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.