What’s the plan Kev?

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The kiosk is also outdated and a wee bit gnarly if I’m honest.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.

What’s New Kev?

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?

Nostalgia is Very Much What it Used To Be.

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

We’re Still Here Then?

 

 

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.

All Opinions Are My Own

No one could read anything into this picture. I hope.

Am I allowed to have a personal opinion? I’m in the business of selling films to the public, yes, but I’m also a passionate film buff.

Seriously, nobody loves movies more than me.

I was recently hauled over the coals by The Very Large Corporation of The World for proffering a rather mild opinion online about one of their films.

The argument being that we are partnering to sell this film and I should in no way say anything negative regarding the “product”.

Should I continue to do so, then our business relationship would be under review.

Now the VLCOTW has a big stick to beat me with. Not least hampering my ability to put food on the table for my children. So at this point discretion was the better part of valour.

It was put to me that it would not be very nice if the VLCOTW posted comments about my cinema being a flea pit.

Not quite the same thing. At no point have I ever bad mouthed the VLCOTW itself, I would never ever do that. Apart from anything else that would be very rude, and I like to think of myself as a polite man. I have also, until now, never had reason.

The world, his ex wife and his new girlfriend have posted opinions about the film in question and I can’t imagine my pointless moan affected the 40 Zillion pounds the picture took globally.

I also make sure never to post opinions like this on official channels such as the website or the Picture House facebook page etc.

Of course I accept that me and my cinema are inextricably linked, so my personal opinion counts.

In fact I would argue precisely for that reason, trying to sanitise my online presence can only harm sales. I like to think people trust my judgement and my passion so when I take the time and trouble to point out an exceptional film it has real impact.

But everyone knows most films are not truly exceptional and bland press junket style pronouncements mean nothing. My patrons are not stupid, they make up their own mind about what they want to see and it’s only in rare instances I may be able to sway them.

Like when something is truly exceptional but they may have not considered seeing it because it’s a musical about a hush puppy salesman from Penge.

The rest of the time the spangly trailer and a persons natural predilection to that type of film is probably enough. My stupid offhand comments on my personal Facebook or Twitter page aren’t going to make any difference.

I have spent a lifetime working hard for the film business and specifically for individual films, so to paint me as a fly in the corporate ointment rather hurts.

So, proper juicy opinions, which is all they are, yours will certainly vary, OR bland pronouncements?

(If, as a result of this post I am bundled in the back of a large black car and not heard of again, tell my wife and children I love them. Also please ensure who ever takes over the cinema never books an Adam Sandler or Steve Carell film. Arse, I did it again…)

Track Listing for Radio Show July 9th 2012

Here is the tracklisting for last nights radio show. Any comments or suggestions gratefully received. You can tune in every Monday 9pm – 11pm on Uckfield FM either online or if you are local on 105FM.

I have to say I’m really enjoying doing the show.

Mayor of Simpleton – XTC
Tosta Mista – Hooded Fang
Lines – Lucy Rose
Dust it Off – The Do
Peaches en Regalia – Frank Zappa
Everybody Got – Ivor Cutler
Oberhofer – Away From You
Don’t Stare at the Sun – Richard Hawley
Promenade Sentimentale (Diva) – Vladimir Cosma
Cest Le Vent Betty – Gabriel Yared
Jesusland – Ben Folds
Emmy Lou – First aid Kit
Third Floor Hallway – Jon Brion
Rain Dogs – Tom Waits
The Conversation – David Shire
The Lives of Others – Gabriel Yared
Starman – David Bowie
I’m Shakin’ – Jack White
Winter – The Rolling Stones
Great Expectations – Elbow
Lah De Dah – Jake Thackary
Just Like Heaven – The Cure
Swinging Safari – Bert Kaempfert

2012 so far..

So here we are half way through the year, and with typical exhibitors optimism I can’t see us having another half like it for some time, it’s been quite spectacular.

Candidly, admissions are up 15% on 2011 which I didn’t think was going to be possible after Her Majesty The Colin of Firth gave us such an enormous start to last year.

As much as I’d like to think it’s because I’m the smartest cinema owner on the planet, it’s mainly down to the right films at the right time. Rarely has there been a run of films so perfect for Uckfield, it’s akin to those times the planets line up once every three hundred years.

To give it some perspective, here is our top ten so far this year, with the national position in brackets. Bear in mind The Avengers is number one by an enormous margin, over double the number two picture of the year.

1. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (6)
2. War Horse (7)
3. The Artist (15)
4. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (24)
5. The Iron Lady (16)
6. The Pirates! in An Adventure with Scientists (10)
7. Woman in Black (4)
8. The Muppets (8)
9. The Avengers (1)
10. The Hunger Games (2)

With such a strong line up of films so right up our street it would have been quite difficult not to have a great six months.

There have been low points inevitably. The wooden spoon for worst performing film is Fast Girls and the glum Robert Pattinson fest Bel Ami not much better. They did so badly they made John Carter look like Avatar.

One of the great things about the cinema business is that you can be sure when things are bad, sooner or later they will turn around. Conversely, when things are good you just know the arse is going to fall out of it eventually. I suppose the secret is to enjoy it while it lasts.

The big advantage we have is constantly changing what we sell.

So, I can almost sense you asking, how is it going to be for the next six months? I’m cautiously optimistic we could have a record year as the upcoming product is pretty damn groovy.  Dark Knight, Brave etc for the summer hols.
Skyfall, the new Bond is going to be very strong of course. The end of the year sees the arrival of The Hobbit.

All those titles are the obvious ones, Uckfield will inevitably thrive on something we haven’t quite heard of yet. If anything the list above makes clear, it’s that.

The live presentations of opera, ballet and theatre continue to grow. The National Theatre Live sales are simply fantastic and The Met season for 2012/2013 is starting to sell in significant numbers.

And I am working on the refurb, honestly. I’m only one man!

Track Listing for Radio Show 2nd July 2012

As requested here is the track listing from my debut radio show on Uckfield FM last night. Once again thanks for all the lovely comments they mean a lot. See you all next week for more of the same I hope.

Suede: Filmstar
Jake Bugg: Lightning Bolt
Jesca Hoop: Born To
Tex Williams: Smoke Smoke Smoke (That Cigarette)
Richard Hawley: Leave Your Body Behind You
Frank Zappa: Sleep Dirt
Asteroid Galaxy Tour: Major
Matt Munro: From Russia With Love
Guillemots: Southern Winds
Laura Veirs: Spelunking
George Baker Selection: Little Green Bag
Nelson Riddle: Witchcraft
Nick Lowe: So It Goes
First Aid Kit: The Lions Roar
Ennio Morricone: Deborah’s Theme
Tom Waits: Shore Leave
John Barry: The Ipcress File
Roy Budd: Carter Takes The Train
Kings of Convenience: Misread
When Saints Go Machine: Mannequin
King Creosote & John Hopkins: Bats in the Attic
Nico: These Days
Mr Scruff: Fish
The Cure: Lullaby
College: Real Hero

Bond Section written and presented by Cheyney Kent. Mixed by yours truly.

 

 

Pop it in the basket, I’ll read it later.

The late great Charles Hawtrey in Don’t Lose Your Head

Well it looks like the sun is finally going to come out and the stay of execution we’ve had for the last few weeks is finally going to catch up with us. Or, as James Burke might say, is it?

Normally Easter is the finishing line after which business falls flat on its face. Distributors abandon us to our fate, using this period to dump their hideous Katherine Heigl or Sarah Jessica Parker movies in to the market.

This time last year we were suffering through Something Borrowed, a Rom Com so witless I had eradicated it from my consciousness until I looked back at the records.

Thor was struggling and Water for Elephants had already run dry. Things were so desperate I even booked Hangover 2.

But this is nothing unusual, May and June are the pits. The overdraft goes to the limit, tedious, panicky financial directors decide now is the time to assert their authority, simply compounding our misery.

Not this year though and it all feels rather odd. The start of the year was quite extraordinary and although we aren’t reaching those heights, it’s all been very steady indeed.

Mostly down to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen if I’m honest. A Billy bonus of a film if ever there was one although The Avengers hasn’t been bad at all, but it most definitely had a major boost from the bad weather. If the sun had been out it would have taken far less.

So it was an unusual experience last week when I went to the Cinema Exhibitors Association centenary lunch and encountered all my fellow independent cinema owners wandering around calm as Hindu cows. Trust me, a room full of happy cinema owners is unheard of.

We’re even cautiously optimistic about June, Men in Black 3 is a better film than it has any right to be and should run on. The buzz around Prometheus is strong, although that might just be the fan boy in me. I have a feeling it will play quite upmarket and not simply be multiplex fodder.

At this point I would like to make it clear I am in no way being smug. We will almost certainly get our comeuppance a bit further down the line, but for the moment let us just enjoy it will you?

I remember clearly wandering around the cinema the night after we opened the new third screen in 2000. All houses were full and a wave of self-congratulation overtook me. Look what I have created I crowed to myself.

Almost immediately business collapsed and went through one of the worst periods I can remember.

It’s going to get bad again, that’s the nature of the business, but it’s also its nature that it will certainly get better again afterwards.

We’re lucky because we constantly change what we are selling. If you don’t like that film, another one will be along later that you do.

Just no more I Don’t Know How She does It please.