The official release date of Kung Fu Panda 2 in the UK is June 10th. However we’ve been playing it since last Wednesday because Paramount decided to add five days of “previews”. These extra performances are not usually subject to the same playing time rules that apply when the film opens officially. In essence, and within reason, we can play the film anytime of day and for as many or as few performances as we see fit.
However, when the film officially opens on June 10th it has to play all day, all shows. This means no other film is allowed to play in that screen, the upshot of which will be a film like Kung Fu Panda plays to empty houses at 8.00pm at night when I could be playing something else that might get an audience. And there is nothing I can do about it, other than not play the film at all.
Surely, it’s my cinema, I can play the films when I like? Nope. Not first run films anyway, and I need first run films, so I toe the line.
It’s important to remember the studio has spent many millions of dollars making and promoting this film and they’re entitled to have the best shot at getting their money back. But it can be so frustrating when they know and I know that no bugger is going to come and see this film after 6 O’clock in the evening, and to be fair the 8pm show on cartoons is the first to go, quite often in the second week.
It’s slightly more frustrating with KFP as we’ve already taken a lot out of it and June 10th feels like a second week booking not a first.
People who know about these things, whoever they are, were sure that digital projection would open up a new golden age of cinema with more varied content and flexible playing times. Admittedly it’s still early days and truthfully since going all digital we have found room for more non mainstream product than ever before, but the bulk of the playing time still has to be given over to mainstream movies from mainstream studios, because however nice it is to play minority films the large audience numbers come from studio films. And all the time that is true we have to dance to their tune.