Friday, December 09, 2016

REPRESENTATION only posh Brits get leads in Hollywood

For the star to truly shine, the character actor must be standing somewhere nearby. Occasionally the two categories overlap, though it almost never happens with British actors in Hollywood; only the silver-spooners, such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne and Hugh Grant, graduate to above-the-title billing. The likes of Tom Hardy, Fassbender and Daniel Day-Lewis (memorably described by the comedian Adam Riches as “the greatest actor never to have appeared in anyone’s favourite films”) are character actors who just happen to have achieved stardom.

Michael Sheen, Passengers and why Hollywood's hottest leads need a quirky Brit

Sunday, December 04, 2016

VOD + BOUTIQUE CINEMA history + UK services overview

An excellent overview of the radical shifts in the cinema industry, responding to digital disruption by diversifying, not least going upmarket...
On a recent visit to a Curzon cinema in London I sat (lay, really) on a steeply pitched chair that had been upholstered in red fur. Outside in the lobby, the snacks for sale included prosecco-laced ice lollies and popcorn flavoured with specific French cheeses; I chose a wedge of iced sponge cake that was on display under a cloche. Inside the screening room, I wasn’t the only one clacking tableware while we waited for the feature – Woody Allen’s Café Society – to start.
A pre-film advert played, promoting the Curzon’s app. Audiences were advised that, next time, they could simply stay at home and use their phones to stream selected newly released films direct to their TVs. Café Society had a 1930s setting, a jazz soundtrack, Allen’s usual Windsor font in the credits. But the preamble to it had been powerfully, pungently modern, illustrating the lavishing-up of many cinemas and the spread of home-streaming services, developments that have come to characterise movie‑watching in 2016.
As Allen’s film played I lay on the near-horizontal, watching it down my nose and trying not to fall asleep during the slow bits like an old man in front of the snooker – asking myself how we’d got here. To cinema seats resembling pool loungers. To phones that with the right software could call up hundreds of thousands of feature films. Just under a third of the UK population now streams films and this year sales of digitally streamed or downloaded movies outstripped sales of DVDs for the first time.

Full stream ahead? The brave new world of cinemagoing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

BFI looks beyond cinema

As well as announcing a large scale digitisation of British TV, the BFI also announced a change in its funding programme to include films not intended for theatrical release.
“The BFI’s job is to champion the future success of film in the UK and this plan is designed to do that – we want to back the brave, the new and the experimental.
“Our aim is to find, educate and support the very best talent, give them the skills, tools and creative freedom needed to tell their stories, and make sure as many people as possible can enjoy and be inspired by those stories on the big screen, the small screen and even the screen in their pocket.”

Friday, November 25, 2016

DISTRIBUTION STREAMING Shudder shakes up horror subscription

A US genre specialist subscription service recently also launched in the UK

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

BJBABY too British? Japan, Greece, US etc considered

A nuanced view of WT's strategy.
Starting with Saunders' excellent Telegraph article I'll look at arguments that BJB is too British for the US market; non-English markets experience a radically different Bridget through culturally-weighted translations (eg Spain) - and even censorship (Japan). Japanese subtitles reposition Jones as closer to a traditional stereotypical female through certain formalities of grammar. Greeks were among many non-UK/US (Australia/NZ/Canada?) audiences to be left none the wiser when Aretha's Respect kicked in at a key point in the original movie - iconic tunes that 'everyone knows' don't necessarily cross Western, English-language borders.
Saunders cites a number of academic studies in doing so - this is a much-studied franchise and cultural phenomenon, so challenge yourself and look out for more in-depth reading!
One such example that I will re-read in due course, not least as it presents intriguing arguments on the tensions between WT and Richard Curtis' script between appealing to the domestic and US markets: Jones is at once Americanised and critical of American culture ... is the book Falling in Love Again: Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema (Abbott, Jermyn eds. (2008)). 
I'll get to view the film in due course - but your own (or second hand) observations from this would be welcomed (post a comment).

Headline for the Saunders piece.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

FRANCE 36 month law flix off streaming giant

Good example of the tensions between globalisation (read: American hegemony) and local regulation designed to protect local production and its cultural voice.

Usually this means referencing the big six, but in this case it's Netflix, an American global giant about as welcome in France as Mickey D's burger emporiums (not even Samuel L Jackson's le big mac skatz could make that culinary imperialism cool).

They and Amazon, with Apple hovering as well, perhaps should be considered part of a big six+2.

Like China and many other major movie markets (the gung ho free market UK an exception since laissez-faire zealot Thatcher swept away protectionist regulations in the early 80s, leading to a summer 2016 in which all of the top 20 earners were Hollywood output), France imposes several restrictions on foreign movies to protect domestic producers and culture against American dominance.

I wasn't aware of the 36 month after release wait time there, presumably designed as a block on Amazon prime, Netflix, Google Movies, Apple and other American giants establishing a stranglehold on the market - chiefly through imported American movies, getting round cinema restrictions.

With Indies like Warp occasionally turning to self-distribution (All Tomorrow's Parties, etc), that policy perhaps should be tweaked to be less cinema-centric and give Indies a rare advantage, but does show that the big six+2 are not quite the Borg... resistance is not (yet) futile...

French resistance: can Netflix win over its harshest critics?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bridget Jones Baby marketing

I'll add to this - your own photos etc would be very welcome

This post builds on an earlier post, which itself is long and detailed, looking at the international nature of the campaign and the trailers especially, but also looking back at the scale of this franchise - so lets start there.

The latest movie is at $180m worldwide - a good return, but well down on past entries. There should be a 4th based on those numbers. See my post on the Gant Rule (with BJB as an exception) for more details - such as this, the only territories with 8-figure returns:
  • Australia $13m
  • France $14m
  • US $24m
  • UK $60m

The basic: Premieres
This generates TV news and wider media stories (eg Mirror):

Thursday, November 10, 2016

BOX OFFICE: Gant Rule in 2016

A definition of 'the Gant Rule'; testing it out with the summer 2016 UK/US box office; why is this so profoundly significant for understanding the British cinema market; how satirical cartoon Curtisland illustrates this; why does it not always work (including Bridget Jones example).

I was surprised just now to find that 'the Gant Rule' doesn't bring up many relevant hits ... until the phrase 'box office' is added to the search.

Lets have a fresh look at this...

Box office analyst Charles Gant (who has a weekly Guardian column, but whose writing appears in many other publications worldwide) has long argued that a typical transatlantic hit (a success in both the UK and US markets) will make ten times as much in the US ($ figures) as in the UK (unadjusted £ figures).

In short, for a UK/US hit, UK £box office x10 roughly = US $box office
*it is highly advisable to put such terms in '' to help denote them as technical terms; the media world is so vast and complex, no single examiner will be familiar with every conceivable term

Is he right? Usually, yes!

I have blogged on this a few times...
Use the Gant Rule tag to find previous posts - or simply make your own comparisons with films' UK/US box office!

 Captain America: Civil War + The Secret Life of Pets examples
Using figures from his ScreenDaily column, Gant looked at the 2016 summer box office on both sides of the Atlantic. Jump straight to the number one hit and you'll see a prime example of the Gant Rule in effect: Captain America: Civil War took £37m in the UK and $407m in the US. That's precisely x11 the UK figure - pretty accurate forecasting there!

Bridget Jones's Baby boom? Smart marketing, modernised values

DIRECTOR: Sharon Maguire
BUDGET: $35m
BOX OFFICE: UK $60m, US $24m, World $212m
PRODUCTION COMPANY CREDITS: Miramax*, StudioCanalUniversal PicturesWorking Title Films *presumably they retain rights as original film co-producer with WT
DISTRIBUTION: Universal, UIP 62 countries 'Universal is releasing in most territories with Studiocanal handling France, Germany and Austria' [Deadline]

Much more to come on one of the most significant Working Title productions for years. They have multiple highly successful franchises (Nanny McPhee, Bean, Johnny English...) but none are as iconic and central to their identity as BJD, the franchise based on Helen Fielding's hit novel.

Working Title page.
Daily Mail. #1 in 24 countries; biggest UK September opening ever

I've blogged on this for a few years now (here; here on novel + musical; here in a wider post on WT franchising): BJD3 was announced in July 2009! It was then formally greenlit by Universal + WT in October 2011 ... but would take another 4 years for shooting to commence, with Hugh Grant dropping out and a change of director (Paul Zeig was originally attached, but with the film seeming dead in the water Sharon Maguire wasn't attached until negotiations with the principal cast resumed again in June 2015). [details from Wiki]

Sharon Maguire was overlooked for the first sequel...
Sharon Maguire, who directed the original Bridget Jones’s Diary in 2001, returned to direct the feature film from a script she co-wrote with David Nicholls (One Day) [source]

BoxOfficeMojo BJD franchise page.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

CRITICS, DYER and the Brad Pitt affair

Allied is the latest in a long line of films whose publicity campaigns have been overcome by wider gossip and press discourse - a scenario Richard Dyer addresses within his theory of the star system. He argued that we consume the wider image and media discourse of the star, not just any specific fictional character.

The scale of gossip centred on Brad Pitt's marital break-up and the link widely made with his co-star Cotillard has created a dominant narrative that seems set to undermine the marketing of this as a serious, intricate drama. Never mind the direct, specific denial by Cotillard, the twitterati have set the tone.

Allied: what happens when a film gets eclipsed by gossip

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

CHINA's complex rise to global power

I'll review past posts and in time combine in an overview post here.

China has risen dramatically as a box office force, to the point of usurping the US as the world's leading cinema market by overall box office take, fuelled by huge successive annual rises.

This smooth narrative has suddenly had a twist added, however, with 2016 figures far short of expectations.

The response has been an unofficial relaxing of the strict quota imposed on non-Chinese movies.

Up to 2012 a mere 20 were permitted to screen in Chinese cinema a year, but a 5 year deal boosted this to 34, and the expectation is of a large rise in this number when a replacement deal is negotiated in 2017.

There is a dual system in place. The distributors of the (currently 34) quota films are permitted to take 25% of box office take. Non-quota films can be released, but only receive a flat fee from Chinese operators, typically a small fraction of a potential box office share.

Despite the rigid protectionist rules, 38 Hollywood movies have been released under the 25% box office share system, the extra 4 being officially explained away as cultural exchanges, but generally seen as an attempt by the government to maintain the linear narrative of a mushrooming and therefore highly powerful Chinese cinema.

Free market enthusiasts or just Western readers may decry the authoritarian regime's protectionist stance, and will be cheered by the growing pressure China faces to conform to WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules or risk retaliatory import restrictions by the US and other key export markets.

However, the ruinous impact of Hollywood hegemony on domestic film production (and thus consumption) across the world should not be overlooked. The routinely big budget big six star-laden output crushes local competition in most markets.

France is among the major Western markets to impose its own restrictions to ensure that local language, domestic productions gain a share of exhibition space. Prior to the 80s free market fundamentalism of Thatcher, Britain had its own quota.

Without it we have a British film as the biggest hit of the year...only Bridget Jones's Baby has an American lead and distributor, and Working Title is a subsidiary of the big six giant NBC-Universal. Compare its box office take with what looks like the biggest British Indie hit of 2016, I, Daniel Blake, which may manage £1-2m. (BFI figures count WT as Indie, rather stretching the term)

China's limit on imported films relaxed amid box office downturn

China passes law to ensure films 'serve the people and socialism'

Open door: who benefits most from Hollywood's courting of China?

Sunday, October 30, 2016

STAR POWER Elba gets debut script worldwide Sony distribution

But he was drawn to the novice scriptwriter’s work, helping to shape it, advising on the musical score and producing videos expressing his enthusiasm for the project, to entice investors. His involvement immediately opened doors. He introduced Butler to sales agents, distributors and other key players.

Butler said: “It’s a very difficult world out there for independent drama. Without Idris, [the film] would be nowhere … with Idris, of course that’s how we got Sony to buy worldwide distribution. I owe him everything.”

How a writer’s first film script inspired Idris Elba to become its star

Friday, October 28, 2016

Number-crunching: producers not stars money-makers?

Well well, shake your moneymakers, it appears its a producer who most reliably adds value to a film release, not a star - though actors do dominate the fascinating list by

Also notable is the utter male dominance, with only Angelina Jolie, at #20, breaking up this testosterone hegemony.

A Guardian analysis highlights that just 2 80s stars remain as reliable draws, 'The Tom Tom Club' of Cruise and Hanks, though its Spielberg, 80s box office king, who tops the list, now as producer rather than director, and Samuel L. Jackson who leads the thesps.

Adam Sandler, king of trash and oppobrium magnet, is third. Bordwell and Thompson may declare Film Art, but Sandler's impact is a clear triumph for the film biz.

Cruise and Hanks: from golden boys to wasted talents

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cinematic universe extending franchise hegemony

Twist in the tale: super spin-offs start to replace film remakes and sequels

Monday, October 17, 2016

Yellowface controversy: Lee(ve) it out

Birth of the Dragon: makers of film about Bruce Lee respond to 'yellowface' row

Saturday, October 15, 2016

SOCIAL REALISM profile of godfather Ken Loach

Some featured films in the BFI guide to SR.
With the frequent focus on Working Title, the term social realism is thrown in a lot on this blog. To have any grasp of that, there are two names you should be familiar with: Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. I read an interesting Loach interview in today's Guardian - including a nice dig at that paper's conservatism compared to The Morning Star - which starts with a look at his politics and how these are reflected his latest film, just out, but goes on to look over his entire 50 year film-making career.

Loach and Leigh are both iconoclastic, exceptional auteurs: both typically refuse to issue a script, preferring to workshop a scenario with their cast (often, mostly in Loach's case, untrained non-professional actors), and Loach even shoots his films in chronological order, breaking rule 1 of film production! This, and their focus on working-class protagonists and their struggles in an unsympathetic political culture, has seen both struggle to win funding in their homeland, with government agencies baulking at the notion of funding unscripted projects and studios/investors seeking star-led projects.

Both, especially Loach, have managed long careers by pre-selling distribution rights (BEFORE production commences) in European markets like France and Germany where both are widely acclaimed - a funding method threatened by EU proposals to force producers to sell EU-wide rights only, and barring territory by territory deals (great news for the studios with the clout and presence to achieve this, but a sure death-knell for Indies if its implemented in the name of neo-liberal, free market orthodoxy).

A sample quote:

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

WT Billion Dollar Baby Brit Record

Catherine Shoard reports the landmark figure for the British production co

Well hello, hooray! For their competition its welcome to my nightmare, but school's out for the unrivalled masters of the British cinema market...the first British billion dollar babies of the UK (though Rep. of Ireland figures are often combined) cinema audience.

If you're bewildered by the intertextual puns in the above, it may be that you're not old enough to remember Alice Cooper in his prime (the artist in the video below) - Working Title don't go back nearly 50 years in the biz like Cooper, but they do go back 31 years at the time of writing (2016), so their bold social realist (with a comic edge) debut feature My Beautiful Laundrette (they're associated with 1984's The Man Who Shot Christmas too).
THEORY TIP: Stuart Hall argued that semiotics, and much early media theory, had one major flaw: assuming that meaning was completely tied to the producers of a text and their intentions (what they attempted to encode). He argued that meaning is also generated by the audience, and that the meaning they take will be influenced by their age, gender, nationality, cultural tastes, education level etc. Adult readers may pick up on my Alice Cooper intertextual puns, but younger readers may not - though they may generate their own independent meaning too.
If you followed my meaning, thats a preferred reading (the textual author would prefer that); if you follow some but not a substantial part, a contested or negotiated reading; if you reject or interpret in a very different way, thats an oppositional reading.

Today's juggernaut company, with its latest ultra-commercial hit Bridget Jones's Baby yet another franchise release featuring major US stars to boost its international appeal, is barely recognisable from the radical young company that produced a gay, inter-racial romance tale at the height of 1980s Thatcherite homophobia and race riots in Britain, following it up with an edgy wartime drama making a star of its young (unknown, just like the MBL leads) female lead and her catchphrase, up yer bum!

Sunday, September 04, 2016

CONVERGENCE Tangerine dream: celebrate death of 35mm?

Tangerine dream? This iPhone-shot movie had critics raving, making a big wave upon its Sundance Film Festival screening, and is cited below as an example of why we should celebrate the passing of 35mm and its replacement with digital. (NB: the trailer features strong language) Read more at theverge.comBBCTechradarGuardian and nofilmschool.
From the Wiki. Also detailed in BoxOfficeMojo.

Most articles about digitisation tend to bemoan the undermining of celluloid and the 35mm film, but this one celebrates the democratising improvements it has brought about, shaking up a conservative industry with high barriers to entry.

AUDIENCE ANALYSIS Star Trek fails to live long and prosper?

This post focuses on the LA Times' box office coverage, which provides very specific audience breakdown and analysis.

The headline above is from 
Gant's column on the UK box office, matching a more common downbeat view on the film's fortunes and prospects (its still on wide release), noting:
Star Trek Beyond may have suffered from director JJ Abrams’ exit into rival franchise Star Wars (he remains as producer). Or fans might have been more excited by Benedict Cumberbatch as the main villain last time around, with Beyond baddie Idris Elba less proven at the box office. And Paramount may have struggled to persuade broader audiences to see a third Star Trek film.
Critics and audiences have been highly positive, but the film has failed to crossover to a wide US or UK audience (RT)

BoxOfficeMojo provide a comparison of all 13 movies in the franchise; the current release needs a major boost from China and elsewhere to ensure the franchise will continue to ... live long and prosper

The various box office columns (global, US, UK) in the Guardian make for great reading and will teach you a lot about how the industry works, and provide very specific examples that might help you in exam and/or coursework efforts. Variety and many others also provide in-depth, highly informed analysis and commentary - you can keep an eye on these by adding RSS feeds to your own blogs.

This example is from the LA Times, which you'd expect to be highly versed in industry practice as Hollywood is in its turf. The fragment I picked out below comments on:

Sunday, August 28, 2016

VR virtual reality cinema coming

IN THIS POST: short overview of some major technogical changes from digitization, then a focus (TBC and rolling updates) on VR

The film industry, at times reluctantly, has embraced a series of new technologies over recent decades, and the disruptive forces of digitization always seem poised to transform what at heart is quite a conservative industry, locked into franchises, the star system (changing?) and dominated by a mere 'big six' companies despite all the changes.
As with cassette tapes, you may have been born after the VHS tape disappeared from the high street

DVD meant they could:
  1. re-monetize back catalogue [long tail...]; just as the music industry got millions to replace their tapes/vinyl with (sonically inferior!) CDs so too did the movie industry make billions from VHS tapes being replaced
  2. the monetizing went further with editionalising: usually starting with a vanilla (movie only, perhaps a trailer added) edition, and leading over time to any combination of special, collector's, ultimate (etc) edition, not to mention director's cut, with commentaries and other extras to push sales, plus footage cut for cinema release headline, 2014.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Disney bank on franchise not A-List stars selling power meant unmasking
Sly to exploit his appeal, rather obviously
ruining the concept of the masked Dredd
I've picked up on this theme a few times, and there is strong evidence to argue the point either way, but there clearly is some doubt emerging over the continuing veracity and vigour of the star system; movie marketing being centred on attaching and selling star names.

The now well-established dominance of the franchise system appears to offer an alternative - though its only Disney currently that seems to be banking on this, its tentpole productions shaving many $10s of millions from CGI-heavy budgets by casting young unknowns in key roles - AND tying them into multi-film contracts that will keep them on relatively low salaries, avoiding awkward renegotiations where actors have a strong hand. Look at the budgets for the first two Scream movies, or BJDiary, for examples of how actors can up their demands to stay in a franchise.

The Disney examples (Star Wars: Force Awakens and much of the MarvelCU, excepting Robert Downey Jr) shouldn't, i think, be seen as typical enough to dismiss the rule #1 of the film business, and Disney currently are an exception amongst the Big Six in taking this approach.

Some franchises/IP have sufficient pre-existing audiences to cope without stars. Harry Potter and the Hunger Games are good examples, so too Twilight (as horrible as those movies are, at least to non-teen, non-girl viewers like myself!).
Shocker: critics and audience hate this movie.

Hollywood showed repeatedly before The Dark Knight kick-started the current MCU hegemony that shoving a big name into an iconic costume is often box office poison: Stallone's abysmal Judge Dredd is the classic example; whether his star brand or performance, or the script, were to blame, fans hated it and a general audience couldn't suspend belief for 90 minutes to really get into Rockie/Rambo as the meanest (robo)cop of them all.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Netflix and Amazon rival big six?

I'll return to this to gather points made across many posts on this theme:
The traditional big six (7 if you count Lionsgate) vertically integrated US conglomerates that dominate global cinema have cause to be seriously worried about Netflix and Amazon (with Apple, HBO and many more bubbling away in the wings too).

The online giants are at once customer/distributor for the big six, including VoD and rental alongside DVD and Blu-Ray sales, and rival, with their film production budget growing, and the release strategies they follow undermining the concept of the release window.
Netflix’s Reed Hastings: ‘We’ve got a long way to go to get to ubiquity’.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

CHINA bans Apple, Disney movie channels

While growth in the US is slowing, its international expansion is doing well, and though it may not have many subscribers in Syria or North Korea, it claims to be in all but one market globally. But that market is the world’s largest, China, where it has faced the same political barriers as other western media and technology companies.

“The Chinese government just closed down the Disney movie service. And they closed down Apple’s movie service. Those are two pretty sophisticated, relative to China, companies. It looks like the government just doesn’t want the foreign content distribution. Maybe someday in the future there’ll be an opportunity for us in China, it’s possible. We are continuing to work on it.”

Monday, August 01, 2016

NBC-Universal uses horizontal integration to keep Damon franchise airborne

Okay, so this might not be part of the OFFICIAL marketing blitz from NBC-U - but such trivial but viral UGC as this vine is worth many millions in advertising spend when considered as a whole, able to penetrate beyond core audiences targeted by the distributors. Here's where I found it:
An unofficial JB Facebook page with 48k likes.

The Vine was featured by a UK newspaper:

My main point here, however, is a good example of how the mega-conglomerates can flex their muscles to mutually benefit different wings: NBC-U both creating and benefitting from pre-release hype of the new Bourne movie by playing the Damon-starring previous films across EIGHT of its NBC-U channels. Research indicated that existing franchise fans were the key audience for the movie, so NBC-U sought to reinforce familiarity with the long-running franchise:

Sunday, July 31, 2016

AFRICA Wakaliwood joins Nollywood, YouTube distribution

The production values, and recording equipment, are far below what a typical Western student can access - but this trailer alone has nearly 3m hits
Bit of a wider perspective on how the film industry works in a neglected (in terms of media coverage or awareness) market, Africa.

Nigeria's Nollywood has earned a reputation as artistically and commercially significant, now comes Uganda's Wakaliwood...

Consider the incredible kit and resources you can access as you read about Isaac Nabwana, shoestring film producer. Sample paragraphs below. 

See Quartz Africa's full article.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gant Rule, British exceptions and the China factor

UK box office of $60m rivalled the US ('domestic') take

Cinema is at once BOTH a highly globalised industry utterly dominated by the big six US conglomerates AND a highly localised industry in which local stars, settings, even IP/cultural reference points, sell.

The Gant Rule is a useful means of explaining the US dominance, even as this is swiftly undermined by the surging scale and value of the Chinese market, pushing the typical US box office share of a typical global hit to well below the traditional 50%+ (closer now to 40% and falling). This has seen Hollywood squeeze in Chinese stars and settings, shoot alternative endings and extra scenes for different markets, buy up or partner with Chinese firms (with the complication of strict Chinese laws on exporting money), and generally be more sensitive about portraying Chinese as villains or simply the traditional crass stereotype of inscrutable, unemotional, indistinguishable masses (not that this has entirely disappeared).
Headline from  The Wrap
Universal spent millions altering the plot of World War Z (reshoots) so that the epidemic didn't start in China in a doomed attempt to get into the Chinese market. Censors there frown upon horror ('The country has strict laws outlawing any movies that deal with magic, horror or superstition.'). China limits the number of non-Chinese productions allowed in cinemas to just 34 a year - though this may rise in 2017 following negotiations with the WTO (World Trade Organisation). It is not making it easy for Hollywood to extend its global dominance: other cases studios don’t alter their movies until post-production. Chinese censors cut large chunks out of several movies released last year, including 40 minutes from “Cloud Atlas” and 12 minutes from “Men in Black 3,” excising all scenes in Chinatown.
They also cut parts of the latest James Bond film, “Skyfall,” including a scene that featured the assassination of a nameless Chinese security guard.
Marvel had initially planned “Iron Man 3” as a Chinese co-production, a tactic that has been taken with films like “Looper” and “The Karate Kid,” in part because co-productions are not subject to China’s quota for imported films. Chinese censors must still approve them. [The Wrap]
Just 20 years ago China banned all foreign cinema:
China only opened its market to the Hollywood studios in 1994, when its own film industry had reached its nadir. “It wasn’t out of admiration for Hollywood but to save the Chinese film industry,” Rosen said. “People weren’t going to the movies.”
At the time, China only permitted 10 foreign movies to screen, then increased it to 20 before the current total of 34. Those additional 14 slots are all reserved for IMAX or 3D films. [The Wrap]

There is no questioning the ongoing utter dominance of the UK market by Hollywood - for figures read the annual BFI reports. BUT ... localised content still often retains an edge.
The US star helped market the film globally, but the British setting did not help US box office: boxofficemojo.

Localised here is a very broad concept - as is the legal definition of 'British production' for tax purposes:
The UK box office has consistently punched above its weight with family films adapted from British-authored material, fromCharlie and the Chocolate Factory (£37.8m) and Alice in Wonderland (£42.5m) toThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (£44.4m) and, of course, Paddington (£38m).
These are mainly Hollywood productions, but with enough of a lingering element of Britishness to give them a home market boost, and so undermine the Gant rule. The Bridget Jones franchise is a more direct example, although it too is ultimately Hollywood fare (Brit producer WT being an NBC-U subsidiary, Polygram at the time of the original).

Gant's latest box office column highlights The BFG as the latest to benefit from this element of Britishness.

He also noted the latest example of event cinema, an annual classical concert now programmed in an incredible 534 screens, plus a stylized limited re-release earning more than the original run:
Also flying the flag for event cinema was Secret Cinema’s presentation of Dirty Dancing. ...  The run of just six dates delivered a final box office of £1.90m. That’s more than the combined runs of the original 1987 release (£1.62m) and the 20th-anniversary rerelease in 2007 (£224,000).
The BFG towers over UK box office while Star Trek Beyond fails to prosper.

A little bit more on the rising influence of the Chinese market, from an article which looks at directors outraged by remakes of their movies, in this case Red Dawn. The original 1980s flick saw Russians invade a US town, the recent remake swapped Chinese forces for this...until it dawned on the money men that they'd lose out on the Chinese this was belatedly switched to North Korean forces:

Milius was partially vindicated when MGMchanged the invading aggressors to North Koreans for the final cut, though that move was made to appease the lucrative Chinese market more than to cheer up the original film’s director.

How dare you remake my classic! When directors attack

Saturday, July 23, 2016

WOMEN Rotten UGC CRITIC RATINGS are male-dominated

In the past, films relied on good reviews plus word-of-mouth. Today RT and IMDB have digitally replaced word-of-mouth and become hugely influential consumer websites as a result. Take these early audience reviews on RT: “Non-funny, man hating” … “Jokes about men, wasn’t exactly funny” … “garbage third wave feminism”. No surprise, all these were written and posted on the site by men. Each gave the film half or one star. “Ton of fun” … “Incredibly enjoyable” … “seeing it for third time tomorrow”. All these four and five-star reviews were written and posted by women.... Search on IMDB and you find thedata breakdown for reviews. Ghostbusters scores an average 5.3 out of 10. But for women the average score was 8.1, compared with 4.6 for men. But men’s scores matter more, because 22,500 men wrote up reviews on IMDB, compared with 7,500 women.

For liking it, I was criticized for “pandering to politically correct, radical feminist rubbish” by one reader, a sentiment echoed by another who tweeted that I “played it safe to stay politically correct” for labelling Feig’s achievement a “blast”. Many libelously accused me of accepting money from Sony Pictures to solicit a warm response. And it wasn’t just one or two tweets targeting me, but a host. 
The film has since opened in the UK (it opens in the US on Friday), but over the weekend, when the Ghostbros (as they’re commonly referred to now) went on the attack, no one apart from a small pool of critics had watched the film – meaning they were trashing it sight unseen. It’s likely they’re to blame for the film’s drastically low rating on IMDb, where over 57% of users gave it the lowest possible score. On Reddit, some have banded together in a spiteful effort to keep the favorable reviews from appearing on the community-led website.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Global ticket prices compared

The average ticket now costs $8.73, up from $8.58 during the first quarter and a 1.4% year-on-year rise. The numbers represent an average across all venues, titles and times; this tends to rise as the family and blockbuster season begins.The year actually began down on the numbers for 2015, which hit $8.70 in the fourth quarter, as Star Wars: The Force Awakens screened.However, prices in North America continue to compare favourably with those in the UK, where the average price last year was £7.17 ($9.47) – a rise of 48.25% over the decade.In China, whose box office revenue is due to overtake that of the US later this year, the average price is $6.50. The cheapest tickets are to be found in India. Average prices for single-screen cinemas in 2013 were around $0.93, rising to around $3.95 for multiplex screenings.

US cinema ticket prices reach record high.

Friday, July 15, 2016

DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION day-and-date challenges flop concept

The release window is proving resilient despite challenges from the digital upstarts Netflix et al, their disruptive force not yet shifting this fundamental feature of the film industry. Big six giant Disney soon backed down with its plans for a shortened cinema-DVD gap for Alice in Wonderland when cinema chains simply threatened not to show it.

Not all movies are produced with cinema box office as a priority or even realistic goal, however, and many of these breach the usual model - the key point being the SCALE of release. These are not wide releases, which means they're not seen to undermine the traditional arrangement that ensures cinema maximises its returns.

As I have blogged on the 48K Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee, though, a limited (or in its case, simply none!) cinema release means a much, much greater chance of newspaper, magazine and other mainstream media reviews that straight-to-DVD releases rarely get, explaining what seem to be shocking headlines about film releases taking under 100 at UK box office.

This strategy, of a very limited cinema release simultaneous with a DVD release, is termed day-and-date release.
“Day-and-date releases minimise costs for a distributor,” says Andreas Wiseman, Screen International’s head of news. “They only need to pay for a campaign once rather than at different stages throughout the windowing process. The growth in these kind of releases coincides with the proliferation of digital platforms. Distributor deals with platforms such as Netflix, LoveFilm, iTunes etc often require that a film is shown in a certain number of cinemas, so distributors will sometimes see the theatrical release as a box-ticking exercise.” 

Saturday, July 09, 2016

StudioCanal UK film biz risks Brexit sinking

This is a great overall look at the operations of StudioCanal, a key player for both Warp and Working Title, and also a producer itself now (notably Paddington and a forthcoming sequel)

StudioCanal UK are already seeing costs up by 15% as sterling (the UK currency) has nosedived in value since the referendum. Their CEO, Danny Perkins, explains that the UK will need a specific treaty (as Switzerland has negotiated) to gain continued open access to EU cinema markets - which could take years, if it ever happens. Euro-financing has also been made more difficult to access. If US studios fill that void, they are MUCH less likely to support ideas which reflect British culture instead of taking a more generic, commercial approach.

Consider the practicalities too of StudioCanal personnel trying to visit other Euro branches, or even just pre-production visits and research if UK citizens require visas to do so.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Silver screenings: Hwd leaves older to Indies n arthouse

Ignored by youth-obsessed Hollywood, older audiences flock to indie films

Video journals

[in]Transition: where action meets academia

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit blow to Brit cinema diversity

As it stands, only a small fraction of British films are profitable; just 7% of UK films made from 2003 to 2010 saw returns for investors. The loss of public money from CEM will likely result in production companies and investors prioritizing box office yield over creative risk-taking. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

BFI launch VoD and subscription

BFI Player: a homespun alternative to the VOD giants

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sky Cinema rains on rivals with daily premieres

Sky Movies rebrand to feature one premiere a day

Friday, June 10, 2016

BIFS options

Some possibilities for 2016 BIFS, running Sept 20 - Oct 2nd across 3 cinemas in Luxembourg.

Top of my wishlist is to incorporate the 3 film openings (2-3mins each) and 6 music videos (4-5mins each, including 2 versions of same track) - the final cuts are viewable below:

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Why EU law and Brexit could kill UK Indies SUMMARY

Realised I'd blogged a few on the same theme, so I'm gathering them together in this revised post, looking at how influential EU law is - and the possible impact of the UK's surprise Brexit vote. In a nutshell, the EU as an increasingly neo-liberal, free market institution is pushing for reforms that in theory boost competition - but in reality will severely undermine Indies and slash film production while boosting the conglomerates. Brexit poses similar threats, with production, funding and distribution all facing huge cuts at the Indie level, co-productions made difficult and access to EU cinema markets cut, while the huge studio production industry will face issues too.

Rebecca O'Brien is quoted in this nofilmschool feature, a detailed analysis of how the industry works - and will struggle post-Brexit. It argues there are 3 key areas of concern:

  1. Fewer European co-productions
  2. Decline in British cinema—both in quality and quantity
  3. UK may no longer be a top international filming destination
1: Fewer European co-productions
Co-productions are the lifeblood of European cinema. In 1994, Treaty No. 147, or the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production, was ratified in order to "safeguard creation and freedom of expression and defend the cultural diversity of the various European countries." It was not only the portal to creative synergy in a continent rich with varied cultures, but it also created the framework for film financing across international borders.
Co-productions significantly reduce risk; where one production company might be unwilling to assume debt on a single film, three companies can share the risk and bring different financial resources to the project, such as country-specific tax incentives and investors. In an industry built upon the assumption of risk, a co-production can mean the difference between development purgatory and getting a film made.
Furthermore, co-productions can receive aid of up to 60% of the production budget.
Rebecca O'Brien, a producer on I, Daniel Blake, said that the success of co-productions is exactly the international cooperation for which Europe at large should strive. 
2: Decline in British cinema—both in quality and quantity

Monday, June 06, 2016

US stars in British films a tawdry tradition, terrible trope?

From Snatch to The Iron Lady: British films hobbled by a Hollywood star

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Disney on Alice and Tentpole model

Sad hatter: Johnny Depp’s Alice sequel makes half its predicted box-office

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Big development this: Amazon Video Direct enables anyone to upload video and monetise it through streaming fee, as revenue share or a small share of the $1m Prime pot.

This reinforces Amazon as one of the global big tech 4 with Apple, FB and Google, all now competing in video and music, with the likes of Netflix hoping to establish themselves as effective rivals (but most would-be competitors end up bust or as subsidiaries).

Amazon launches YouTube-style video service

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Avatar, Paul, Cornetto Trilogy: audience, marketing, digitisation's-end
Wend Intl trailer;

WorldsEnd UK site;

Quite simply bringing together some of the material on here on these...

WT use game to market Paul - play it here.

might add more...

This is both a good example of how low budget Indies can compete ... and an illustration of how much more Warp could/should be doing when promoting their films, even if that is the job of the distributor!!!
In this case, Le Donk was self-distributed in the UK, with a VoD (convergence!!! digitisation!!! proliferation!!!) US release. Below is a screen recording browsing the Warp web page for this

The page did offer the opportunity to send 'an exclusive Le Donk... Christmas card' ... but the link is dead now ... AND just look at the 'latest' news (I checked again May 2015!) ... its on Tyrannosaur!!! If Chris Anderson's long tail theory is to work surely they need to try harder with the online marketing?!
US VoD link and a dead link to some smart online marketing


This sums up the issue with Warp's online marketing - too little effort!!!