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?