Back from LA, and it’s all still here. Saw a few films out there including the much vaunted Super 8 and the much vaunted, in certain circles, Tree of Life. Both seemed to promise more than they deliver, which is not to say they’re bad films by any means. Maybe it’s my age, I sometimes miss the wide-eyed wonder with which I watched films as kid.
The two films I enjoyed the most were Senna, which I hadn’t had a chance to see in the UK and Woody Allen’s latest, Midnight in Paris. The Woody Allen is kind of silly, a sort of intellectual Goodnight Sweetheart and isn’t for everybody but it had enough echos of vintage Woody to be hugely satisfying. It reminded me of being fourteen and thinking how sophisticated I must be for preferring Annie Hall over Star Wars.
I saw Midnight in Paris as well as the rather overdone French-Canadian picture Incendies at the Laemmle cinema in Santa Monica, there are several in Los Angeles and they specialise in art house films that don’t play the mainstream theatres. In truth they’re rather run down and in desperate need of some tender loving care, but as I sat watching trailers for a bunch of interesting looking future attractions I admit to feeling a kind of stabbing envy.
I’d much rather be playing these interesting films than suffering through another week of woeful business on Green Lantern.
Now this is a potentially dangerous line of thought, a lot of people like these films and It’s not for me to look down my nose at people who do.
Cinema was built on mass wide appeal pictures, but the audience I have for this type of stuff is limited or at least exhausts itself very quickly, completely at odds with the national picture.
We seem to be caught in some sort of cinema going parallel universe. If every film were constructed around monarchy, set during the war or featured ladies of a certain age murdering Abba songs I’d be typing this from my hot tub in the Hollywood hills. Sadly, or thankfully probably, this isn’t the case.
It appears our audience has narrowed to the point where ordinary films just don’t drum up enough business. Sure we’ll do huge numbers with Harry Potter and Cars 2 but our weekend take on Bridesmaids for instance was only OK. I’m sure multiplex managers are struggling to cope with the onslaught. For these mainstream films we effectively have the families, or the kids that can’t escape to the bigger towns because they can’t drive. Never fully understood that, we’re cheaper than the circuit opposition, our picture is always in focus and our sound is definitely set at the correct level. The older audience are simply not interested at all.
On the flip side The King’s Speech did business way, way above what would be expected in a town this small, so it’s not as if people aren’t out there and it’s not as if they won’t come if there’s a film they want to see. It’s just the films they want to see fall into a very narrow category. Or maybe I’m playing the wrong films.
Sadly it’s not that simple, basically Bridesmaids was pretty much my only option this week. I could have played Potiche last week, and in fact had it dated but the distributor in their wisdom decided to take it out to protect some of their other bookings. Being digital there was no excuse for this, but I didn’t put up a huge fight as I couldn’t be sure it was worth it. You have to choose your battles carefully at times.
We’ve sold huge numbers of tickets for the upcoming Met Opera season, which doesn’t start until October. The Cherry Orchard, live from The National has sold out two screens on Thursday. This is all fantastic but too infrequent to bet the farm on. The entire Met season last year grossed what one very big film would, but took eleven months to do it.
So I suppose I’m asking a pretty huge question. Should I eschew the Hollywood mainstream and try going down the art house route? The answer I suspect lies somewhere in between, but first week mainstream fayre is not something that’s easy to give up. And let’s face it Mamma Mia and King’s Speech were pretty much as mainstream as it gets.
Another, perhaps more salient question, is my reach exceeding my grasp?
When all is said and done Uckfield is a town of 15,000 people, we punch way above our weight and having all these highfaluting ideas may not be appropriate for what is in effect a small town provincial cinema. I’ve just spent a fortune on new digital projectors making us capable of screening films to a standard often much higher than the opposition, maybe I overdid it?
However, if I kept at it I might be able to build something quite special. I certainly don’t want to make it sound like things are really bad, they aren’t, but I suspect I could do better.
Maybe this post is too candid but I’m confused and I’d like to hear some opinions, and the idea of this blog is to give an insight into the dark corners of my cinema owner mind. Scary isn’t it?