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.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Uk Box Office 18-20 June

Another terrible weekend for exhibitors everywhere...nobody will say it, but I bet you anything that cinema operators are hoping for an early England exit from the tournament.

1- KILLERS (£748,730)
2- SEX AND THE CITY 2 (£708,458)
3- STREETDANCE 3D (£446,461)
4- PRINCE OF PERSIA (£359,375)
5- LETTERS TO JULIET (£304,150)
6- DEATH AT A FUNERAL (£286,677)
7- WILD TARGET (£282,741)
8- THE TOOTH FAIRY (£249,407)
9- ROBIN HOOD (£239, 619)
10- BROOKYLN'S FINEST (£202,623)

Thursday, 17 June 2010

72 Hours in Amsterdam

The Dutch have a theory about why they are good at cooperating. "It's the dam concept" said Raymond Walvarens, head of the prestigious Rialto cinema, over a plate of couscous. "If thirteen farmers have to build a dam, they all need to agree on it, cause if one doesn't participate, the dam won't work." On that simple concept, all the major cities of the Netherlands were built, turning a hostile enviroment into a powerful and rich nation.
Amsterdam, (the dam on the Amstel river) is home to 13 individual arthouse cinemas, all distinct and unique in their own quirky way. I visited five of them. They're all part of a network called CINEVILLE, which has an unlimited card that people can subscribe to, and is designed to fight Pathe's dominance of the exhibition sector.
Set up a year ago by four twentysomething film enthusiasts, Cineville is hugely succesful and is helping little independent cinemas thrive in a difficult market.
I spent some time over the last few days looking at this network and some of the cinemas, and was happy to find a diverse bunch of 'theatres' showing everything from SEX AND THE CITY 2 (made me feel a little better about us doing it) to MAO'S LAST DANCER.

Monday, 14 June 2010

UK Box Office 11-13 June

Get used to it folks. As long as there is sun and a world cup, these figures will be this bad. New entries LETTERS TO JULIET failed to turn DEAR JOHN numbers, BROOKLYN'S FINEST didn't become TRAINING DAY 2 and GREENBERG (which Universal seemingly dumped out there with no marketing push) didn't crack £2,000 screen average.

1- SEX AND THE CITY (£1,482,906)
2- STREETDANCE 3D (£676,997)
3- LETTERS TO JULIET (£584,444)
4- PRINCE OF PERSIA (£476,944)
5- DEATH AT A FUNERAL (£411,222)
6- THE TOOTH FAIRY (£365,327)
7- ROBIN HOOD (£359,712)
8- BROOKLYN'S FINEST (£333,595)
9- SHE'S OUT OF MY LEAGUE (£175,003)
10- (£131,618)

Monday, 7 June 2010

UK Box Office 4-6 June

The hot weather kept audiences away from cinemas, making for a low-earning weekend for exhibitors. SEX AND THE CITY 2, despite a massive drop (bad reviews effect or sun, who knows?) held on to number one spot. Disappointing starts for new entries DEATH AT A FUNERAL (a remake of another flop), and THE KILLER INSIDE ME. As the World Cup kicks off next week, expect low figures all the way until the opening of TOY STORY 3 in July.

1- SEX AND THE CITY 2 (£2,469,020)
2- STREETDANCE 3-D (£1,099,085)
3- PRINCE OF PERSIA (£775,958)
4- ROBIN HOOD (£646,312)
5- DEATH AT A FUNERAL (£552,096)
6- THE TOOTH FAIRY (£538,371)
7- SHE'S OUT OF MY LEAGUE (£313,945)
8- (£287,678)
9- SPACE CHIMPS (£220,989)
10- IRON MAN 2 (£220,164)

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Splendor Cinema Podcast

An easy way to get to our podcasts. They have been hopping around a lot lately, but this is the permanent iTunes home: SPLENDOR CINEMA PODCAST.

You can also find it on the Picturehouse Website.

We've just recorded two new episodes!

Piracy: Or How I Learned How To Stop Worrying and Love the Customer

Note: I wrote this some months ago for another website. They have experienced a 'changeover' where think pieces like this aren't welcome, so here it is:

Think about it. The last time you saw a film, where was it? A multiplex? A little neighbourhood cinema? TV? A DVD or Blu-Ray? Or on your laptop? Does it matter? The film industry is undergoing the biggest technological and societal change since it was invented in 1895. How Hollywood and the UK players react might make the difference between survival and death.

In the 1950s, as TV emerged in living rooms across the world, cinemas feared the worse: why pay good money for a ticket when you can watch moving images at home, on your sofa? And although the admissions fell from the dizzying heights of the 1940s (in 1946, 1.6 billion, yes that’s with a 'B', cinema tickets were sold) that wasn’t just TV’s fault: families bought cars, went on holidays, started having more babies – society as a whole changed the way it spent its time

Thirty years later, the industry went into another episode of self-induced panic, when the VCR became widespread and video shops popped up on every corner. The End of Days was once again announced, and audiences would never step foot in a cinema again. Fast forward that scratched-up tape to twenty years later, and VHS seems as antiquated as that black and white television with just one channel. Now consumers have DVD, Blu-Ray, Sky, Internet, Video on Demand, Lovefilm, 5.1 surround systems, plasma and LCD flat screens – the possibilities on offer are endless. And yet, cinema admissions for 2009, not just in the UK, but worldwide, have been record-breaking. How does that square with the industry’s claims that piracy will destroy cinema, and that unless we stop downloading it’s all over?

Recently, parliament passed the Digital Economy Bill, a law almost universally opposed by internet service providers, digital rights groups like the Open Rights Group, and by all techies, geeks and hackers around Britain. Passed in the middle of the night with only an hour for debate, the bill turns internet service providers into spies on their own customers, with disconnection for people who are found to be in ‘copyright infrigment’ with no right to appeal. This is the equivalent of BT cutting your phone off because you sang a copyrighted song over the line, or your access to post taken away because you posted photocopies of copyrighted books back and forth with someone. The fact is that there do need to be laws governing the internet, but they need to be debated carefully and thoughtfully, with testimony from intelligent people, as opposed to debate amongst MPs that barely know how to use email.

I bet you never though you’d be debating theatrical windows, the time between a film’s release and its eventual arrival on DVD or Blu Ray. When the ‘big three’ (Odeon, Vue, Cineworld) threatened a boycott of Alice in Wonderland, the concept was in all the headlines. Right now, that ‘window’ is set at 17 weeks but it’s as doomed to history as the Betamax format. The ‘media chronology’ where a film must follow a cycle of life starting at the cinemas and winding up on television will come to an end because consumers are demanding their content in different ways now. And why should companies decide when and how we watch films anyway? Offer us the options and the audiences will make the choices that best suit them.

I am no advocate of piracy. I would never download a film for free and watch it at home, I understand that every cinema ticket sold, every rental of a DVD and every legal, copyright-protected viewing of a film makes sure that films get made. It makes sure cinemas stay open. It makes sure that my favorite filmmakers (from Michael Mann to Ken Loach) have a job. But at the same time, burying our heads in the sand and pretending that the way people consume entertainment isn’t changing radically would be a mistake. Speaking to a leading French distributor recently I learned that they monitor downloads of their films in advance of the release to determine how many people will come out to see it.

Luckily, we have some examples as an industry for reference: the music business went through this same process about ten years ago. After decades operating a business model where they charged us £20 for a CD that cost £1 to make, they have had to re-think how and where to make money, allowing artists to distribute their music online either through a paying platform like iTunes or for free (and often both) and earning more off their income from touring. The publishing world is experiencing the same problems – they are also finding new ways to create revenue that don’t involve the 400 year old technology of printing paper. All media content is questioning how to survive.

One thing I know: in over 100 years of cinema, audiences have never stopped paying to go into a dark room to be entranced by what’s on the screen. I don’t think they ever will. What they will do though, is stop paying for sub-par service and experience. As a cinema operator, you can’t just give people a seat and expect the money to roll in. Comfort, service, top-notch sound and image technical quality, atmosphere and convenience are all elements that cinemas have to provide if they want to compete in the 21st century. And 3D is a first step, but we’re going to need bigger and better, especially as 3D TV rolls in this year.

Running a small independent cinema, as I do, a lot of these debates fly above me, since our customers are less fickle than the teenage audience that Hollywood and the multiplexes have invested all their marketing energies in. Our customers value the social experience of the cinema as much as the content itself, and like being able to drink a beer or glass of wine while enjoying the latest Haneke film (which they are unlikely to download or want to watch on a 13” monitor). That said, eventually the changes that are affecting the big boys will have repercussions for everyone.

How will it all end? If I had the answer to that, I could print my own money.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

UK Box Office 28 -31 May

The extended weekend brought fortunes to four girls from The Big Apple: nearly £7.5 million for a sequel with no huge stars based on a TV show...SEX AND THE CITY 2 is the only product out there for the female market, which is truly under served. And before you accuse me of being sexist, I can tell you that 99% of the audience at our cinema were women. Other new entries included Disney's THE TOOTH FAIRY, THE LOSERS (both of which did negligible business) and SPACE CHIMPS 2 3-D which I wasn't even aware was coming out. Goes to show you the strength of the 3D marketplace right now that even this can crack the Top 10.

1- SEX AND THE CITY 2 (£7,435,854)
2- STREETDANCE 3-D (£2,363,568)
3- PRINCE OF PERSIA (£2,058,642)
4- ROBIN HOOD (£1,972,835)
5- THE TOOTH FAIRY (£1,028,581)
6- IRON MAN 2 (£680,976)
7- SPACE CHIMPS 2 (£589,719)
8- THE LOSERS (£518,066)
9- BAD LIEUTENANT (£236,682)
10- FOUR LIONS (£224,099)