)(3 weeks, total £8,020,713)
3- DESPICABLE ME (£645,611)(6 weeks, total £19,063,963)
4- SYLINE (£512,510)(2 weeks, total £2,331,091)
5- JACKASS 3D (£348,172) (3 weeks, total £5,067,365)
6- RED (£218,208) (5 weeks, total £6,817,108)
7- ALPHA AND OMEGA (£192,352)(5 weeks, total £2,872,642)
8- GUZAARISH (£171,017) (New)
9- THE SOCIAL NETWORK (£169,608)(6 weeks, total £10,158,437)
10-ANOTHER YEAR (£161,958)(3 weeks, total £1,246,578)

Friday, 19 November 2010

The rise of the film festival

The Festival circuit has grown incredibly over the last ten years. lists over 250 Festivals in the UK, and the list is probably not up to date. This explosion has a two-fold root cause: cinemas seeking to programme films they can't schedule under a normal commercial programme, and the public funding available for Festivals that has become available.

Festivals, not only in the UK, but across the world, serve as a form of distribution for films that don't have a chance in the brutally competitive commercial marketplace. Some features never make it beyond that circuit, and while some may consider these failures, the growth in festivals means that they can now reach very wide audiences without ever playing in your local multiplex.

The CINECITY Film Festival allows Brightonians to explore cinema otherwise overlooked, and helps distributors promote upcoming films (for example, last night's preview of Momentum's THE KING'S SPEECH). Nicaraguan flick LA YUMA, for example, would be hard pressed to find a screening in Brighton without CINECITY. It also creates a sense of ocassion and excitement about cinema that you can't get in a normal week.

I've been lucky enough in recent years to be able to visit a wide variety of festivals, from Venice to Valdivia, and I have now understood their role and place in the film world. So while some may bemoan the explosion, I welcome this growth as it fulfills what any festival's core mission should be: bringing more films to more audiences.

Monday, 15 November 2010

UK Box Office 12-14 Nov

This week releases were thin on the ground - one week ahead of the HARRY POTTER release. Picturehouses (my employer) took their first venture into distribution, with French film MY AFTERNOONS WITH MARGUERITTE. It took a decent £1400 per site, which given that most of the sites showing the film were also showing the Met Opera, is not bad at all. It should hold and build as people try to escape the POTTER-mania...

1- DUE DATE (£3,854,554) (2 weeks, total £5,740,152)
2- SKYLINE (£1,206,207) (New)
3- DESPICABLE ME (£1,089,300) (5 weeks, total £18,171,991)
4- JACKASS 3D (£1,059,713)(2 weeks, total £4,001,399)
5- SAW 3D (£537,911) (total £7,571,924)
6- RED (£506,113)(4 weeks, total £6,344,974)
7- THE SOCIAL NETWORK (£422,845) (5 weeks, total £9,762,369)
8- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (£392,008)(4 weeks, total £10,606,731)
9- ALPHA AND OMEGA (£297,718)(4 weeks, total £2,633,612)
10- ANOTHER YEAR (£292,987)(2 weeks £885,834)

Monday, 8 November 2010

Woody Allen Podcast & Free Membership!

Rob and me have recorded a 'pantheon' podcast where we examine the life and work of Woody Allen, one of our favorite directors. You can download it at iTunes or at the Picturehouse website.

We are giving away a double membership to the Duke of York's Picturehouse, worth £55, to the best answer to the following question:

- What is your favorite Woody Allen movie and why?

All replies to, with Woody Allen in the subject please.

UK Box Office 5-7 Nov

The power of comedy rules this week's box office, with the HANGOVER -style comedy DUE DATE taking the top spot, followed by gross-out shocker JACKASS 3D. The American remake of the Swedish vampire flick LET ME IN failed to fulfill its purpose of bringing the original to wider audiences. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT also fails to take off, perhaps because it opened too wide, not allowing it to build on a platform -style release.

1- DUE DATE (£2,336,882) (New)
2- JACKASS 3D (£1,624,153) (New)
3- DESPICABLE ME (£1,175,849) (4 weeks, total £16,861,243)
4- SAW 3D (£1,066,839) (2 weeks, total £6,406,516)
5- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (£685,885)(3 weeks, total £9,874,392)
6- RED (£588,659)(3 weeks, total £5,536,624)
7- THE SOCIAL NETWORK (£540,785) (4 weeks, total £9,028,547)
8- LET ME IN (£487,785) (new)
9- BURKE AND HARE (£332,595) (2 weeks, total £1,738,128)

Next week we have CITY SCREEN distributed MY AFTERNOONS WITH MARGUERITTE, and Paramount's SKYLINE, so the numbers shouldn't look too different.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Uk Box Office 28 Oct - 31 Oct

Halloween weekend is SAW territory as the seventh (!) episode of the gruesome series ran, this time in 3D, right to the top. Oscar-favorite THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT opened with a solid 2K average, and I reckon it'll build word of mouth despite a terrible trailer. BURKE & HARE debuts at a dissapointing 6th place, and DESPICABLE ME continues its very succeful run at the family audience.

1- SAW 3D (£3,825,743) (NEW)
2- DESPICABLE ME (£2,577,257) (3 weeks, total £15,065,461)
3- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (£1,838,213) (2 weeks, total £8,294,348)
4- RED (£1,170,769) (2 weeks, total £4,330,383)
5- THE SOCIAL NETWORK (£1,070,714) (3 weeks, total £7,868,168)
6- BURKE AND HARE (£762,632) (New)
7- LEGEND OF GUARDIANS (£571,088) (2 weeks, total £2,430,571)
8- ALPHA AND OMEGA (£457,686) (2 weeks, total £2,001,401)
9- THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (£407,367) (New)
10- VAMPIRES SUCK (£313,426) (3 weeks, total £2,990,207)

Monday, 25 October 2010

The Social Network

“This is OUR time” says Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake, in a key scene in THE SOCIAL NETWORK. This film is definitely the film of OUR time. It captures, with great skill and precision, the new world ahead of us, where the ‘nerds’ and ‘geeks’ control the social networks that we all use and that define our lives, and the old rules don’t apply. But some things are always the same.

An traditional tale of the American dream, complete with ambition, greed, betrayal, sex, and men of great vision, THE SOCIAL NETWORK is one of the seminal movies about the capitalist system, the way CITIZEN KANE was in the 1940s or NETWORK in the 1970s or even THE INSIDER in the 1990s. It works so brilliantly because, like the films referenced above, it brings top-level screenwriters with complete command of their craft in touch with accomplished, even masterful directors for a cinematic marriage made in heaven.

Sorkin’s signature dialogue sizzles against a perfectly controlled and beautifully photographed backdrop, courtesy of Fincher’s near-perfect directorial skills. The context, our modern, networked world, is so meta as to become one with the audience. Eisenberg’s Zuckberg, real or not, represents the Bill Gates-sation of the western world, where command of the right algorithm is enough to create one of the planet’s largest fortunes. This realisation, that technological capitalism, at the beginning of this new century, knows no bounds and takes no prisoners, is both frightening and exhilarating.

Most films I watch make a definite and concrete impression on me, and I can feel my opinion of them being formed as I see them - THE SOCIAL NETWORK unpacked itself in my brain little by little, like a Trojan virus slowly but completely dominating my movie-centric brain. I left the screening confused and baffled, and throughout the evening realised the different levels at which it had affected me. I am writing this review and I can sense more meanings rolling out even as I type.

This film will require multiple viewings, but I have no desire to see it anytime soon. A masterpiece that will be required viewing for decades to come, this is the film of the year. Move over, BLACK SWAN.

Uk Box Office 22-24 Oct

This weekend the sequel to one of the most profitable films of all time takes the top spot, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2, with an incredible per screen average of over £8K. The takings on this will only continue to roll in as this weekend is Halloween. On the other side of the audience segment, DESPICABLE ME picks up another £2.5 million in receipts. The action movie geared towards the post-40 generation, RED, gathered a respectable £1.6 million, proving not all blow 'em ups need to be geared towards teens. Further proof that adults like movies comes from THE SOCIAL NETWORK's healthy gross.

1- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (£3,756,788)(NEW)
2- DESPICABLE ME (£2,574,511) (2 WEEKS, TOTAL £7,569,824)
3- RED (£1,654,835) (NEW)
4- THE SOCIAL NETWORK (£1,531,098) (2 WEEKS, TOTAL £5,354,684)
6- ALPHA AND OMEGA (£644,522)
7- VAMPIRES SUCK (£528,625)(2 WEEKS, TOTAL £2,023,209)
8- EASY A (£275,450) (NEW)
9- LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (£256,749) (3 WEEKS, TOTAL £2,912,651)
10- WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (£255,058) (3 WEEKS, TOTAL £3,695,078)

Thursday, 21 October 2010


The Government, as we all know by now, has announced massive cuts in spending, including drastic and unprecedented cuts in the culture sector. Roughly speaking, this means cuts in the order of 50% of administrative cuts for the Arts Council, 30% of their overall funding, and 15% cuts in the regularly funded organisations (RFOs). The British Film Institute will experience 15% cut in funding. This comes on top of the abolition of the UK Film Council announced in the summer. What this means on the ground for arts and cultural organisations, to be honest, I don’t think anyone really knows yet. Of course, we all know it’s bad - it’s the extent of the damage done which is still unclear.

This comes within the context of cuts across the board in all sectors, and which is part of a wave of governments retreating throughout Western Europe. This consensus has been reached by the decision makers as their ‘cure’ for the excesses of the past decade, of which we were rudely awakened by the financial collapse of 2008. But not everyone around the world is adopting the same policies in order to deal with the hangover left by the bubble.

In the US, on top of the bank bailout, Obama injected 800 million dollars into the economy, in China, over 500 million was invested - in countries like Venezuela, Argentina and other Latin American countries, the world financial calamity has been avoided by huge government investment. This shows, simply, that there are other ways of handling this crisis, which incidentally, was brought on by none of the people affected by the alleged solution.

These cuts don’t only mean (from a cultural perspective) less money for the production and practice of arts, but also the space and the regard that as a society we give culture. In order for a developed nation like the UK to compete in a multipolar world where China, India and Brazil are investing tons of cash and energy in technology, culture and renewable energy, a post-industrial UK will have to rely on culture and technology in order to survive this global transition.

The only upside I can see from this is a political awakening of the cultural practitioners, a new understanding, after a decade of a sympathetic Labour government, that what happens politically and economically is completely and inexorably linked to the cultural sphere. We have to become better at talking to politicians, lobbying, protesting, legislating, and forming networks to find strength amongst each other. We can also make our organisations more profitable - finding ways to make cash without public support. That doesn't mean we shouldn't also appeal for that very support. We can double track our policies. The very survival of art and culture in this country might depend on it.

Monday, 18 October 2010

UK Box Office 15-17 Oct

Back to business then...the box office heats up in the UK with the release of product for all demographics: DESPICABLE ME for kids, THE SOCIAL NETWORK for adults and VAMPIRES SUCK for teens. The results for all three were pretty good:

1- DESPICABLE ME (£3,448,702)(New)
2- THE SOCIAL NETWORK (£2,100,648)(New)
3- VAMPIRES SUCK (£1,086,717) (New)
4- WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (£675,343)(2 weeks, total £3,083,707)
5- LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (£623,028)( 2 weeks, total £2,261,269)
6- THE TOWN (£342,173)(4 weeks, total £4,441,668)
7- MADE IN DAGENHAM (£338,160) (3 weeks, total £2,557,018)
8- THE OTHER GUYS (332,026)(5 weeks, total £7,782,048)
9- DEATH & LIFE OF CHARLIE ST CLOUD (£314,401) (2 weeks, £1,297,876)
10- APLHA AND OMEGA (£177,072)(new)

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Valdivia: the end

In a few hours I depart on my 28 hour journey back to the UK. The Cine Sin Fronteras sessions concluded yesterday after we all presented our projects and received feedback and help from the professionals and other trainees. In the end I didn't manage to see any films, as our schedule and the amount of networking events to attend took over.

One of the most interesting aspects of this training was meeting film producers and distributors from Latin America and learning how they do their job. For example, Fiorella Moretti from Mantarraya Films (they produce and distribute films in Mexico) who works with acclaimed Cannes-winning Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas (BATTLE IN HEAVEN, SILENT LIGHT) and who also releases arthouse films in Mexico like UNCLE BOONMEE. I also met Uruguayan producer Fernando Epstein, who produced WHISKY and GIGANTE (winner in Berlin this year). Florencia Schapiro from Lat-E, a sales agent and distributor, looks after the Argentinian arthouse market - check her blog out here.

The challenges they face are huge compared to the issues we face in Western Europe, in what is called 'mature markets': lack of audiences, lack of cinemas, lack of incentives, lack of cash, lack of any coherent cultural policy....these are all problems affecting Europeans, but on a very different scale.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Venezuela seems like an exciting place because of the new laws that have been adopted recently which create incentives (very much in the model of Europa Cinemas) for cinemas to show national, Latin American and European cinema. There is also extensive funding for Venezuelan cinema, and hopefully we'll see the effects of these measures reaching our shores soon.

So thanks to our very lovely hosts in Valdivia who have been sweet from day one, and I shall definitely be returning as soon as I can...

I am heading back to Brighton with a ton of ideas and contacts for the CINE ESTELI project but also keen to get back to work at the Dukes, and catch up with all my favorite customers. See you there!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Valdivia Day 3

As I write we are still in the middle of the training sessions that comprise the work of Cine Sin Fronteras, and tomorrow we present our projects. The days are long and hard, but very productive - and what's the point in sleeping when you travel across the world?

I've made some important contacts that will hopefully help me take the CINE ESTELI project forward, including key funding bodies and festivals. I've also heard some really interesting presentations, including one from Paula Astorga, who is the head of the Cineteca in Mexico City. She talked in depth about audience segmentation and it reminded me of something that I think I already knew: that understanding who your audience is key.

A company called BRAZUCA also presented the work they do in Universities in Brazil, which is much more sophisticated than I expected to find in South America, but that says more about my poorly informed expectations than about the level of the market down here.

Based on my very limited experience and knowledge of Chile, I can categorically say (without trying to sound like a suck up to my gracious hosts) that Chileans are the most polite collection of people I have ever encountered in my travels.

Tonight we finally see a film, Sebastian Silva's GATOS VIEJOS (OLD CATS). Full review to follow tomorrow.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Valdivia, Day 2

Would more cinemas increase admissions? This very theory was presented by Patrice Vivancos, a media expert/consultant yesterday at our first full day of work for the CSF workshops. Using the US market as a model, where there is a screen per each 7,800 inhabitants (and consequently has the highest visit per capita worldwide), he argues that if the industry wants more customers, it needs to start re-opening or building new cinemas. This sparked quite a debate, as the US model is not seen as particularly an enlightened one by arthouse operators, particularly since its the French model that is being presented here as the panacea to all our problems.

The French system taxes all movies, TV and any other audiovisual commercial activities to the tune of half a billion euros each year and then reinvests this money in their national industry. This is a hugely privileged position that few countries can afford, if only because 21st century WTO rules prohibit such protectionism. But in another sign that the world is changing and the Washington consensus is not so consensual, Venezuela have just passed a law (our Venezuelan colleagues tell me) that makes it a legal requirement for multiplexes to play national cinema, and injects a lot of money into production, distribution and exhibition of national and Latin American cinema.

After the sessions we were given a tour of Teatro Cervantes, a 1940s theater that is closed permanently but re-opened each year just for the Festival dates. They have a collection of ancient projectors and were busy making the space safe and ready for audiences when the fest opens tomorrow. They clearly had heard of my obsession with historic cinemas.

As always with these events, the real reward is in meeting likeminded colleagues doing the same work in a different country - with different markets, cultures, and laws. Some of the best debates about the future of arthouse happened over a quinoa risotto (a local speciality).

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Valdivia Day 1

After a grueling 20-hour journey with four different flights, we arrived in Valdivia, Chile, yesterday, as part of the Cine Sin Fronteras workshops I am attending here until Saturday. The Valdivia Film Festival doesn't kick off till Thursday (opening film will be OLD CATS, from Sebastian Silva, director of LA NANA, which I saw in Toulouse in March) and I am hoping we'll see a few other films before my departure.

Chile has a long and strong cinematic tradition, linked most notably in the past to its political backdrop. The superb documentary THE BATTLE OF CHILE (PARTS 1, 2 & 3) by Patricio Guzman was the definitive account of the Allende presidency and his demise after the Pinochet-led coup in 1973. Miguel Littin contributed to this genre with the doc COMPANERO PRESIDENTE about Allende. 20 years of Pinochet's rule silenced the industry but recently the country has come back with a vengeance: Pablo Lorrain (TONY MANERO, POST MORTEM), Andres Wood (MACHUCA) and Sebastian Silva (LA NANA) are all filmmakers dealing in new ways with the political realities of Chile. Alejandro Jodorowsky (EL TOPO, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN) is a Chilean filmmaker more known for his Mexican-set films.

Last night we met our Latin American counterparts, which include Venzuelans, Chileans, Mexicans, Argentinians and Uruguayans. We also have observers and presenters from Brazil and Peru. Over dinner last night I heard about the new laws coming into effect in Venezuela, where exhibitors will be forced to show Venezuelan films and multiplexes will have to dedicate one of their screens permanently to non-Hollywood product. This has created a surge in homegrown productions, which the state is funding. We might see in the next few years a new wave of Venezuelan cinema, spurred by direct government intervention.

I shall keep you posted in the next few days. Hasta pronto!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Heading South

Tomorrow I fly to Valdivia, Chile, to attend the second part of the Cine Sin Fronteras workshops that started in March in Toulouse at the Cine Latino Film Festival, where European and Latin American exhibitors get together to present their projects, network and help where possible.

My project is CINE ESTELI, the beleaguered Nicaraguan cinema I am working to bring back to life. In March, I got a lot of great ideas and contacts that have helped me with my work, and I hope this trip will be as fruitful. The Valdivia Film Festival is happening in the background, but one look at our programme tells me we won't have much time to watch films.

I'll update the blog from Valdivia in the coming days so stay tuned. Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Digital Europe

The European Commission made an announcement last week that represents the first formal commitment to digitally converting cinemas. Money has been used of course for these projects through regional funds, but the EC has now committed 4 million Euros towards the initiative, recognising that arthouse cinemas are vulnerable and that the digital conversion, as many benefits as it brings, can also mean the consolidation of the sector, and the squeezing out of many indies.

The UKFC's effort to digitise cinemas was only partially successful, as they equipped multiplexes that were going to upgrade anyway due to 3D. That left around 300 cinemas in the UK vulnerable and in danger of closing.

The same process has been replicated in the continent, with large operators purchasing equipment to make sure they can screen AVATAR and ALICE while independent cinemas are left in the 35mm past.

Left to the market forces, small independent arthouse cinemas will simply vanish. Despite the tough climate, exhibitors need to be lobbying and campaigning for funds, while at the same time being as commercially savvy as possible and exploiting every avenue for income.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Kaunas International Film Festival

Today I returned from the Kaunas International Film Festival in Lithuania, where I was invited by the Festival Director, Ilona Jurkonyte, whom I met in Venice last year.

I was invited to speak on a panel/seminar called Cinemas in Community, and my fellow guests were two philosphers and an architect, people far more qualified than me to talk about the social theory and physical history of cinema, so I came with a very practical and down-to-earth approach. It was a fascinating day which ended in a debate about the future of arthouse cinema and arthouse cinemas, with me (as always) arguing for networks and more commercial common sense on the behalf of exhibitors.

Rob Beames accompanied me on the trip, and we both saw the Palme D'Or winner UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES as part of the Festival lineup. Unfortunately we didn't have any more time to see any of the other interesting things on offer, and we left too early to catch the Bela Tarr retrospective (and visit from the filmmaker) that follows tomorrow. Our thoughts on UNCLE BOONMEE will follow in Splendor Podcast #35.

While we were there, Ilona received the keys to Romuva, a historic cinema from the 1930s which she has been battling to save from a developer for the last four years. We received a tour of the beautiful building and discussed her plans for its future.

The festival organisers and staff were delightful, helpful and very welcoming, and we were also visited by some of our friends in Vilnius, who have made me promise to return and visit their arthouse cinemas (Skalvija & Pasaka), which I look forward to doing soon.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Tony Curtis 1925-2010

Tony Curtis died today aged 85. One of the most beloved classic Hollywood stars, he was an actor of limited range but who nevertheless gave some landmark performances. He was both a matinee idol and later on a gay culture icon, father of Jamie Lee Curtis and husband to Janet Leigh. My favorite Curtis moments include his turn in THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS:

And of course in Kubrick's SPARTACUS:

He tried to stretch his range by taking on the role of the killer in THE BOSTON STRANGLER (1968) and his only Academy Award nomination came from that quintessential liberal 1950s Stanley Kramer movie THE DEFIANT ONES. But his most remembered, quoted and loved role came from Billy Wilder's SOME LIKE IT HOT, where he parodied one of his early heroes, Cary Grant:

Monday, 27 September 2010

UK Box Office 24-26 Sep

Will Ferrell's comedy continues to run the box office two weeks in, while two new entries post decent but not breakout performances. THE TOWN could have legs though and if cinemas keep it on, I reckon it could build word of mouth. Joe Dante's THE HOLE will most likely acquire cult status.

1 - THE OTHER GUYS (£1,291,826) (2 weeks, Total £4,410,165)
2 - EAT PRAY LOVE (£1,158,976) (New)
3 - THE TOWN (£997,087) (New)
4 - THE HOLE (£900,460) (New)
5 - DEVIL (£528,396) (2 weeks, total £1,849,497)]
6 - TOY STORY 3 (£461,116)(10 weeks, total £70,681,495)
7 - GROWN UPS (£383,686) (5 weeks, total £6,911,411)
8 - RESIDENT EVIL 3 (£367,673) (3 weeks, £4,125,208)
9 - TAMARA DREWE (£253,471) (3 weeks, £2,111,787)
10 - MARAMADUKE (£244,285) (6 weeks, £4,800,307)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Next 100 Years

Today the Duke of York's Picturehouse turns 100. When I started the job in 2004, this anniversary seemed a million miles away, and it lingered in the back of my mind for about four years. Then in 2008 we started slowly planning our celebrations, and two years later, here we are.

The Duke of York's has been more than my workplace for the past six years - it's been the place that has allowed me to do everything else: pursue my MA, travel to festivals, write this blog, record our podcast, work with extraordinary people, with artists, performers, musicians, comedians and above all the core staff that has been with me since the beginning: Flick, Tora and Jimmy. And of course talking to our wonderful customers. For all of that I owe the Duke a lot.

So although today is all about looking backwards to our history, I want it also to be an opportunity to look to the future of our little cinema. For some time we have been pursuing the expansion of the Duke of York's into the Fire Station next door, and recently there have been some developments which give us hope. Our plans include building a few more screens, a bigger cafe/bar, even a restaurant, and perhaps a partnership with another cultural organisation in town which would significantly expand the amount of arts on offer in Brighton & Hove. As soon as we can, we'll announce more.

Until then, do pop by this week to wish us a happy birthday and leave your own memories of coming to the Dukes. If you're farther away, check out our history website and send us a message.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Uk Box Office 17-19 Sep

Will Ferrell comedy THE OTHER GUYS takes the top spot this weekend while across the pond Ben Affleck's THE TOWN takes number one. DEVIL opens in the second slot in what is a slow week for exhibitors. The only other release to even crack a significant screen average was arthouse film WINTER'S BONE which opened on 50 prints, an ambitious release for specialist distributor Artifical Eye.

1- THE OTHER GUYS (£1,971,275) (New)
2- DEVIL (£806,779) (New)
3- RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (£686,243) (2 weeks, total £3,150,061)
4- TOY STORY 3 (£570,649) (9 weeks, £71,806,688)
5- GROWN UPS (£511,616) (4 weeks, total £6,303,744)
6- TAMARA DREWE (£431,900) (2 weeks, total £1,547,744)
7- THE LAST EXORCISM (£320,315) (3 weeks, total £3,167,101)
8- MARMADUKE (£273,101) (5 weeks, total £4,523,266)
9- DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (£238,087) (4 weeks, total £2,053,198)
10- SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (£232,355) (4 weeks, total £4,813,232)

Monday, 13 September 2010

Uk Box Office 10-12 Sep

This week 3D gorefest RESIDENT EVIL captures the top spot without much difficulty. Also, a success for British cinema: TAMARA DREWE opens strong (albeit very widely for a homegrown film) with around £2K screen average.

2- GROWN UPS (£734,960)
3- TOY STORY 3 (£733,695)
4- THE LAST EXORCISM (£721,960)
5- TAMARA DREWE (£601,678)
7- GOING THE DISTANCE (£431,792)
8- CYRUS (£424,911)
10- THE EXPENDABLES (£362,539)

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Venice: Postscript

I returned from Venice yesterday after a fortnight on the island of San Servolo. I didn't get to enjoy the Mostra di Cinema as much as I would have liked to, but I did see three films: Darren Aronofsky's BLACK SWAN, which me and Rob Beames agreed is a masterpiece, Catherine Breillat's SLEEPING BEAUTY, a monumental failure, and John Turturro's PASSIONE, a sweaty, funny, energetic and beautiful document of the Naples music scene.

At the CICAE training, it was my job to keep notes of all the English language sessions, and we had some interesting ones. Kelly Bagely, from Morris Hargreaves McIntyre in Manchester, had some radical ways of looking at venues from the audience perspectives. Based on extensive audience research, her company help organisations like TATE understand what audiences want from them. I found it fascinating!

Another interesting session was held by Patrice Vivancos, an expert for the European Commission, who talked about the need for more cinemas and why, making a convincing argument for higher screen density and its relationship to cinema admissions.

The most important element of all, of course, was meeting all the new trainees, 51 of them from 27 different countries, including Daryl Els from Johanesburg and Roy Dib from Beirut. Some of the interesting people (I couldn't possibly list them all) I spoke to included Meryl Moser from Switzerland, Martyna Lach from Warsaw, Dirk Van Der Straaten from Amsterdam and Ivea Bužinskaitė from Lithuania. They all had backgrounds and experiences that aroused my interest, and now I can count them as friends too. One year ago this led to many projects and ideas - who knows what will come out of this year's training.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Uk Box Office 3-5 Sep

Another week of box office figures from the school holidays end you see the rise in non-family films, which dominated the charts for so many weeks. It's also a shrunken market, with films that opened in July (INCEPTION, TOY STORY 3) still in the chart.

1- THE LAST EXORCISM (£1,066,324)
2- TOY STORY 3 (£920,998)
3- GROWN UPS (£860,533)
6- THE EXPENDABLES (£620,271)
7- SALT (£503,692)
8- THE SWITCH (£468,313)
9- PIRANHA 3D (£443,795)
10 - INCEPTION (£411,743)

Friday, 3 September 2010

Venice: All the Days

Training work has kept me too busy to blog, but there is a lot going on: I saw two movies in the Mostra, BLACK SWAN and SLEEPING BEAUTY, recorded a podcast with Rob Beames, and have been meeting the new trainees from the CICAE workshops. BLACK SWAN is, in my view, Darren Arronofsky's first masterpiece. He blends the techniques from REQUIEM FOR A DREAM with the narrative drive of THE WRESTLER to create a mind-blowing experience, a total cinematic event that will not leave my head. Superb from beginning to start, I really can't think of a flaw. A perfectly constructed and realised piece of work, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was a hit in the UK< and gathered some Oscar nominations (specially for Natalie Portman, who is at her career best).
Last night we saw Catherine Breillat's SLEEPING BEAUTY, which was an embarrassing mess of a movie (made worse by the director's presence in the Sala Darsena) which starts off as a funny, quirky take on the fairy tale and about 15 minutes in jumps the boat with so many ludicrous and poorly acted turns that we all were checking our clocks to see when the 82 minute disaster would finally and mercifully come to an end.

You can read all of Rob's coverage at the Picturehouse Blog, his own blog and at Obsessed With Film. You can also listen to our special Venice podcast on itunes her, and on the Picturehouse website here.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

UK Box Office 27 -31 Aug

This week analysis is thin as I have very little time - here are the final numbers for the extended weekend:

1- TOY STORY 3 (£2,009,826)
2- GROWN UPS (£1,913,148)
3- THE EXPENDABLES (£1,666,139)
5- SALT (£1,243,510)
6- PIRANHA 3D (£1,121,117)
7- INCEPTION (£898,519)
8- MARMADUKE (£750,163)
9- AVATAR 3D (£654,098)
10-DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (£577,433)

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Venice Days 1 &2

I arrived in Venice yesterday for the CICAE Arthouse Cinema Training and was reunited with some of my colleagues from last year: Francesco, Maureen, Julie, Cathleen, Silvia and Sylvie. We spent most of the day organising things for the trainees, who all start arriving tomorrow: Mostra accreditation, and less glamourous things like their meal tickets. When collecting the accreditation earlier we took a tour behind the scenes of the industry offices in the Pallazzo, and even though we are 48 hours away from opening night, it feels like a war zone.

Last night while walking on the Bridge of Sighs, I was telling Sylvie all about the wonderful CINEVILLE network in Amsterdam, and I suddenly heard my name being called out: "Jon?" - it was Niels Bueller, the director of the Dutch network, who is in town for the festival, and who'd overheard the name of his Amsterdam scheme. Tomorrow Niels and 50 other arthouse cinema managers from all over Europe (and South Africa and Lebannon) will be joining us for a welcoming party called "One Nation, One Bottle" where, irresponsibly in my opinion (as a non drinker) we encourage each participant to bring a bottle of liquor from their country. As a multinational myself, I chose to represent England best with a bottle of Pimms....we'll see how it goes down.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Venezia 2010

On Saturday I depart for Venice for the annual CICAE (International Federation of Arthouse Cinemas) traning course. It's a unique event, in that it gathers around fifty arthouse cinema managers from all over Europe, from Lithuania to the UK, and proceeds to work, for ten days, through every aspect of the business of running an arthouse cinema (marketing, programming, management, etc).

Last year I attended as a student, and this year I return as part of the coordinating team, organising workshops, taking notes and 'entertaining' the lecturers. Amongst the group of returnees, we jokingly refer to San Servolo (the island off Venice where the course takes place) as Shutter Island, as it's a former mental institution and is a self-contained rock. It is certainly a magical and mysterious place, and it all runs parallel to the Mostra di Cinema, the Venice Film Festival.

My colleague Robert Beames (co-host of our podcast) will be there reporting for Obsessed with Film and the Picturehouse Blog, and we hope to be recording at least a couple of podcasts talking about the films on show at the festival. Check back here for blogging updates.


Monday, 23 August 2010

UK Box Office 20-22 Aug

This week the macho fest that is the EXPENDABLES opened, providing the testosterone that has been absent from the family-friendly charts. SALT also opened strong, and the TOY STORY 3 juggernaut carries on. INCEPTION is holding up, benefitting from repeat viewings. The real success story is THE ILLUSIONIST, which Warner/Pathe released on just 42 prints, with a nearly £4K screen average. The Dukes average was about twice that!

1- THE EXPENDABLES (£3,877,201) (New)
2- SALT (£2,142,841) (New)
3- TOY STORY 3 (£2,102,831) (5 weeks, Total £63,844,837) - Now the 5th biggest film of all time in the UK!
4- PIRANHA 3D (£1,490,348) (New)
5- INCEPTION (£996,591) (6 weeks, Total £30,056,496)
6- KNIGHT & DAY (£819,914) (3 weeks, Total £7,946,529)
7- MARMADUKE (£628,581)(New )
8- THE LAST AIRBENDER (£618,047) (2 weeks, Total £3,313,496)
9- STEP UP 3 (£510,985) (3 weeks, £6,639,658)
10- SORCERER'S APPRENTICE (£443,807) (2 week, Total £2,374,814)

Friday, 20 August 2010

We Need a Manager!

The Duke of York's Picturehouse is Britain's oldest cinema. Not only a cultural gem in Brighton, but one of the UK's most succesful and acclaimed arthouse cinemas too.

We're looking for a new Duty Manager.

We need a film-obsessed, self-motivated person, who loves to interact with customers.

Our ideal person will be a film buff, with management experience and top-notch customer service skills. You'll need to be full of energy and ideas. A genuine self-starter who can remain calm in a crisis.

On a day-to-day basis, you'll be responsible for running every aspect of the cinema's operations, from projection to stock control, from health & safety to maintenance, all the while delivering award-winning customer service.

Key skills:

- Customer Service experience
- Cinema or venue experience
- Management experience
- Extensive film knowledge

Bonus skills:

- Cafe/bar experience
- Administration/Health and Safety experience
- Projection experience

All CV's, along with a cover letter, should be sent to: by the 8th of September.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Ed Vaizey Vs Dirty Harry

The announcement of the abolition of the UK Film Council has created a lot of heat for the new Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. Perhaps unsurprinsignly, actors, directors and producers on both sides of the Atlantic have written letters to the Governement protesting the move (including Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg), and a wide public campaign against the closure has swept Facebook and other social media platforms.

Ed Vaizey has reprimanded the UKFC for using public funds to lobby against its own closure, writing a letter to Chairman John Woodward. Apparently the UKFC PR machine has been briefing Hollwyood figures about the implications of the closure in terms that endanger future American productions in this country.

Whatever you think of the role of the UKFC, it would seem to this blogger that the UKFC is simply looking out to save its own jobs, and the Government got itself into a fight that it wasn't prepared for. You don't want Dirty Harry saying you've made a mistake.

The real questions should be about public funding, and where is it going? Will the BFI receive the cash once allocated to the UKFC? Will the 20% tax benefit remain in place (the biggest chunk of public funding for film comes from this tax credit)? The debate has gotten lost in the celebrity-driven furore and the clever press manipulation by the UKFC. Show us the money!

Monday, 16 August 2010

UK Box Office 13-15 Aug

Two box office milestones were reached this week: INCEPTION reached $500 million worldwide and TOY STORY became the biggest animated feature of all time in the US and in the UK. For once, critical opinion is in step with popular taste. You'll notice from now on, I shall include the accumulated takings and week on release figures for a fuller perspective on the numbers.

1- TOY STORY 3 (£3,162,471) (4 weeks, Total £45, 758,989)
2- INCEPTION (£1,583,229) (5 weeks, Total £27,852,777)
3- KNIGHT AND DAY (£1,517,676) (2 weeks, Total £5,896,704)
4- THE LAST AIRBENDER (£1,293,472) (New)
5- STEP UP 3 (£1,078,100) (2 weeks, Total £4,946,688)
7- KARATE KID (£736,667) (3 weeks, Total £10,599,042)
8- THE A-TEAM (£761,269) (3 weeks, Total £8,890,552)
10- CATS & DOGS 2 (£269,186) (2 weeks, Total £2,012,626)

Monday, 9 August 2010

UK Box Office 6-8 August

The box office is on fire as school's out and family-friendly films fill the multiplexes. The fight for 3D screens hurt the chances of new entries STEP UP 3 and CATS & DOGS 2 as TOY STORY 3 held on to most of its screens. Tom Cruise still has some pulling power, and if it weren't for the Pixar monster, he'd have had a respectable number one. GAINSBOURG hanging in the Top 10.

1- TOY STORY(£4,641,352)
2- KNIGHT & DAY (£2,388,240)
3- INCEPTION (£2,250,991)
4- STEP UP 3 (£2,000,887)
5- KARATE KID (£1,404,687)
6- THE A-TEAM (£1,370,832)
7- CATS & DOGS 2 (£739,861)
9- TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE (£321,163)
10- GAINSBOURG (£86,253)

Friday, 6 August 2010

London Film Festival - Opening Film

The London Film Festival announced its opening film today. NEVER LET ME GO, directed by Mark Romanek (ONE HOUR PHOTO), based on the bestselling novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. The film stars Keira Knightley and everyone's favorite Brit girl right now Carey Mulligan, and the new Spider-man, Andrew Garfield.

This 54th edition of the Festival should be an interesting one, as its principal funder is the now dead-man-walking UKFC. It's also a strange festival as it has no market, no big prizes, just a lot of movie stars, but strangely none of the glamour associated with their presence, the way you get in Venice or Cannes. Kind of like the BAFTAs, it feels slightly superfluous.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Uk Box Office 30 Jul - 1 Aug

Pixar rules the school holiday slot easily, with another £8 million for TOY STORY 3 in the bank for an astonishing £39.8 million in just two weeks. INCEPTION shows it has lots of legs as it holds on to the number two spot despite fierce competition from KARATE KID and THE A TEAM, which disappoint in their debuts. Yet another French film makes it to the Top 10, as GAINSBOURG manages a decent £2,196 screen average in a crowded marketplace.

1- TOY STORY 3 (£8,039,573)
2- INCEPTION (£3,199,047)
3- KARATE KID (£2,564,547)
4- THE A-TEAM (£2,481,325)
7- THE REBOUND (£177,096)
8- GAINSBOURG (£152,313)
9- PREDATORS (£111,079)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Uk Box Office 23-25 July

The UKFC's demise on Monday distracted me from my box office duties. Here they are:

1- Toy Story 3 (£21,187,264)
2- Inception (£4,172,568)
4- Shrek Forever After (£1,223,759)
5- The Rebound (£360,015)
6- Predators (£305,424)
7- Khatta Meetha (£124,104)
8- Get Him To The Greek (£119,424)
9- Splice (£110,225)
10- Leaving (£39,409)

No surprises there: TOY STORY 3 wipes the floor clean with everyone, taking more than the rest of the list combined. INCEPTION holds up very well - proving that word of mouth is all you need sometimes.

Monday, 26 July 2010

The End of An Era

In 2000, the Labour government created the UK Film Council in the midst of a frenzy of spending in the arts that was welcome by every creative person in this country after the Thatcher era, in which the arts were left to wither in the marketplace. Of course there were complaints about the projects funded, the distribution of the funding, and the quality of the content that was created in its aftermath, but the idea was a good one.

Script development, post-production, prints and advertising, digital projection, were among the things that the UKFC funded, and the Digital Screen Network, was, in my opinion, the single best capital project they ever financed. It created an advance post for digital projection in the UK, giving us an advantage over our European neighbours, the effects of which we can still feel in the specialised sector to this day. They also created the Statistical Yearbook, an invaluable resource filled with facts and figures about the film industry that was a godsend to people like me.

While the dissolution of the UKFC might seem like a small dot in the larger scale of cutbacks that are yet to come, with millions facing unemployment and reduced benefits, the UKFC had a multiplier effect, as it promoted (through the P&A fund) foreign language films, documentaries and British cinema that might not otherwise be able to reach a wide audience.

That said, I have been one of many critics of the UKFC – you can see my track record here. There are certainly elements of a safe, generic approach to filmmaking that produced some awful (and often unreleased) films. It also spent far too little on exhibition (about 5% of its total spend). The UKFC was also its own best advocate, and sensing impending doom, last year spent a lot of time and money preparing a document on the economic effects of the film industry. The Statistical Yearbook too, was full of self-promotion, and hid some of the uglier sides of the industry: the consolidation of the multiplexes, the decline of the arthouse sector, the precarious state of the independents, and the lack of a sustainable production industry.

For a far more eloquent breakdown of everything that was wrong with the Film Council, read Colin McCabe’s article here. On the other hand, you can also read Charles Gant's defense of the UKFC here. They both make good points.

So a whole decade and £300 million later, the UKFC disappears in the wake of an aggressive Tory plan to cut all public bodies, leaving behind some good movies, some digital projectors (including one for the Duke of York’s) and quite a few unreleased films. What will replace it? I understand the BFI has had to resort to major corporate sponsorship to ensure its survival and of course its dreams of a major Film Centre will have to be postponed indefinitely.

As always, we’re faced with a false choice – a dysfunctional organisation or nothing at all. Why not a third option, a properly funded BFI, with wide consultation in the film industry, producing both commercial hits and experimental work, supporting distribution and exhibition, and with a less London-centric view? If the BBC can do it, why can’t they?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

UKFC Statistical Yearbook 2010

This week the UK Film Council put the latest Statistical Yearbook online. For someone interested in the nuts and bolts of the UK film industry, this is an important document. It offers, free of charge, a vast amount of data and research related to every aspect of the British film scene, from production to exhibition, from TV to 3D.

I always jump straight to the exhibition chapter, as this is the area in which I work in, and in many ways, not much has changed. The figures are roughly the same as last year. The other area I like to examine is the specialised cinema section, which details the fate of the types of films we like to show at the Dukes. The market share for this sector is up significantly, but only because 'specialised' includes things like Michael Jackson's This Is It and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

An intriguing section is the public funding bit - it lists the amount of government money given to the film industry - unfortunately it lumped Distribution and Exhibition together into the same pile.

So I asked them to break it down: according to the UKFC, "Of the £31.6 m total (D&E), £17.0m went to the BFI, which we can't separate into Distrib and Exhib. Of the remaining £14.6m (spent by the UKFC, Regional Agencies etc) we estimate £10.1m went to Exhib, with the remainder to Distrib." but that really doesn't tell me anything so I queried it yet again. They kindly agreed to furnish me with more information: "The figure for distribution includes the P&A Fund, EU Media scheme's support for distribution, and a number of smaller sources of support for the distribution sector. The figure for exhibition comes from a far wider range of sources and covers support including:
·the UK Film Council's digital screen network
·investment in the film society movement, grants to film festivals
·a range of investment in the programming and outreach of art house cinemas all across the UK"

So the mystery remains - where is all this money being spent on exhibition? Since the Digital Screen Network scheme, which finalised in 2008, there has been no investment in cinemas in this country.

Nearly 60% of all the public funding for film went to production, with films like Nativity receiving £500,000 and Centurion receiving £1,200,000, to name but just two. And those are the films that were released. There are dozens of titles supported by public money that you'll never see in your local cinema. And now the big Tory axe comes along to cut, and the UK film industry can look back at a wasted decade producing films people have never seen.

Monday, 19 July 2010

UK Box Office 16-18 July

The box office continues its upward trend, and to the relief of the adult moviegoer, a serious blockbuster opened: INCEPTION cracked the number one spot without much difficulty. TOY STORY 3 will obviously dominate the charts tomorrow, but Warners will be happy to dominate the non-kiddie, non-tweenie market for a few weeks. The interesting thing about this chart is the incredible divide between the top three films and the rest of the chart.

1- INCEPTION (£5,903,779)
2- SHREK FOREVER AFTER (£4,189,666)
3- TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE (£3,376,216)
4- PREDATORS (£892,602)
5- GET HIM TO THE GREEK (£440,075)
6- KILLERS (£71,487)
7- HEARTBREAKER (£67,521)
8- SEX AND THE CITY 2 (£50,812)
9- LEAVING (£50,444)
10- I HATE LUV STORIES (£36,679)

Monday, 12 July 2010

Uk Box Office 9-11 July

These figures include the TWILIGHT previews, which add about £6 million to its overall figures. Nonetheless, its impressive. The real winner this weekend is HEARTBREAKER, which on its second week saw a £4,423 screen average. This shows that foreign language need not be a barrier at the box office if the film is appealing to audiences. This coming week, the box office is coming back with a vengeance, as the World Cup is over, and big budget adult films like INCEPTION open.

1- TWILIGHT (£13,686,987)
2- SHREK FOREVER AFTER (£4,565,635)
3- PREDATORS (£1,644,386)
4- GET HIM TO THE GREEK (£606,965)
5- KILLERS (£157,603)
6- SEX AND THE CITY 2 (£103,332)
7- HEARTBREAKER (£85,527)
8- I HATE LUV STORIES (£78,353)
9- PRINCE OF PERSIA (£48,268)
10- THE TOOTH FAIRY (£45,180)

Monday, 5 July 2010

Sons of Cuba

I usually don't make it a habit to review films on this blog, my colleague Rob Beames does a better job of that on his blog. But I saw SONS OF CUBA the other night and my desire to spread the word about this wonderful documentary means I am breaking my own rules.
The premise is pretty straightforward: the crew followed a group of kids from Havana's under-12 boxing academy in their intense training and then journey to the National Boxing Tournament. The film is simple in its realisation, and the filmmakers wisely dispense with much editorialising - the subject matter does all the heavy lifting here. The context is the political situation in Cuba, where Fidel Castro is handing over the reins of power due to ill health; and the defection of prominent Cuban boxers to the professional world.

The children featured are emotional, eloquent, talented, and carry on their faces the subtle expressions of adults, not children. Their lives are light years away from the children in the UK or the US, with the wealth of material goods and distractions that are a blessing and a curse. The Cuban children value the team above the individual, and are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. The toughness on the surface doesn't disguise frequent outbursts of tears not just from the little ones, but from parents and coaches too - tears of happiness, sadness, pride or just pain.
This film does exactly what you want from a documentary: it informs, it takes you to a world very unlike your own, it's moving, exciting, and says a lot without preaching. I highly recommend you try and catch this film when it plays at The Dukes next week.

Check here for times and tickets.

Uk Box Office 2-4 July

Finally some juice into the box! TWILIGHT and SHREK bring audiences back into cinemas. It probably helps that England are out of the World Cup. The figures below don't include TWILIGHT previews, which are pretty spectacular and sapped ticket sales from every other release.

1- SHREK FOREVER AFTER (£5,947,369)
2- GET HIM TO THE GREEK (£1,041,847)
3- KILLERS (£273,034)
4- SEX AND THE CITY 2 (£209,945)
5- I HATE LUV STORIES (£200,744)
6- HEARTBREAKER (£105,612)
7- PRINCE OF PERSIA (£91,723)
8- DEATH AT A FUNERAL (£66,740)
9- THE COLLECTOR (£64,421)
10- WHATEVER WORKS (£48,807)

Friday, 2 July 2010

Michael Mann

Regular readers of this blog (and anyone who knows me) are aware of my obsession with two living filmmakers: Terrence Malick and Michael Mann. Unfortunately, Malick produces on average one film per decade, so that has forced me to spend a lot more time enthusing and discussing the work of Michael Mann.

Rob Beames and I will be recording a podcast this weekend discussing his work, and my capacity to explain why I think Michael Mann is so good will be put to the test, as Rob doesn't have such a high opinion of him. After making him watch all of the director's filmography, I am resigned to the fact that he'll never be the Mannista I am.

Orson Welles once said that a filmmaker should have the eye of a poet. Certainly Welles' own films, as flawed as many of them are, are pure poetic expressions of the themes that haunted him as an artist: betrayal, power, time, illusions. Mann's set of preoccupations are a little more specific, but no less valid: he has an almost fetishistic obsession with thieves specifically, and with men with strong work ethics more generally.

When I think of aueturs, I think of directors addressing the same concerns over and over again through different stories: Woody Allen talking about love and death in Manhattan, Bergman addressing the very meaning of life, Fellini dealing with the male Italian psyche, Kurosawa deconstructing Japanese society, Mike Leigh investigating families, Loach researching class warfare - all of these guys have their motifs. Mann, from his feature film debut, THIEF, has stuck to that very template; a man, good at this job, bound to no one, with a strong moral code, faces an adversary. Some might see that as repetitive, I find it fascinating.

His TV work is probably where he has made the most impact at least culturally; MIAMI VICE was THE show of the 1980s and the stylised mix of rock music and violence has pervaded (for better or worse) every level of TV and film. More significantly, artistically speaking is CRIME STORY, the sprawling saga of gangsters set in the early 1960s. Look out for it if you haven't seen it.

My first encounter with a Mann film was a late night TV showing of THE KEEP, which terrified me. He's basically disowned the film now and it's almost impossible to get hold of. From that job for hire to the pinnacle of his career, HEAT, my appreciation of his work extends all the way to last year's PUBLIC ENEMIES, which I found not only technically dazzling, but also moving and exciting. I can't wait for the next Mann project, and I live safe in the knowledge that he has another towering masterpiece like HEAT inside him, just waiting to come out.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Walker: Cine Esteli Fundraiser

The next fundraiser for the Nicaraguan cinema, CINE ESTELI, will be a screening of Alex Cox's seminal acid western WALKER. A film that was neglected upon its release, it's a Herzogian cult classic starring Oscar-winners Ed Harris and Marlee Matlin, and features a fantastic score (and cameo) from Clash frontman Joe Strummer. The film was written by Rudy Wurlitzer, who also wrote Peckinpah's PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID. Peckinpah's spirit lives on in WALKER in the slow motion, the dust, and the madness that takes over a band of mercenaries in pursuit of cash and glory. The screening will be preceded by a video introduction from filmmaker Alex Cox, also a patron of Cine Esteli.

The campaign for CINE ESTELI has raised around £1,500 and our objective is £5,000 for the end of the year. Many other elements are in motion to save the endangered historical cinema: we are applying for European funds to restore the building, and a recent visit from the Mayor of Esteli was quite promising, with assurances that the local Esteli authority would help protect the building. Other partners in the project include Nicaragua's Ministry of Culture and Cinemateque; and filmmaker Florence Jaguey, whose feature LA YUMA will play as part of the CINECITY Film Festival.

Get your tickets

Monday, 28 June 2010

UK Box Office 25-27 June

Another dire week, and now that England are out all we need is some rain! These figures dont include the SHREK FOREVER AFTER preview numbers, which will make it number one film next week. WHATEVER WORKS and TETRO opened to dismal numbers, but you cant gauge anything right now due to weather and football.

1- GET HIM TO THE GREEK (£1,062,927)
2- KILLERS (£385,425)
3- SEX AND THE CITY 2 (£353, 362)
4- PRINCE OF PERSIA (£151,909)
5- DEATH AT A FUNERAL (£118,041)
6- STREETDANCE 3D (£112,606)
7- THE COLLECTOR (£107,453)
8- LETTERS TO JULIET (£102,966)
9- WILD TARGET (£87,700)
10- ROBIN HOOD (£86,922)

New Flick's Flicks

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Slash and Burn

The Department of Culture Sports and Media announced cuts last week to its budget, of which around 50% come from the British Film Institute. The biggest cut wasn't a regularly funded programme or organisation, but rather the Gordon Brown promise to give the BFI £45 million for a British Film Centre on the South Bank, which would have costed £166 million altogether.
The UKFC-BFI merger I wrote about last summer is also off the table, and DCMS minister Jeremy Hunt promises a review of film policy.
While I have always argued that UK film policy is fundamentally flawed, I fear that the coalition government, in the new climate, will take an even more harmful approach, so where Labour spent money in the wrong places, this crew might just cut off funding altogether, leaving the industry in the wasteland of the 1980s.
So while I never was a fan of the British Film Centre proposal to begin with, any cuts in film are always a worry. In the context of the larger cuts across the board this might seem petty, but remember that funding for film means jobs, means investment and ultimately Britain's capacity to compete in the new worldwide media landscape.