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The first part of the year is always a good one for us as all the distributors release their top-drawer awards baiting fare. Generally these films are catnip for my lovely, sophisticated, and let’s face it, demanding patrons and we’ve been bursting at the seams with 12 Years a Slave, The Railway Man and Mandela.

Inevitably when distributors decide to release all the films we could happily play at exactly the same time, something is going to get left out, and some people are going to get grumpy. It’s the way of things.

American Hustle is one such film.

Let me take you now in to the dark, arcane world of film booking by way of justification.

When booking a film there are several main criteria, the first being a subjective judgment about whether it will take money in my cinema. I’m not always right, sometimes I’m spectacularly wrong, but given my length of service I hope I understand my audience better than anyone.

It’s also important to consider what impact that film will have on those dated around it, both before and after. A film may well be worth a punt, but if it means taking a film off to accommodate it we judge will do better, then it becomes more risky.

There could be be an important film dated behind it as well, so I can’t commit to the two week playing time usually demanded by the distributor. All of this is irrelevant of course if you have fifteen screens. Then you can do what you like.

The glut of product at certain times definitely gives multiplexes an advantage, although ironically most of the awards baiting product does far better in situations like Uckfield. When the opposite is true, i.e there are no decent films released then that’s how we end up with dumb films about robots hitting each other.

Sometimes we ‘re in the position of picking the best one for us, sometimes picking the least worst.

Back to American Hustle.

I should also bring Inside Llewyn Davis into to the discussion. I can’t say we’ve had many enquiries for it, but it’s a good film and under less crowded circumstances would definitely have played.

American Hustle is also a fine film, however without the advantage of hindsight, it was far less Uckfield than the other three films on offer. I could have dated Hustle the week it came out, but only for a week as Railway Man and 12 Years a slave were sitting right behind it and I couldn’t take Mandela off after just one week. We also had to allow The Hobbit to run for a week after Christmas. It’s a nightmare!

So American Hustle had to go.

That’s no reflection on the film, but given how indifferently we did with Silver Linings Playbook  (same director and cast) and how confident about 12 Years A Slave I was, that’s the decision I made. So shoot me. I’m just trying to do the right thing OK?

I know we have lost some customers to the opposition, which is frankly a bit disappointing. However, given the awards traction and the requests we are getting it will play at some point. I don’t like playing films late, but that’s a whole other blog entry.

I’m writing this on the opening Friday of August: Osage County. All of the above applies and I made the decision that Llewyn Davis was the one that had to go. I figured Meryl Streep chewing the scenery was going to be far more attractive to my audience than the hipster folk singer shtick of the Cohen brothers.

Let’s check back in a week or so to see if I was right shall we?

You wait all year for a new blog post and then two come along at the same time.

It’s not been a bad year at all, I assumed we would see quite a dip without the behemoth that was Skyfall but the combined power of The Dench in Philomena and Gravity sort of filled the gap. We love The Dench.

So here are our top films of the year, once again we run contrary to the national chart, which can be found here in Charles Gant’s really brilliant Guardian Box Office column.

I don’t think there are too many cinemas out there that recorded Quartet as the second biggest film of the year. Planet Uckfield again.

What we clumsily call Alternative Content or the preferred Event Cinema, is the big news box office wise. Live opera, ballet and particularly theatre now account for over 15% of our ticket sales. The top titles in 2013 were: 1. The Audience 2. Richard II 3. Othello 4. People 5. Nabucco 6. This House 7. The Magistrate.

As you can see, apart from Nabucco they are all NT Live, remarkable. This side of things is only going to grow.

So here are the top films for 2013, I sincerely hope you enjoyed those you saw and that 2014 will be equally groovy.

Happy New Year everyone!

1. Les Miserables

1. Les Miserables

More emoting than has ever been put on the big screen.
A film that starts at 11 and pretty much stays there. Our biggest film by quite some margin.

2. Quartet

2. Quartet

More feisty veteran acting than has ever been put on the big screen.
If they’re going to make a sequel they should probably pull their finger out.

3. Despicable Me 2

3. Despicable Me 2

The number one film everywhere else. Despicable Me 3 an inevitability.

4. Philomena

4. Philomena

More Judi Dench than has ever been put on the big screen.
Even they can’t make a sequel to this one.

5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Hello and welcome to the middle of the film.
It’s had to go some to make number 5 given it only opened on Dec 13th.

6. Lincoln

6. Lincoln

More Oscar winning stove pipe hats than have ever been put on the big screen.
Sequel also unlikely.

7. Captain Phillips

7. Captain Phillips

Wobbly cam based action thriller. Oscars likely.

8. The Great Gatsby

8. The Great Gatsby

Baz Lurhmann’s bonkers adaptation of the beloved novel.

9. Frozen

9. Frozen

More Disney Princess based entertainment.
Also had to go some as it only started December 6th.

10. Gravity

10. Gravity

The film that even I would recommend in 3D. Staggering stuff.

And the wooden spoon for lowest seven day gross? The Fifth Estate. Shudders.

K

New Ground Floor Layout. Subject to tweaking of course.

New Ground Floor Layout. Subject to tweaking of course.

The sharp eyed among you will have noticed we submitted a planning application to Wealden District Council which has now been granted and after Easter 2014 we can start our big refurbishment.

There are two main objectives, the first being an overall refit, decor, seats, carpet, that sort of thing. It’s been a twelve years since we did any significant work and whilst still lovely, the place needs a refresh. When we are done the old girl will be even more gorgeous.

The second and radical part of the plan is a completely resigned  foyer and new entrance corridor to the theaters.

If you’re a regular customer you will know the foyer layout is not favourite. As soon as it gets busy, nothing moves and there’s no space to buy drinks and generally hang around. It’s intimate to say the least.

The kiosk is also outdated and a wee bit gnarly if I’m honest. The bar sales part is rather apologetic and not especially appealing, so Sean Albuquerque of ABQ Studio architects has come up with a plan so cunning etc.

In very simple terms we are going to remove the old, rarely used box office and make that the way up from the front door into the foyer. The old kiosk will be removed and a new entrance to the theatres will appear there, turning left into a new extension housing a wider corridor along the north side of the building. All the theatres and the toilets will be accessed from this new extension.

Foot traffic will no longer need to go through the centre of the foyer, meaning we can build a big sexy new bar along the back of the foyer with room to linger. I also plan to improve some of  the acoustics in the theatres.

It’s all very exciting and once I get the costs locked down, I can go and do the dance of the seven veils in front of the financiers. It’s not going to be cheap, seats alone are over £100 each, but by next summer we should be in great shape to meet the demands of modern audiences for both film and the increasingly important live events.

We’ve also been working hard on the new membership scheme that is going to be rather fab and a massive new design of the website. No wonder there’s been no time to blog properly, this isn’t as easy as it looks you know.

Keep checking back or better still subscribe for updates to the madness, stress, tears and triumph that is going to be 2014.

2013-05-18 10.51.38-2

Waiting in the rain for the excellent Selfish Giant. Cannes 2013. Go me.

Thanks for asking. There’s been all sorts going on around here, not least the latest version of the refurbishment plans which are a step closer to being ready for submission. Very exciting and when I can tell you more I will.

I went to Cannes last week which was very pleasant, when it finally stopped raining. Met lots of wonderful people and managed to see some good films, most of them will never see the inside of a commercial cinema, some of them are lucky to have seen the inside of a cinema at all.

The Cannes film festival always feels to me like one of those inside the industry things that a lot of people spend a lot of money swanking around, feeling very self important and rushing to get their opinions out on TwitBook or whatever, while the rest of the world doesn’t give a flying Dingo’s kidney.  Acres of print coverage, web blogs, live text updates and reports from the red carpet.

Here’s a test, industry types are not allowed to compete and you have to answer without Google.

1. What won the Palme d’or last year?

2. Name one other film that has won a Palme d’or.

3. Name four of the films in competition this year.

4. Who was the head of the Jury this year?

You might get the last one, but there is a good reason for that, he’s the most famous film director in the world. My theory’s not in the least scientific or even tested if I’m honest, but I reckon if you stopped 30 people in the street you’d be hard pressed to find one correct answer. In fact, I’m not sure I can answer.

1. I think that long one about the nuns won last year or was it Amour?

2. Something by Michael Haneke probably. Or Jean Luc Goddard.

3. Now, I think I can do this. Nebraska definitely because I saw that one, it was great. The Cohen brothers film, whose name escapes me, probably blotted it out because I queued for hours twice and didn’t get in. Only God Forgives was certainly one. How many is that? Three? There must be one non American film I can think of. I’m struggling. The lesbian one? I don’t think that was in the main competition. Arse.

4. Steven Spielberg! Come on, you’d have to be an idiot not to know that.

It’s not that I can’t look them up, God knows that would be easy, but I can’t remember off the top of my head. That might have something to do with turning 50 of course.

The other thing about Cannes is that it’s full of young men and women, most of them expensively educated, running around taking important meetings about their slate of films and non of them will produce a single film, ever.

Still it’s nice we all get to go on a jolly and feel very special, and it proves just how much more exciting our lives are than every one else’s.

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, I had a brilliant time. Great food, even better company and I wasn’t in Uckfield. Who could want more?

I was just making a general point that it’s nothing like as important as everyone there thinks it is, that’s all.

If you want to know what did actually happen at Cannes this year, unfiltered by my whinging load of self loathing, I can recommend The Guardian film pages. They saw everything, at least twice, and were probably invited to every party. Unlike me. I wonder why?

Oooh look, I'm on film!

Oooh look, I’m on film!

As of April 2013 75% of the world’s cinemas have converted to digital and at the speed it’s going I would imagine that number has already increased considerably. I saw some figures at the recent Digital Cinema Conference that indicate the UK was sitting at 91% digital as long ago as January.

Any cinemas sitting on the fence, and incredibly there are still one or two, are going to have to pull their finger out. Almost certainly by the end of 2013 most of the major distributors will have made the decision to drop 35mm film imminently or have done so already.

A cinema without digital projection by the end of this year is doomed. Fortunately we went completely digital three years ago, one of the first multi screen independants to do so.

Three years is not long at all, but 35mm feels like a lifetime ago. The prospect of going back to film would be horrific. If it was discovered that digital projectors were ticking time bombs that could destroy the high street at any moment and all film projectors had to be restored, I would give serious consideration to changing my career. Something that would be less traumatic, say like cutting old ladies toe nails in the local retirement home.

Not having to lump the heavy transit cases up and down the stairs alone is a cause for rejoicing along with the other physical requirements which make every performance a potential hazard.

Perhaps I overstate the last point, but the fact I can run all three screens without leaving my office chair is perfect for a lazy git such as myself. I can even run the show from my iPhone should I so desire. Truly the future is now.

Inevitably though, the Luddites and nostalgia fans have already come out of the woodwork. I must admit to being rather surprised at just how quickly.

Already some cinemas are promoting 35mm screenings as if they are both special and superior. They pick themselves up a scratchy old join riddled print of say, Silent Running, and promote it as cause for celebration.

A celebration of all that is good about cinema. To paraphrase Adam Buxton, nonsense! nonsense! nonsense!

Everytime I sit and watch a film in my cinema I’m still staggered at how bright and sharp the picture is. How it doesn’t have marks on it and it doesn’t jump up and down. The framing remains constant and it doesn’t change colour every twenty minutes.

Film looks fantastic, when all the elements are right. When the laboratory work is spot on, which it rarely was in the last few years. When a popcorn monkey let loose in the projection box hadn’t inadvertently used the print as a stair carpet.  When the lamp was correctly lined up, the portholes and lenses were clean and the intermittent shaft wasn’t bent out of shape and the sprocket teeth not worn down to a nub.

Am I getting a bit technical? Sorry.

The point is that it’s very difficult for cinemas to sod up digital. Which is why it’s perfect for multiplexes, where often no one ever bothers looking out of the porthole to check the picture is actually on the screen let alone in focus or framed correctly.

It makes the customers experience far more consistently good. Which is the most important thing, not how much you like mucking about with strips of plastic.

Where has this affectation about 35mm come from? It feels pretentious and ill informed. 35mm projection is not better than digital projection, you may prefer it, but it’s not better, and the benefits far outweigh the perceived losses. I’m not even sure what we have lost, can someone explain?

There will always be a nostalgia for film, because it’s in the past. Like rationing and ricketts.

But don’t you dare suggest my cinema is inferior because I merely show films digitally.

I bet you probably paid £50 for an HDMI lead too.

2012 wrapped up.

Here it is then, our top ten of the year. No surprises what captured the number one spot, but the rest of it is a bit out of kilter with the world of multiplex that dominates the national chart.

1. Skyfall
We always punch above our weight with a Bond picture but this exceeded everyone’s expectations. The secret was simple, it was a cracking film.

2. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
This is where we start to veer off the national course. A film aimed so accurately at us it was never going to miss.


3. War Horse
The clue here is horse. Being a huge West End hit helped enormously, Spielberg was actually the least of it. Too much for me I’m afraid.


4. The Artist
Well done everybody, tremendous heartwarming fun. Everything about this film has been said.


5. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Huge hit for this gentle comedy that did better in Uckfield than almost everywhere else.


6. Ice Age 4
There seems to be no way of making these films not take money. Not even making rubbish ones.


 7. The Iron Lady
Let’s face it, around here this was always going to be in the top ten.


8. The Hobbit
Still playing, so probably would climb higher given the chance.


9. The Woman in Black
Slight surprise to see this here, but it performed well and scared the hell out of the teenagers.

BatmanDarkKnightRisesKeyArt_article_story_main
10. The Dark Knight Rises
Just scraped in, Nolan’s great big noisy conclusion to his Batman trilogy.

 

Only two films in this list, Skyfall and Dark Knight Rises made the national top ten for the year. No Avengers you may notice, quite telling indeed.

The Wooden Spoon:


Fast Girls
Lowest first week gross of the year, what was I thinking?

So, thanks everyone for making 2012 a very good year indeed. Hopefully 2013 can keep the momentum going.

It’s possible..

Kev

 

 

I know, I know. Let’s crank this up again..

A strange year one way and another, started off better than any year has ever started, then took a steep nosedive. A slow period of recovery and then a stonking finish.

Because we’ve such a discerning audience, yes I mean you, January to March is always the best period of the year for us as all the award baiting stuff is released.

The football and Olympics did us no favours at all, not necessarily because audiences didn’t want to go to the pictures, but because the distributors abandoned us. Not one of them had the balls to release a decent film, instead using the time to dump their rubbish films on us.

Therefore no one in the cinemas and pretty much a self fulfilling prophecy all round. We even had two films open on a Monday in August to avoid the final Olympic weekend, which is bordering on insanity.

This means we’re supposed to survive on scraps but still be here warm, welcoming and paying through the nose when the perceived better date arrives to release films, and all of them at the same time. Everyone of them expecting all performances.

By that I mean no other film is allowed to play in that screen. Something that really is going to have to change if distribs continue to bunch films around certain dates like bees around a honeypot.

Particularly for sites like mine where we only have three screens.

Does it sound like I’m complaining? I am a wee bit I suppose, but in reality we’ve had a very good year. If the middle bit hadn’t let us down it would have broken every record going.

There’s no pleasing some people is there?

The end of the year has risen again to record breaking heights, mainly due of course, to Mr Bond. The live streaming of opera, ballet and theatre goes from strength to strength.

3D took a hammering. Audiences really do seem fed up with it.

Next post, up soon, I will detail our top ten films of 2012. Which you can be sure will not look anything like national chart.

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