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. Britfilms.com 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 splendorcinema@gmail.com, 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)