Distributors Open Up Film Archives for Re-Opening UK Cinemas

By | June 19, 2020 9:40 am PDT

In a sign of support and solidarity across both UK and US distributors, the Film Distributors’ Association (FDA) today announced “Relaunching Cinema: Content For Recovery”, designed to provide UK exhibitors an easily accessible and navigable list of films (PDF link) to play on their screens in the coming weeks and months.

The films, which range from classic titles like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Roman Holiday” to newer Hollywood offerings such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the “Fast and The Furious” series to British classics such as “Local Hero”, “Emma” and “Bend it Like Beckham”, are grouped by genre with running time, certificate and distributor for ease of booking. In all, over 450 films are listed.

This content repository has been compiled from many of the UK’s distribution entities under the guidance of FDA and it forms part of the unified sector business recovery planning currently being untaken by both FDA and the UK Cinema Association.

The initiative helps UK cinema owners solve a problem that US cinemas are facing in that attempting to assemble a cohesive list of available films, and separating those films that cinemas would want to play from simply the massive list of repertory titles that many US theater owners received from their US distributors, has been a mammoth challenge. One US exhibitor shared with me a list of all available titles provided by one Hollywood studio which was gargantuan and unwieldly and closely resembled a collection of every film the studio had ever released. This database of available titles culls the list of revenue generating back titles to a manageable 450.

Cinemas in the UK have been mostly shuttered since March and the industry is currently looking at early to mid-July openings in most locations. That would ensure these cinemas would be open for both “Mulan” on July 24 and “Tenet” on July 31st but movie theaters can’t survive by simply booking two films, no matter how many screens they could command. Try filling the 16 screen Odeon Manchester Great Northern, for example, with only two titles.

The duration for which the titles will be available varies but the FDA has assured cinema owners that there is an understanding that the process of reopening is one that will last well into late summer and possibly early fall. One of the common refrains heard from cinema owners as they prepare to welcome back moviegoers is that they need content help until the industry gets back to some kind of normal release pattern. This initiative addresses that vital need.

The FDA points out that the list is not exhaustive in its content listing and instead represents an easy-to-read and navigate guide to potential titles readily available to play in UK cinemas during this “ramp up” time.

The 450 titles are segmented by following genres:

  • All-Time Classics
  • Award Winners
  • BAME Voices
  • Best of British
  • Big Screen Spectacle
  • Comedy Kicks
  • Documentary Features
  • Event Cinema
  • Family Fun
  • Foreign Language
  • Franchise Favorites
  • Horror Hits
  • Indie Gems
  • LGBTIQ+ Cinema
  • Lockdown, Back Again
  • Modern Classics
  • Musical Pleasures
  • New Visions
  • Period Drama
  • Romantic Encounters
  • Sci-Fi and Fantasy
  • Silver Screeners
  • Superhero Smashes
  • Teen Spirit
  • Women In Film

Some films straddle multiple genres and are listed under several headings.

While this isn’t a cure-all for cinemas until the industry begins releasing multiple new films every week, it does show a solidarity across distribution and exhibition as to the importance of supporting cinemas of all sizes until that occurs. If only other parts of the world could be so collaborative.

Jim Amos
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