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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Podcast Number

Where Rob and I discuss the political problems with Kick Ass and discuss the latin American Toulouse film festival.


Monday, 29 March 2010

New Flick's Flicks

Uk Box Office 26-28 March

This week the numbers are a bit skewed as KICK ASS and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON both had previews, but those figures will be in next week's tally. NANNY beats ALICE by a very small margin. Not bad for a home-grown 2D family film...

1- NANNY MCPHEE 2 (£2,564,467)
2- ALICE IN WONDERLAND (£2,493,022)
3- BLIND SIDE (£1,309,822)
4- SHUTTER ISLAND (£1,142,906)
5- BOUNTY HUNTER (£994,656)
6- GREEN ZONE (£464,764)
7- THE SPY NEXT DOOR (£393,109)
9- SHANK (£251,990)
10- AVATAR (£220,133)

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Toulouse Day 3- El Fin

Yesterday was the final day of the workshops, where we presented and defended our projects . The CINE ESTELI project attracted a lot of positive attention and interest – with plenty of great advice and information provided as well. This has given me renewed enthusiasm and hope for the project.
One of the most interesting elements of yesterday's work was learning about UTOPIA cinemas, small chain of arthouse venues in the south of France which adhere to a very strict set of rules: no ads, no popcorn, and no compromise on programming. They only play films they love, and I was pleased to see that includes things like SHUTTER ISLAND. I wonder if this is the kind of thing that only could work in France.
The last film that was screened for us was the Mexican docu-drama hybrid ALAMAR. As some of you know, lately not many films have impressed me too much, and I seem to be impossible to please. With that in mind, let me tell you that this is the best film of 2010 by a country mile. Running at only 73 minutes, its the incredibly moving story of a fishing trip of a grandfather, father and son in the coral reefs of the Yucatan Peninsula. Funny, beautiful, natural, and pure joy from beginning to end, its film I would watch again in a second.
So today I fly back to the UK where a very big pile of work awaits me. See you down at the Dukes.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Toulouse Day 2

Today we spent over eight hours talking about the intricacies of each country: Spain, Croatia, Ireland, Lithuania, France and the UK, unsurprisingly, are each complex and very distinct film markets. The most heated debate actually happened over lunch where I argued the logical benefits of getting rid of DVD windows altogether (in France it's the law that a film can't come out on DVD for at least four months) and I was surprised to learn that film sales contracts sometimes include clauses about the exact chronology of different media platforms.

After the workshops, I met up with Nicaraguan filmmaker Florencia Jaguey, who is here presenting her new film LA YUMA, fresh off wins at Guadalajara. We mainly discussed ways to hep CINE ESTELI. Turns out she was a location manager for Ken Loach's CARLA'S SONG - it's a small industry.

We also had a chance to watch LA NANA, a new Chilean film which has been gathering buzz at festivals. It tells the story of Raquel, a live-in maid who after 20 years of service begins to lose her mind. It was funny, well written and acted, fast-paced and contains a shift change half way through that is very satisfying. A joy to watch.

Today we will spend the time talking about and defending our projects (mine is Cine Esteli) and then a screening of Mexican feature ALAMAR. Review to follow tomorrow.

Toulouse, Day 1

I arrived yesterday morning in Toulouse and right away went for a little bit of family research, to the house where my parents lived 35 years ago - then it was lunch at LA CANTINA, a makeshift tent for festival delegates in the backyard of an ancient church.
The first thing that struck me, as a non-French speaker, was that I could speak Spanish to practically anyone...the accents of Central and South America are heard buzzing on every corner of this so-called 'pink' city (called that because of the color of the bricks that make up all the buildings).
After an introductory meeting we popped over to the Cinemateque (where we enjoyed a Venezuelan cumbia band) and then to a private screening of LA TETA ASUSTADA, the Peruvian film that was nominated for an Oscar this year. The Croatian and French distributors of this feature will be explaining the release strategy in their territories today.
The film itself was not to my personal liking, but I can see what others see in it. The story of a young Peruvian girl with an odd medical condition, the film shines when portraying the everyday life of poor Peruvians but is less successful when exploring the inner turmoil of the protagonists' life, with a series of clunky metaphors. The cinematography and score are first rate, though, as are the main performances. Off to the first day of workshops now, more to folllow!

Monday, 22 March 2010

UK Box Office 19-21 March

ALICE IN WONDERLAND continues atop the charts, once again, the majority of its take from 3D. New entries BOUNTY HUNTER and I LOVE YOU PHILIP MORRIS fail to make a big splash. Good to see Swedish-language GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO at number eight, while the experiment of dubbing it failed miserably (£8K over two weeks in four sites).

1- ALICE IN WONDERLAND (£4,837,239)
2- SHUTTER ISLAND (£1,810,716)
3- BOUNTY HUNTER (£1,582,167)
4- GREEN ZONE (£1,020,766)
6- THE SPY NEXT DOOR (£695,917)
7- AVATAR (£441,766)
9- HACHI: A DOG'S TALE (£260,234)
10- PRINCESS AND THE FROG (£145,396)

Saturday, 20 March 2010


On Monday I head out to Toulouse, in France, for a 3-day workshop for exhibitors and distributors called Cine Sin Fronteras (Cinema Without Borders), which is a project from the good folk at CICAE (who organise the Venice training for managers I attended last summer). There is Latin American Film Festival, Cine Latino, happening in the background, so hopefully I'll be seeing a lot of Latin American films, including Oscar nominee LA TETA ASUSTADA from Peru and Mexican feature ALAMAR.

I'll be discussing with other European exhibitors different ideas to strengthen the market for Latin American cinema in Europe and European cinema in Latin America. My own project is related to CINE ESTELI, which all of you have heard me talking up non-stop. The second part of the CSF project takes place in October, when we fly out to Valdivia in Chile to talk to our Latin American counterparts.

I'll be blogging as much as I can about Toulouse, so stay tuned...hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A Less Dubbing Life

Momentum and the UK Film Council teamed up for the release of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO to conduct a little experiment: release the film in a dubbed version in four theaters and see what the response was.

Dubbing in general is not done in this country, bar animated releases like the recent PONYO, which has plenty of reasons to be: animation is dubbed anyway even in its original version, and the Miyazaki productions always have a top-notch cast of acclaimed actors doing the voices. But live action feature films have always been left alone, thankfully. Until now. If the experiment goes well, and audiences respond positively to the dubbed version, we might see other distributors trying their hand at it, and end up like Germany, Italy or Spain and even France (bar Paris), where everything is dubbed, except very few art house titles.

Dubbing is a disgrace to films everywhere and given the common language with America, we're lucky in the UK that we can watch all the Hollywood product untouched, and there is really no reason to dub the foreign language films. The audiences for these types of films (at least in this country) are well adjusted to reading subtitles and have no problems coming out for films in any language.

My guess is that distributors would be looking at crossover titles like DRAGON TATTOO, COCO AVANT CHANEL, TELL NO ONE and other foreign language features that appeal beyond the usual art house circuit - but aren't these the movies that are making good money anyway? Why mess with the system? This is one idea I hope fails miserably.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Uk Box Office 12-14 March

ALICE IN WONDERLAND continues at the top (with audiences choosing 3D over 2D by a factor of eight) while Scorsese's new entry (and my favorite film of the year so far) SHUTTER ISLAND enters at number two. The competition between Scorsese and Greengrass' GREEN ZONE was definitely on Paramount and Universal's minds when they opened these films, with similar target demographics, on the same weekend. In GREEN ZONE's case, the Iraq war theme won over the Bourne Ultimatum look - keeping some audiences away.

1- ALICE IN WONDERLAND (£8,890,090)
2- SHUTTER ISLAND (£2,217,727)
3- GREEN ZONE (£1,539,944)
4- AVATAR (£628,626)
5- HACHI: A DOG'S TALE (£431,705)
7- THE LOVELY BONES (334,305)
8- THE CRAZIES (£248,706)
9- THE PRINCESS & THE FROG (£217,120)

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Multiplex's Crocodile Tears (Updated)

The UK's second bigest cinema chain, CINEWORLD, posted "robust" profits yesterday, with earnings up 11%, or £334 million in revenue, and profits of over £30 million.

Also in the news is that ODEON (and for that matter all the chains) can't get all the digital projectors and 3D equipment they need, as everyone scrambles to install more 3D screens in advance of big new releases (HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, CLASH OF THE TITANS) which will compete for 3D screen space with what is left over of AVATAR, ALICE IN WONDERLAND - and there will be many more to come.

So business is booming right? You wouldn't know it from this GUARDIAN article, which typically forecasts the end of days for exhibition because of the shrinking DVD window, the internet, 'kids these days', and the comments highlight that the type of people who would comment on the Guardian website are exactly the type to be terrified of children in a cinema.

But we've been here before: sound in the late 1920s, TV in the 1950s, home video in the 1980s, DVD in the 1990s, the internet in the 2000s - these were all huge threats that the exhibition sector overcame succesfully. So as much as I like to deride their customer service, poor presentation, lack of atmosphere, lack of programming courage, the truth is that it's a surviving industry.

Against all odds, buildings showing movies to paying customers are not only surviving, but thriving. Don't let the chains make you feel sorry for themselves.

This is what David Hancock, Screen Digest’s Head of Film and Cinema, had to say about the revitalising potential of digital roll out:

“The release of Avatar was the BC/AD moment for digital cinema, taking us from the prehistory of the first 10 years, characterized by research, false commercial starts, standards development and early pioneers, to the modern world of commercial cinema as it will be in the decades to come. Digital 3D, opera, theatre, music and comedy in cinemas, live 3D sport, and interactive adverts are all a part of cinema in the future; not just a place to watch movies but a multi-arts venue which can be the heart of small and large communities alike. The refreshment of cinema is firmly underway and it is now taking its place as an integral part of the digital media landscape on the one hand, and as a revitalised leisure venue on the other.”

Thanks to Bigger Picture Research for highlighting the quote.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Uk Box Office 5-7 March

I bet the three chains are thanking their lucky stars they didn't go ahead with that boycott of ALICE. With a spectacular £10+ million and a whopping screen average of over £13K, Tim Burton's reinterpretation of Carroll's classic is a hit of Avatar-like proportions (well, let's not get ahead of ourselves). 3D anyone? Over 70% of its income came from stereoscopic screenings, despite it playing only on 324 3D screens vs 430 2D ones. The people have voted, Mr. Kermode, they want 3D.

1- ALICE IN WONDERLAND (£10,471,895)
2- AVATAR (£905,926)
3- THE CRAZIES (£673,337)
4- THE LOVELY BONES (£660,854)
6- FROM PARIS WITH LOVE (£381,761)
7- LEAP YEAR (£364,610)
9- VALENTINE'S DAY (£295,890)
10- A SINGLE MAN (£218,166)

The Revolution Has Been Televised

Kathryn Bigelow must feel like David right after he wacked Goliath in the eye with that rock a while back. She kicked her ex-husband in the ass in a royal way, taking Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.
That was really the only (but the biggest) upset of the evening, with all the other major categories going the way most of us predicted. Another minor upset was the Foreign Film category, with a film nobody in the UK has seen winning - strange given that A PROPHET and THE WHITE RIBBON were in the running. No patriotic flag-waving for the Brits today, but that's what the BAFTAs are for right?

Here's the list of major winners:

Best Picture - HURT LOCKER
Best Supporting Actor - CHRISTOPHER WALTZ
Best Supporting Actress - MONIQUE
Best Original Screenplay - HURT LOCKER
Best Adapted Screenplay - PRECIOUS

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Cine Esteli Update

As some of you know, I am heading up a small campaign to save the CINE ESTELI from development. A 1950s single screen cinema that sits in the town centre of the northern Nicaraguan town of Esteli, the cinema has survived two civil wars, several hurricanes and even earthquakes but face its biggest obstacle yet: property developers who would demolish it and convert the site into a supermarket.

Thankfully, the cinema has some friends. These incredibly talented people have all signed up as patrons: Dukes' supporter Greta Scacchi attended our fundraiser in December; Ken Loach, Robert Carlyle and screenwriter Paul Laverty all worked in Esteli while shooting CARLA'S SONG (which incidentally had its premiere at the Cine Esteli 15 years ago) and Alex Cox spent time in Nicaragua in the 80s and made the fantastic film WALKER there.

The cinema has been operating in some capacity since it opened 50 years ago with a strange mix of the mainstream, exploitation, cult, foreign language and everything else under the sun (or the dark room). I personally saw films like BLUE VELVET and Kurosawa'a RAN there.

Our next fundraiser will be at The Dukes sometime in May (watch this space) and we'll be asking for your help once again. In the meantime, if anyone can help with some web design, make yourselves known to me!

In a world where single screen cinemas are rare, the Cine Esteli's very existence is a miracle that needs to be treasured and preserved.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

UK Box Office 26-28 Feb

Sorry for the late post - here is the box office roundup:

1- AVATAR (£2,254,676)
2- THE LOVELY BONES (£1,203,251)
3- THE CRAZIES (£1,194,207)
5- PERCY JACKSON (£846,021)
6- VALENTINE'S DAY (£822,621)
7- LEAP YEAR (£728,250)
8- FROM PARIS WITH LOVE (£679,296)
9- A SINGLE MAN (£381,489)
10- INVICTUS (£292,823)