James Bond has always had a disproportionate effect on my life, given that I’m not Barbara Broccoli that is. Growing up a new Bond film was a major event; it meant some cash in the bank. Always a good thing.
In more recent years it’s meant lots of cash in the bank. The release patterns of the films have changed over the years, thankfully. It probably wasn’t until Goldeneye they would go out saturation to all cinemas at the same time. I do stand to be corrected on that though.
In previous years there would be West End only for a few weeks then it would creep round the country a bit servicing the evil hierarchy that existed in the olden days. Uckfield wasn’t especially high in that hierarchy.
Then in the seventies and eighties UA and latterly UIP would release them for the summer season.
So after it’s West End exclusive it would go into costal cinemas only. Even if a cinema hadn’t had a first run film all year, if it had the sea lapping at its doorstep, here’s the spangly new Bond film for you. The rationale I suppose, was that we all went to Blackpool or Eastbourne or Weston Super Mare for our holidays in those days and needed to go somewhere because it was raining, and what better way to while away a wet afternoon in Whitby than Roger Moore mincing about in a safari suit?
That took care of June and July, then there would be a North London release followed by a South London release late August and finally in September, hurrah, Uckfield got a minimum two week booking on The Man with the Golden Gun or whatever.
So strong is Bond here, we would still clean up.
You can imagine then, even in these reduced circumstances in which we find ourselves, No Time To Die felt like more than an important cash generating release, it felt like a life raft. Imagine Daniel Craig is Kate Winslet on a floating door and the cinema industry is Leonardo di Caprio. That’s about the top and bottom of it.
The biggest frustration since March has been that I can’t use my nous to make things better, when we’ve been in tight spots before I try and come up with mad cap schemes to improve business, make things better through improvements to our offering, sort of business 101 really. Nothing that revolutionary.
Nothing I can do about a global pandemic ripping the heart out of a life’s work really though, or is there?
In what felt like one last roll of the dice, and picking up on the prevailing wind before we were forced to close, I decided to turn one of our screens into a super luxury offering. Electric reclining seats with footrests, a nice table so we can deliver wine and nibbles directly to your seat.
Screen Three is the one that transformed the business when I built it in 2000. It was the best decision I ever made in business. Maybe I can pull the same trick again?
Only now we are in the worst time for cinemas in history. Sounds like a high-risk strategy when everyone else is hunkering down to hibernate for the winter. Possibly.
Financially the chickens won’t come home to roost until I have to start paying back the money I have borrowed next autumn. So I would suggest it’s a risk worth taking.
Furthermore, I think it’s something our audience will like. It will feel safer because these seats are so bloody huge and the legroom so bloody enormous it will make everyone feel more covid safe. That will hopefully encourage more ticket sales.
It’s also going to be a fabulous experience, not just because of our amazing sound or stonking 4K picture but with Tansy’s brilliant hospitality skills we can offer something no one else can in these here parts. Your own armrest table with a bottle of wine and nibbles on it enjoying the new James Bond with your feet up. Brilliant.
The best laid plans as we know can go horribly awry, and the normally fearless Commander Bond has turned tail and fled to 2021. Scared of a little global pandemic? James Bond? Yes.
Given that I got up one morning and decided to do this, the sort of thing that drives my brilliant team nuts, and got things moving immediately, now seems a little hasty.
But I’m not so sure, after a day or two of looking into the dark endless abyss and rocking gently backwards and forwards, I still think I’m doing the right thing. It’s going to be so great, to some degree I think people might just come for the experience.
Obviously it would better if the studios stopped being such chickens and released some films I could play in there, but I’m going to keep the faith with my original decision and soldier on.
In truth it’s too late to turn back, but it makes me sound heroic.
Like most of my decisions over my 25 years in charge, it’s based on instinct and experience as much as number crunching. Both equally important I would suggest. So the construction of sexy screen three is in full swing. Time will tell whether it was a stoke of genius or the last act of a desperate man.
Do please feel free to visit and put you feet up. It’s planned to open on November 12th, God knows what film I’ll show. Maybe an old Bond film?