Friday, April 26, 2013

Screen Yorkshire 2013 £3.5m includes Warp's '71

News that Screen Yorkshire' Yorkshire Content Fund, launched in 2012, has a 2013 budget of £3.5m, investing between £100k to £500k in film, games and TV projects. Its total budget is £15m:
The Yorkshire Content Fund, launched in Feb 2012, will invest £7.5m of European Regional Development Funding into growing TV, film, games and digital business across Yorkshire and Humber. That figure will be matched by a further £7.5m of private investment, bringing the total fund value to £15m.
Much of Screen Yorkshire's money comes from an EU fund, the European Regional Development Fund. Here's SY's chief exec on how the YCF works:
Sally Joynson, Chief Executive of Screen Yorkshire, said: “We’ve had an incredible first year for the Yorkshire Content Fund with TV investments such as Peaky Blinders for BBC2 and The Great Train Robbery heading into production soon for BBC1, along with features such as Warp Films’ ’71, Emu Films’ Catch Me Daddy and Ecosse Films’ Girl’s Night Out. We now have a number of financing structures in place with co-investors that are working very well for the film and TV sectors so I’d urge producers to contact us now with their latest projects so we can continue to invest in the some of the most creative and commercial UK productions.”
Note the Warp Films movie in there: '71. You can discuss the funding of this (production practices) even if it hasn't been shot yet, let alone released (due for a 2014 release according to the IMDB entry). Here's the Wiki info on '71:
'71 is an upcoming film set in Northern Ireland. Written by Gregory Burke and directed by Yann Demange it stars Richard Darmer, David Wilmot, Martin McCann and Charlie Murphy, and tells the story of a British soldier who becomes separated from his unit during a riot in Belfast at the height of the Troubles in 1971. Filming began on location in Yorkshire in April 2013. The film is funded by the British Film Institute, Film4, Creative Scotland and Screen Yorkshire.[1]
Read more from SY's press release here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Are stars vital for cinema success?

The simple answer is yes ... and no!
Most of the big hit movies are to some degree 'star vehicles', but then there are plenty of counter examples too, from Paranormal Activity to Bridesmaids, or Billy Elliot for that matter!
More and more films US and UK films are funded by pre-selling distribution rights to foreign markets, a strategy UK social realist filmmakers such as Ken Loach and Mike Leigh relied upon for most of their careers. In their case, they could pre-sell to European markets where they were held in very high regard as auteur filmmakers. More mainstream films, even at the low budget level, will frequently encounter foreign distributors demanding the presence of some star with appeal in their territory, reinforcing the position of stars as vital to a film's prospects even if the evidence of success is very questionable.
At the tentpole level there is also a yes and no answer: big name stars with wide international crossover appeal help sell the movie, and their appearances on major TV shows across different territories/markets, their presence at red-carpet openings, usually helps generate buzz. However, technology can be just as big a factor: Avatar wasn't reliant on big names but rather the combination of groundbreaking CGI/SFX and the brand of director James Cameron, just as Michael Bay's name and the associated guarantee of lots of spectacular explosions that the producer of such successful bilge as the Transformers franchise brings is at least as important as any star name attached.
Here's a few links for further reading on this - useful for reflecting on your own target audience too.

Michael Bay gets narked at Transformers star slagging off the movie!
After enduring the unenthused gripes of his two leads, Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, Bay has apparently been forced to his breaking point by the recent comments from Hugo Weaving, who called his voice-acting gig as Transformers villain Megatron a "meaningless" job that he "didn't care about."
EC McMullen Jr gets rather cross at the very idea that stars sell pictures, specifically horror...
Two major factors will sell your genre movie to the fans. One is someone and something they've never seen before (so if you're dry-humping NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, ALIEN, or SAW, you lose). Two is fan recognition. Fans are more apt to go to a movie made by a director, writer, or producer (even a freaking

Universal launches $35k Prima Cinema: $500 tickets!

Prima Cinema has teamed with Hollywood studio Universal to offer the new service, which is targeted at super-rich film stars and other celebrities. The $35,000 price tag covers a digital box allowing movies to be delivered via the internet: once downloaded, they can be viewed just once at a cost of $500. Prima inspects every client's home cinema to ensure there are no more than 25 seats, so the service cannot be used to set up a commercial cinema business.
Universal is the only major studio currently offering its movies via Prima, but it is hoped others will follow suit if the service is found to be commercially viable. Upcoming films which will be available to view at home on the same day as their US cinema release include the Tom Cruise sci-fi thriller Oblivion as well as past titles such as Les Misérables, Identity Thief and Admission.
Universal is confident its latest strategy to combat the effects of online and home cinema on box office will reinforce its revenues - and it does seem a smart move. Basically, they're catering for the wealthy by offering $35,000 equipment that allows new releases to be viewed at home for $500 a pop. By 'home' they mean multi-million pads with space to accomodate a mini-cinema (up to 25 seats). The film is streamed, the latest use of digital distribution. They can verify that users don't seek to abuse the service with multiple screenings and ticket selling. See below for more info, from this article.

$35,000 kit allows super-rich to watch films at home on day they are released

Hollywood studio Universal is first to offer the service, aimed at film stars – with each viewing costing $500
Jurassic Park film, 1993
Home truths … a scene from Jurassic Park. Owners of the Prima Cinema equipment can see the 3D version at home this weekend. Photograph: MCA/Everett/Rex

The experience filmgoers have been waiting for since the dawn of Hollywood has arrived: the chance to see new releases at home on the same day they hit cinemas. There is, however, a catch: to view Jurassic Park 3D this weekend you will first need to install projection equipment costing $35,000 (about £23,000), while each viewing costs $500 a pop (£330).

Digitisation and the piracy debate

Is the piracy debate overplayed by the film industry?
Are the ads starting every DVD which link film piracy with organised crime likely to impact on youth - or perhaps the alarmist message is aimed at politicians, not consumers? Then there is the Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness £5m campaign, Moments Worth Paying For (backed up with a UKFC/National Lottery funded website, "", which locates legal DVD/download links for any film. [source]
Its also arguable that the legal moves against the likes of Kickass Torrents are tokenistic.
Look more closely at what is being pirated - its the Hollywood productions; only highly marketed British productions are likely to appear on the likes of Torrent sites (the likes of a Loach movie is unlikely to attract many 'seeds'!). [source]
Some users feel justified in pursuing piracy given the distribution strategies of the majors: only sending cinema prints to the UK after the US run has finished (the rare exceptions are films like Avatar which are given an incredibly expensive worldwide release). Plus, many British films simply won't make it to cinema screens. Then there's the pricing of cinema tickets, and the increasingly poor cinema experience, blighted by smartphone wielding youth. Cineworld's targetting of 35-44+ through
luxury food etc suggests an alternative strategy to lawsuits, as do the wave of streaming and download options becoming available.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

3D declining in 2013

You can find much more on the key topic of 3D cinema in this post.
Back in 2011 there were some arguing 3D would soon decline - and now it seems it may have peaked.

3D films set for popularity slide

First drop in 3D box office projected for this year despite hotly tipped summer blockbusters, according to Fitch Ratings report
Box office blues … 3D exploded into our cinemas with Avatar in 2009, but now the novelty appears to be wearing off. Photograph: Rex Features
Audiences for films in 3D are projected to decline in 2013, the first drop since 3D exploded with Avatar in 2009, according to a report compiled by Fitch Ratings.
Since the success of James Cameron's sci-fi epic, more and more movies have jumped on the latest iteration of the 3D format, which is no longer confined to animation or big-budget action films. The likes of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby and Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity will also exploit the new technology.
However, Fitch has concluded the novelty is starting to wear off. 3D box office takings in the US and Canada have remained static at $1.8bn for the past two years, and are set for a slight year-on-year decline in 2013 despite a strong lineup of 3D releases, including Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel.
"Attendance likely benefited from the initial proliferation of 3D films," says the report. "However, the initial excitement has dwindled, and consumers are focused again on the overall quality of the film and are weighing the cost of a premium ticket versus a base 2D ticket."
While overall box office takings increased in 2012 to a record-breaking $34.7bn worldwide, 3D failed to make a similar impact. "Going to the movies remains one of the lower-cost forms of entertainment," says Fitch's study. "However, increased pricing, particularly on 3D films, may erode this perception over time."

VDIO: will streaming replace cinema?

The short-term answer is no, given what huge businesses cinemas are ... but then the CD market, and the high-street retailers linked with this, seemed bullet-proof not so long ago and even HMV has gone bust, with downloads long since passing physical CD sales.
Vdio is the latest launch of a company seeking to develop film streaming in the UK, but for now their prospects are limited by the absolute determination of the exhibitors to protect the exclusive cinema window. Netflix has recently pioneered releasing TV series in one go, before they've aired on TV, so its likely this will eventually happen with cinema too. IMAX, 3D and the huge improvements in sound are all defensive moves by cinema to protect its appeal with customers who can download movies to watch on phones, tablets, computers or home cinema setups, but they do face huge and growing pressure from online distribution - especially now 4G broadband is here and GB file sizes no longer rule out film streaming/downloads for most.

Here's an excerpt from Stuart Dredge's article on this, Vdio streaming TV and film service goes live in the US and UK (4.4.13):
In other words, TV shows and movies are bigger than songs, which for a while meant piracy was less of a headache for rightsholders in those industries than in music – although faster broadband connections and better data on the scale of TV and film filesharing is changing that.
Even so, by protecting the idea of release windows – where shows and films get staggered releases through cinema/TV, DVD/Blu-ray and digital services – startups like Vdio have to license content where they can.
"They've embraced digital, it's not like they haven't," says Larner. "There are a ton of digital services out there. But movies and TV – and movies especially – are holding on to their windowing as long as they can, to squeeze as many dollars as they can out of the initial theatrical release, then the other windows."
For now, Vdio will focus on refining its technology for buying and renting, ready to add subscriptions when it thinks the time is right. Larner says the company is also focused on expanding the number of devices Vdio is available on, including TVs.
"For a video service, it's critical to be on the TV. Right now, Vdio is web and iPad, and the way to get on TV is you need to take your iPad and use it with an Apple TV, which is a great experience," he says.
"But no doubt about it, we need to be on TVs in other ways, and we have that on the roadmap, whether it's [set-top box] Roku or doing apps for Samsung or LG TVs. We need to be there."

GLOBAL BOX OFFICE: continued US dominance?

Figures for the following are taken from Phil Hoad's article, Hollywood's hold over global office - 63% and falling (2.4.13), itself based on this MPAA annual report. Figures are for the full year 2012.
Worldwide box office: $34.7bn
US $10.8bn
non-US global box office = 69% of total (ie, US = a third of all global box office)
Asia-Pacific box office jumped 15% to $10.4bn, with China overtaking Japan as world's 2nd-biggest market (Hoad argues that it won't maintain the 36% rise every year + so rejects the argument that it will overtake the US by 2020)
'One thing beyond dispute is that Asia-Pacific is poised to overtake the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa), which shrank slightly last year to $10.7bn, very soon.'
'The third region used by the MPAA for global box-office purposes – Latin America – logged a small rise, from $2.6bn to $2.8bn.'

Crucially, note that these figures are for tickets in those regions - US-produced films continue to dominate worldwide, hoovering up nearly 2-thirds of global box office (60-70%) - see below for more details. That actually means a steady fall since Avatar set the recent high in 2010, although 4 of the big 6 made over $2bn from non-US box office in 2012!

A lot of figures, the point is that these provide useful, specific evidence of the context of US dominance in which UK companies must operate.
The MPAA report is still, sadly, low on detail on overseas activity, despite abroad being where Hollywood's compass points these days. It certainly doesn't broach the touchy question – loaded with the old cultural-imperialism chestnut – of exactly what level of dominance Hollywood enjoys worldwide. So, using Metacritic's figures for respective studios' takings in 2012, I've done some calculations of my own. If worldwide box office was $34.7bn, and the six majors' combined box office was $21.773bn, that means American cinema enjoyed a minimum 62.7% share of the globe (this doesn't take into account films by smaller producers, including Lions Gate, which is virtually a proper studio now). Applying the same methods for the previous three years, the percentage comes out as: 2009, 63.9%; 2010, 67.4%; 2011, 66.9%; 2012, 62.7%.
Does this four-year snapshot mean anything? It certainly reinforces that the US remains the 900lb gorilla of world cinema – gripping what, if complete stats were available, would probably be closer to 70+% of all box-office receipts. But Kim Jong-un and devotees of cultural diversity can also comfort themselves with the fact that this share seems to be dropping – from a 2010 peak when Avatar skewed the spread – at a time when overseas markets are expanding rapidly and the studios are straining to devise "global content". And the drop was a fairly dramatic one in 2012, despite a fair performance across the board from the big six (four made it over the $2bn mark in international markets), and a year that contained a No 3 entry for Disney, Avengers Assemble, on the all-time list. So this shows why the MPAA flapped so hard about the Chinese government's anti-competitive practices – forcing US blockbusters to run off against each other on the same weekend, and blackout periods for foreign releases. As new cinema markets become larger and more sophisticated Hollywood will have to fight harder to retain the status quo.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

2011 UK Cinema report: key facts

Each year the BFI (British Film Institute, who have taken over duties from the UKFC) publishes a report on the UK film industry, highlighting trends and changes: the share of UK productions v US-backed UK productions v Hollywood imports; the share for Indies; the box office % for 3D; the rise of digital production etc, and more.

Below, I pick out the key points and include analysis (+ further links/quotes) to help you include this in your exam prep. There's a full list of definitions at the very end, but this one is especially useful: A UK film is a film that has been certified as British by the DCMS or by the Certification Unit of the BFI (acting on the authority of the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics Media and Sport) or which is a de facto UK film by virtue of being made in whole or part in the UK by a UK production company. You can see from this that the definition of a British film, as far as the government is concerned, includes basically US films which are partially shot in the UK. Both Warp and WT are treated as British companies, despite WT being majority-owned (67%) by NBC-Universal
Here's some links to their latest reports:

Statistical Yearbook 11

The 2011 Statistical Yearbook offers the most comprehensive and accessible picture of film anywhere in the UK
New reports
Statistical Yearbook Archive
Our Publications A-Z contains a pdf archive of all of our Statistical Yearbooks to date:


The points/data below are taken from Film production in the UK - full year 2011 report (76KB, PDF), 31 January 2012 - I've also added some further analysis and links.
  • Admissions (the number of tickets sold) rose to 171.6m
  • the total box office from this was £1.4bn, up 5% from 2010, with Indie hits The King's Speech and The Inbetweeners Movie a key factor: both took over £45m  making them the biggest UK Indie hits ever
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 became the 3rd biggest UK hit of all time with £73m after Avatar and Toy Story 3
  • there were 6 movies over £30m (compare that to the US where many of the top 10 in a typical week will have exceeded that), the above + Pir.Carbn: On Stranger Tides; The Hangover 2; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. Its unusual for big 6 flicks not to take the top spots!
  • the surprise £23m success of Bridesmaids showed the strength of female-centred movies [DB: prospects for a 3rd BJD movie look good right now]
  • WT's biggest UK hit was #12: the £20.6m (1 of 13 in UK to top £20m) Johnny English Reborn (its final total is higher still, as it overlaps with the 2011 figures), tho' parent company Universal also had #9 Bridesmaids and #14 Fast and Furious 5
  • WT also had #12 in 2010 with Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (£16.53m) - this shows the importance of franchises to film producers and distributors; again, with BJD3 imminent this trend is not going away
  • over the past decade UK films account for 24% of UK box office, but 18% of this is US-financed productions; only 5.5% of UK box office came from UK Indies - that average was doubled to 13.5% in 2011
  • WT are classed as a UK Indie, which suggests that the genuine % for actual Indies is much, much lower! Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was the 3rd biggest 'UK Indie' hit of 2011. Warp X made it into this chart, #14 with the brilliant Submarine (£1.46m); Four Lions was 5th biggest Indie hit in 2010. Only 5 'UK Indie' releases earned over £5m in 2011, again showing why their releases rarely exceed £5m in budget
  • The Harry Potter sequel took 48% of its money from 3D screenings. There were nearly twice as many 3D films as in 2010, 3 times as many as 2009 ... BUT, perhaps the 3D bubble is finally bursting? In 2010 3D took 24% of UK box office, this was down to 20% in 2011. More and more '2D-to-3D conversions' (where software is used to reprocess films not shot in 3D into 3D) are being released, and perhaps the novelty is wearing off - maybe Avatar will prove the absolute peak of 3D? While you can still double ticket prices, though, 3D will remain a tempting proposition: right now a 3D conversion of The Phantom Menace is doing well worldwide, and Titanic is soon to be re-released as 3D as well. We've yet to see any WT 3D (and its far too expensive for Warp to consider). Cinemas have been desparate to compete with the growing trend of home cinema, expensive large-screen/surround-sound living room set-ups that many people now use in preference to cinema, with its (sorry, but its true!) noisy teens, over-priced tickets and horrid food:
Cinemas are obliged to split money from ticket sales with the film studios, but get to keep almost all the cash they make from selling food. That means that the "concessions" (popcorn, sweets and the like) make up 20% of a cinema's revenue but 40% of its profits. A box of popcorn is around 85% profit to the cinema, and salty foods of course encourage people to buy more soft drinks, increasing receipts further. "Without the hefty concession profits," declared an article in Time a few years ago, "there would be no movie theater business". (
see also prev posts on 3D/digitisation:

  • Despite the apparent promise of digitisation to open up the film industry to low and micro-budget productions, with reduced distribution costs also helping, the number of films produced in the UK in 2011 actually fell from 322 (2010) to 237. In 2010 there were 184 UK films made for under £500k, in 2011 just half that at 98, again, not what we expect from the benefits of digitisation. Will the closure of the UKFC further damage the prospects of low-budget UK Indie releases in 2012? The total spend (all the budgets added up) actually increased slightly, to £1.26bn, though most of this was US money.  

The terms used by BFI:

A UK film is a film that has been certified as British by the DCMS or by the Certification Unit of the BFI (acting on the authority of the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics Media and Sport) or which is a de facto UK film by virtue of being made in whole or part in the UK by a UK production company.
A US studio film is a film that is produced in whole or part by one of the major US studios or one of the major US studios’ specialist subsidiaries.
An independent film is a film made by an independent production company or group of independent production companies.
US studio films are generally distributed in most territories by the parent studio. Independent films are usually distributed by different distributors in different territories. 
[Source: The UK box office in 2011 (112KB, PDF), 31 January 2012]