Sunday, November 29, 2009

Warp to release zombie flick

See - Warp and C4 are producing a zombie flick. The genre seems to have gained a new lease of life (see what I did there...) of late, with the micro-budget Colin and C4's zom-com Dead Set (a disappointing effort from the Guardian's ultra-cynic columnist Charlie Brooker) coming on top of several high profile US efforts (including zombie godfather George A Romero's dire return), not to mention Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later. Its been a long time since the UK has managed anything even close to the global status Hammer horror achieved through the 60s and 70s, but we may just be seeing an alternative to Hugh Grant's goshing and gurning developing here.
The new movie plays on the title of the notorious 80s 'video nasty' I Spit on Your Grave (which, sad to say, seems set for a re-make).
I've just watched the trailer (which features some swearing) looks utterly dreadful! Seems to star the annoying chap from The Mighty Boosh who has rendered Never Mind the Buzzcocks unwatchable with his annoying presence, and to have little in the way of an actual narrative. Ah well.

The Ghost of Rom-Coms Past Rises Again

Couldn't quite believe my bad luck when a wee browse through the upcoming schedule of releases in UK cinemas seemed to include the actor who sums up all that is bad about the representation of Britishness we get from contemporary UK cinema. Yes, despite announcing his retirement from film-making, Hugh, uh, ah, gosh, Grant is back - but there is hope...
He has threatened to retire at least twice before and now Hollywood actor Hugh Grant is talking about quitting acting yet again.

Blaming a string of stage fright attacks, the 48-year-old actor says he is ready to give up his day job at last.
I like everything about filming except the acting. Im wonderful in rehearsals, but I have never been very good when they actually switch the cameras on, he said.
In recent years Ive had really bad attacks where I totally froze up. I thought that well, if I am going to get stage fright, then I am packing it in, he added.
But people are wondering whether he is really serious about retirement because Grant has this habit of threatening to quit and then signing up a movie.
Grant admits that he is slightly embarrassed with his habit. His last talk about retirement came just months after completing work on Did You Hear About The Morgans?, his first film in two years.
SOURCE: actually gets worse. His new film co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker! Its just missing Madonna and Jennifer Aniston to complete this vision of hell! Surely an early favourite for the Razzies?

Schedule of New Releases in British Cinemas

Useful link this; you can see whats coming up, which has led to discover something really quite hideous - I'll reveal that in another post. See:

Warp and WT linked through Distributors

Interesting development I wasn't previously aware of: Optimum Releasing (see wiki and business profile), the company that distributes Warp's films, has been acquired by StudioCanal - yet another link between Warp and WT, and another example of the inability of UK Indies to work entirely free of the net of the Big 6 and Hollywood:
18th May 2007 : Cannes, France - Optimum Releasing / StudioCanal and Lionsgate U.K. announced today they will jointly acquire Elevation Sales. Elevation will now handle the joint sales and distribution of DVD product for both Optimum Home Entertainment and Lionsgate U.K., continuing its growth within the UK home entertainment market. ...
The venture builds upon both distributors' continued growth in the home entertainment sector. As a result of the acquisition, Elevation Sales will become one of the strongest suppliers to the UK home entertainment market with a forthcoming DVD roster including strong mainstream releases such as Saw 4 and Captivity, critically acclaimed successes This is England and The Lives of Others and classic catalogue releases Dirty Dancing and This is Spinal Tap.
 StudioCanal itself lost its operating independence in 2001:
Europe's StudioCanal is set to lose its independence by being delisted from the Paris stock exchange and then folded into Universal Pictures, its stable-mate within the VivendiUniversal empire. ...
Through its original LosAngeles-based filmmaking operation, StudioCanal struck alliances with variousUS producers such as Phoenix Pictures, Bel Air Entertainment, MandalayEntertainment and Spyglass Entertainment, while also co-financing individualfilms such as Paramount's $70m Lucky Numbers. In Europe, StudioCanal is an essential cog in thefilmmaking landscape well beyond its native France, co-financing the productionslate of the UK's Working Title, for example, not to mention this year'sPalme d'Or winner from Italy, The Son's Room. [orig article here]
StudioCanal and Optimum Releasing are the companies you want to be familiar with for the AS exam.
StudioCanal Image S.A. (aka Le Studio Canal+, Canal Plus, Canal + Distribution, and Canal+ Image), is a French-based production and distribution company that owns the third-largest film library in the world. [quoted from]

UK Film Distribution + Digital Cinema

If you hunt through the archive you'll find a detailed but fairly brief to Distribution; the following adds to this. I've posted some additional links on film distribution at the end. This is yet another example of where WT are at a huge advantage over their UK rivals, having standing distribution deals with StudioCanal across Europe (another NBC-Universal subsidiary) and through Universal in the US.
Its worth posting's full post on digital distribution (from

UK film distribution guide

UK cinema's digital dawn. FDA offers this snapshot of D-cinema, and its potential advantages and implications.

Digital film

Practically since the birth of cinema at the end of the 19th century, films have been produced, circulated and screened on celluloid stock.
More recently, digital soundtracks have enhanced the audio experience, while computer graphics imagery (CGI) is often added in post-production to realise spectacular effects. Today, most films are edited and mastered on digital equipment; a few, such as George Lucas's latest Star Wars episodes, are even shot using high-definition digital cameras, rather than being photographed on film.
Yet across the world, the standard format for presentation remains 35mm celluloid, which delivers superb quality to audiences.
Now the cinema industry stands on the threshold of a great, rolling transition from celluloid to digital, which is expected to gather momentum over the decade ahead. In time, digital technologies are likely to exert as profound an impact on the cinema sector as on the broadcast and other media sectors.
Digital or D-cinema has already been piloted in the UK for ten years. Disney/Pixar's Toy Story was supplied and presented digitally (on a Texas Instruments DLP prototype) at London's Odeon, Leicester Square, in 1995. But only a handful of cinemas have had digital projectors whilst further quality advances were achieved. Now, with D-cinema giving state-of-the-art clarity on screen, audiences may be unaware that they are watching a digital, as opposed to a film, presentation.
A great deal of work has been undertaken around the world, but especially by the studios' Digital Cinema Initiative, to develop global standards for D-cinema. The general aim is to ensure that digital content can be distributed and played anywhere in the world - as is the case, of course, with a 35mm print. The new technologies and components should be based on open, as well as compatible, standards that foster competition among equipment and service providers. The hardware should be capable of easy upgrades as further advances occur.
Who gains from D-cinema
Potentially, there are real benefits both for the industry and, most importantly, for audiences.
Film distributors - the companies that release movies and market them to the public - will benefit if there are substantial reductions in the costs of duplicating film prints and transporting them to cinemas. The UK is one of the most expensive markets in the world in which to release a film. FDA members spend approximately £125m a year on prints, duplicated in high-tech laboratories. A digitally produced or converted film could be delivered quickly and reliably via disc (a much smaller, cheaper physical medium than a 35mm print), fibre optic cable or satellite - triggering a huge systems change for the whole industry.
Cinemas that book and receive a digital copy would store it on a computer/server in the projection box, which would serve it to a particular digital projector for each screening. Importantly, distributors should be able to encode and encrypt their digital files, to ensure that each film is as secure as possible and that access to them throughout the theatrical lifecycle is controlled and traceable. In the digital era, new asset management models will emerge but for the foreseeable future, piracy is expected to continue as a key business issue, undermining the industry's further development.
In due course, it may be possible for distributors to deliver newly cut digital trailers to cinemas at very short notice, capitalising on topical developments such as awards nominations or wins, favourable reviews and box-office success, much as other forms of film advertising already do.
Film archiving could also be transformed by digital progress. Professional storage of 35mm reels can demand considerable space, care and funding.
For cinemas themselves, digital equipment may present diverse programming opportunities, such as concerts, sports events or short films of local interest, and it may help them as venues to attract business conferences. Depending on the catchment area population, perhaps a choice of classic films could be screened at selected times, if and when digital copies are available at low cost.
For cinema audiences, all these opportunities may result in wider choice. In addition, the digital images on screen will be picture-perfect every time. By contrast, the more often celluloid is run through a projector, the more prone it becomes to scratches and fading, wear and tear.
UK digital screen network
FDA welcomes and supports an initiative by the UK Film Council, to invest up to £13 million of National Lottery funds in what will become the world's first digital screen network, placing the UK at the forefront of D-cinema.
It is planned that up to 200 screens in 150 cinemas across the UK - a quarter of the total - will be equipped with digital projectors. In return, cinemas will be asked by the Film Council to show a broader range of specialised (non-blockbuster) films such as documentaries or foreign language titles on a regular basis.
Hopefully, such a substantial investment will help the hardware costs to fall, which in turn could facilitate extra installations. Initially at least, the network will comprise 2K digital projectors (2,048 x 1,080 pixels resolution).
Fast-changing area
D-cinema presents opportunities for the cinema industry to try new ways of working, and of course there is much to learn from experience.
Given lower print/shipping costs, distributors may be able to consider increasing the number of (digital) copies or increasing their advertising investment to promote the film. If they take this risk, it may in turn help to draw a larger audience to 'specialised' films which tend inevitably to have smaller releases than commercial blockbusters. Of course, simply making more copies of a film does not automatically lead to more tickets being sold.
Ultimately, audiences will decide what content they want to pay to view, and accordingly what gets shown, in cinemas; technology itself does not drive admissions. Whatever happens from now on, potentially very exciting changes are coming. The future isn't what it used to be.
Further information - includes latest news on the digital screen network - European Digital Cinema Forum - The Moving Image Society
FilmEducation describe the FDA thus:

Film Distributors' Association

Film Distributors' Association logo Originally established in London in 1915, Film Distributors' Association Ltd. (FDA) is the trade body for theatrical film distributors in the UK - the companies that release films for UK cinema audiences. FDA liaises and works with many individuals, companies and organisations to help ensure a vibrant future for film.

Various books in the library feature sections on film distribution, the process whereby middlemen, either for a flat fee or a for a percentage of revenues (or a combination of both) take on the financial risk of generating film prints and marketing a film. Also see:
THIS IS A GOOD GENERAL ARTICLE, FROM BFI'S SCREENONLINE - there are several further articles linked from this page which take you through case studies
image of film cans
The history of film is usually related through the achievements of producers, directors, writers and performers. Making films, production, has always been perceived as a glamorous pursuit.
Alternatively, our personal understanding and appreciation of film is shaped by our experiences at the cinema. The exhibition of film is a commonplace, shared cultural activity highly visible in every city and town in Britain, constantly feeding the popular memory.
By contrast, distribution, the third part of the film supply chain, is often referred to as 'the invisible art', a process known only to those within the industry, barely written about and almost imperceptible to everyone else.
Yet arguably, distribution is the most important part of the film industry, where completed films are brought to life and connected with an audience.
So what is involved in this invisible process? Distribution is about releasing and sustaining films in the market place. In the practice of Hollywood and other forms of industrial cinema, the phases of production, distribution and exhibition operate most effectively when 'vertically integrated', where the three stages are seen as part of the same larger process, under the control of one company. In the UK, distribution is very much focused on marketing and sustaining a global product in local markets.
In the independent film sector, vertical integration does not operate so commonly. Producers tend not to have long-term economic links with distributors, who likewise have no formal connections with exhibitors. Here, as the pig-in-the-middle, distribution is necessarily a collaborative process, requiring the materials and rights of the producer and the cooperation of the exhibitor to promote and show the film in the best way possible. In this sector, distribution can be divided into three stages - licensing, marketing and logistics.

The wiki isn't bad; starts with this summary:
A film distributor is an independent company, a subsidiary company or occasionally an individual, which acts as the final agent between a film production company or some intermediary agent, and a film exhibitor, to the end of securing placement of the producer's film on the exhibitor's screen. In the film business, the term "distribution" refers to the marketing and circulation of movies in theaters, and for home viewing (DVD, Video-On-Demand, Download, Television etc). (Film Distributors' Association website)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How many UK films made a year?

Useful resource at
A snippet:

The true health – or, perhaps the terminal decline – of British film hopes depends on more than the three dozen British movies that get released every year.
Equally important, perhaps even more crucial for taking the temperature are the fifty or sixty independent films that get made but are seldom seen.

WARP makes controversial jihad comedy

[See also]
The following comes from - there are further article links there

Chris Morris Unleashes Four Lions

20 May 2009 3:10 AM, PDT | EmpireOnline | See recent EmpireOnline news »
Film4 has gone where many others have feared to tread and funded Four Lions, Chris Morris' satirical and no doubt incendiary take on Islamic terrorism in the UK.Morris, the satirical genius behind Brass Eye and The Day Today and a man who once persuaded Phil Collins to appear on telly in a T-shirt with 'Nonce Sense' emblazoned on the front, is promising to show "the Dad's Army side of terrorism" with a script that follows the path of four teenage Muslims into indoctrinated jihadis.Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan Deirdre Steed, who helped secure funding to cover its £4 million budget, describes Four Lions as "a funny, thrilling fictional story that illuminates modern British jihad with an insight beyond anything else in our culture. As Spinal Tap understood heavy metal and Dr. Strangelove the Cold War, Four Lions understands modern British jihadis."The shoot for Four Lions is scheduled to start this summer, »

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some useful terminology

I won't usually post whole web pages, but this is a useful one - indeed, its a great website all round, there is much more to be found (this is the same source as the box office data posted earlier). I'll endeavour at some point to round up a range of useful terms to pass on as a test and then revision aid - as with semiotics there is potentially a lot to take on board...

Glossary of Movie Business Terms

Budget See production budget and Prints and Advertising (P&A) Budget.
Domestic Box Office
Total money spent on tickets by moviegoers in the United States and Canada.
Fanboy Effect
Certain films have a very loyal following, usually due to their source material. These people will flock to the film as soon as it opens, either over the opening weekend or, more likely, opening night. This inflates these numbers, reducing both the Internal Multiplier and the overall Multiplier.
Home Market
The Home Market refers to revenue derived from people viewing movies at home. It is broken down into three sections: rentals, sales and TV rights. Combined these bring in more than double the domestic box office and can turn a film that was a mid-level hit to a monster hit, or lift a film that struggled at the box office to one that shows a considerable profit. And to think, just a couple of decades ago studios were suing VCR manufacturers and Video Rental stores claiming they would kill the industry! Of course now DVD is king, representing more than 80% of rentals and nearly all of the sales.
The Hulk Effect
Back in 2003 when Hulk came out, the studio bowed to incredible pressure from fans and released early footage of the special effects. The plan was to get the fans talking and build up the word-of-mouth. However, the special effects were in the early stages and were so bad that the buzz it generated killed any chance the film had. More recently the same happened to Catwoman with the early look at Halle Berry's outfit. Just goes to show you, sometimes there is such thing as bad publicity.
Internal Multiplier
A film's weekend box office divided by its Friday number. It's basically a measure of the film's word-of-mouth, with 3.0 being the best most films can get these day while 2.3 is generally the bottom rung. Certain films have an inherent advantage (like those aimed kids), while the Fanboy Effect can shrink the number as the hardcore fans flock to the movie on Friday.
International box office
Total box office from all nations outside United States and Canada.
Legs is a term used to refer to how long a film lasts in theaters.
A film's total box office divided by its opening weekend box office. Another measure of the film's word-of-mouth but with a much wider range of possibilities. Films with below 2.0 are not unheard of, while 6.0 or more are a possibility. Just as a side note, not too long ago films with a multiplier of 10 or more were quite common, but the economics have changed and a big opening weekend is too important to the studios and the home market shortens a film's legs.
Prints and Advertising (P&A) Budget
Prints are the actual physical film that are shown in theaters and are quite expensive to make and distribute, costing about $2,000 per print. Each theater needs at least one print and possibly more depending on how many screens the film is playing on. The advertising part of the budget is the amount spent on just that, advertising. Most of the money is spent on TV, but radio, newspapers and magazines, the Internet and in theater advertising are also very important. The average film spends $34.4 million on P&A, while some films have spent more than $100 million.
Production Budget
The amount of money it cost make the movie including pre-production, film and post-production, but excluding distribution costs. The average cost of a wide release is about $65 million, with the most expensive films topping $200 million.
Screens & Screen Count
The actual screen the movie is projected on. Most Theaters have multiple screens, with largest having two dozen screens or more. Screen Count is simply the number of screens a film is playing on, but this is rarely used domestically, but internationally it is used to measure how wide a release is.
The Sequel Effect, a.k.a. Sequelitis
Think of this as a sub-species of the Fanboy Effect specific to sequels. Such films have a built in audience due to the original movie (as otherwise making the sequel is pointless).
Theaters & Theater Count
A theater is any place a movie is showing from the smallest cinema on the art house circuit to the largest megaplex. A film's Theater Count is simply the number of theaters a film is playing in at a given time. Domestically Theater Count is used to measure how wide a release is.
Worldwide box office
Domestic Box Office plus the International Box Office.

International Markets

The largest international box office market and one of the few markets where a movie can reach $100 million. Fantasy films tend to very well here, as do home grown films, especially Anime.
United Kingdom
The biggest producer of international films in terms of worldwide appeal and another market where a film hitting $100 million isn't unheard of, although for a film to bring in $30 million is about as common as a film hitting $100 million domestically. Not only do they produce a lot of their own films, the U.K. also tends to be the international market that is most receptive to most Hollywood films, especially comedies.
Germany is a market in transition as recently homegrown movies have really dominated the German speaking markets. Low brow comedies tend to do well here, as do films aimed at an urban audience domestically. Austria tends to have very similar box office tastes as Germany, just with a much smaller box office; a typical film will earn 10% to 20% of what it made in Germany.
Similar box office totals to the U.K., but local films tend to dominate the box office more in France. Also, the foreign language films with the biggest domestic box office tend to come from France.
Eclectic tastes means films that received just a limited release domestically tend to do well here. Hitting $10 million here is about as common as films hitting $150 million domestically.
Similar to the U.K., with similar tastes, except the average film will earn just half as much at the box office. Also, the local film production industry isn't nearly as strong. Films tend to open in Australia and New Zealand either on the same date, or within weeks of each other.
Horror films are the biggest draw here. One of the smaller major markets with $10 million a major milestone for the market and very few making it to $20 million or above. Films tend to open big and drop very fast, 50% second weekend drop-offs are common.
Family films tend to rule the box office here, especially animated films. For a film to hit $10 million in this market is a big deal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

BritCinema's hoodie obsession

Another great article from the Film Guardian (you might have heard me mention this before...), highlighting, with plentiful examples from the past decade, the trend to use so-called yobs/hoodies/thugs (i.e., depictions of your generation) as the monsters in a succession of Brit-flicks, whether horror or straight drama. See Jane Graham's article here
Hoodies strike fear in British cinema

If you want to scare a British moviegoer, you don't make a film about zombies – you cast a kid in flammable sportswear and a hoodie

Kate Winslet worth £60m to UK economy?!

Interesting article - from the Film Guardian, where else! - on a UKFC report which has calculated KW's value to the UK economy in terms of film investment and tourism, plus her own salaries. Came as a titanic shock to me...

She has been appraised and audited and metaphorically slapped with a price tag. It's official: Kate Winslet, the Oscar-winning star of The Reader, is worth a grand total of £60m to the British economy.

Winslet, 34, is the first actor to be audited in a bold new venture by the UK Film Council, designed to calculate the exact value of the industry's stars. Jokingly referred to as the "Winslet algorithm", it bases its findings on a number of factors, from Winslet's basic salary through to the "general promotional effect" that her films have on British tourism.

The formula calculated that the actor had earned £20m from her acting roles since starring in Sense and Sensibility back in 1995. However, it also credits her stardom as a key factor in boosting UK-based film production. According to the study, the "production investment effect" of casting Winslet in a British picture is worth £34.4m.

The Winslet algorithm is the brainchild of David Steele, head of research and statistics at the UK Film Council. "When an actor achieves international prominence, they have a general effect of boosting their country of origin that works its way through television appearances, advertising and celebrity news," he explained in a statement. Steele now plans to use his formula to audit a number of other notable British actors.

Reading-born Winslet first came to public notice thanks to roles in Sense and Sensibility and Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, before starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the record-breaking Titanic. Other notable films include Iris, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Revolutionary Road. Steele calculates that her single biggest acting payment was the estimated £6m she pocketed for her work on the 2004 drama Finding Neverland.
 Source: Xan Brooks, "Kate Winslet 'worth £60m' to UK economy", Film Guardian [online], 9.11.09. Accessed online 10.11.09 at

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The power of a good idea...

Nice example here of a short film which leaps straight into the dis-equilibrium and has a nice twist ending. Sharing it is doing exactly what the corporation behind it are hoping for: an example of viral marketing. But then it is CanalPlus, which links in with the AS British Cinema case study of Working Title...