Welcome to our weekly newsletter, The Marquee. We’d like to take a moment not only to thank our sponsor, Dolby, for making this newsletter possible, but also to invite you to the CJ Cinema Summit on Thursday, 15 September. We will be joined by two of the top distribution executives at Warner Bros, Andrew Cripps, and Jeff Goldstein. As well, Dimitrios Mitsinikos, CEO at Gower Street Analytics, will give us a global market overview and year-end forecast. Register for free here.
Everyone will remember where they were when they heard the news. I was wearing black tie and sitting on the 43 bus when news reached me on my portable electronic device that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away. “Operation London Bridge is down” was underway and my evening would clearly not go quite as planned.
The news was not unexpected, plans had been made for decades, yet still there was widespread uncertainty. When Princess Diana died, nobody was prepared for the scale of the British public’s outpouring of grief. When the Queen’s husband Prince Philip died it “became the most complained-about piece of programming in BBC’s history.” This time football matches were almost immediately cancelled, while theatres kept ramp lights on but with a minute’s silence beforehand.
Official UK government advice didn’t dictate who should and shouldn’t close as a mark of respect. In the end a handful of independent cinemas closed on the night of the news. There were no angry headlines or backlash against the 99.8% that didn’t. Instead, cinemas will close on the day of the funeral, with smaller chains reopening on the evening after the end of the funeral. Under United Kingdom law nobody who wishes to carry on grieving is compelled to visit a local cinema. Though should you wish to follow the ceremony on the big screen, a number of cinemas such as Vue offer the ability to do so for free, with many sites already fully booked.
I was at a preview screening in Mumbai on the night of the 26/11 attacks in 2008. The film (indie comedy ‘The President is Coming’) was interrupted half way through, when my Blackberry (!) started pinging with SMS texts asking if I was all right. The rest of the screening was cancelled. I learned that night that if there is ever a good time to close cinemas, it is when terrorists are killing people by the dozens in your city. Did cinemas close when King George VI died? Does that even matter? Adam Aron, Mooky Greidinger, Phil Clapp and Tim Richards weren’t even born then and televisions were as rare as Google Pixel phones are now.
Meanwhile decision had to be made at the Murder Mystery preview of “See How They Run” at Everyman Muswell Hill, for which I had come fully dressed for the part. The call was quickly made to cancel the screening, send home the band but not turn away those that still came for the reception. In the end it was a dignified event, with memories swapped about the Queen, whose coronation took place the same year as the film was set. There were toasts both to Her late Majesty, as well as the new King. I had come to see the historic cinemas as much as the film, which I was able to. The right call was made.
The Queen herself was fond of both films and their stars. Not only did she act with James Bond and Paddington, but she has a “secret” cinema screening room at Buckingham Palace, much like the United States President has at the White House. But it was at the Royal Premieres where the Queen met every film star from Marilyn Monroe to Lady Gaga. Yet the Queen’s support of British cinema ran even deeper than that, as noted in an email from BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts:
“In 1972, The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh generously gave their share of the profits from the documentary film Royal Family to the Society of Film and Television Arts (SFTA, a forerunner of BAFTA) as a donation towards a new headquarters for the Society. The original idea to have a headquarters was conceived in early 1970 by Richard Cawston, a producer of Royal Family.”
The main screening room in BAFTA is named The Princess Anne Theatre after the Queen’s only daughter, who was patron of BAFTA for many years. The building itself is owned by The Crown Estate, which was very accomodating during the extensive recent refurbishments. The Queen’s grandson Prince William (now Prince of Wales) is the current patron of BAFTA. The Queen even got her own BAFTA statuette in 2013, when “an honorary British Academy Special Award was presented by Sir Kenneth Branagh in recognition of The Queen’s outstanding patronage of the film and television industries.”
In the end, the minor question in the greater protocol of whether cinemas should stay open or closed was overshadowed in the British press by a bigger royalty-related cinema question; should London’s Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square change its name, now that Charles had finally become a regent? Just like the formal news of the Queen’s death was a note posted on the gates of Buckingham Palace, so to the PCC put up a brief notice on its front door: “No, we are not changing our name.”
As of this week it has been 15 years since the first article was published on Celluloid Junkie, marking a decade-and-a-half that has seen the global cinema industry go through its biggest changes and face its greatest challenges ever. What started modestly as a blog (we still get called that; it’s okay) gap-filler project has become a full-time business charting every aspect of the theatrical exhibition market. At its heart, Celluloid Junkie is driven by the deep-rooted belief in the cinema industry, which is why we felt it deserved a dedicated publication covering the business, technology, people and places of cinema from an international perspective. But we had no idea where it would lead us.
Tellingly the first three articles not only set the tone for CJ (as we now shorthand it) but also for the cinema industry as a whole for the next 15 years, whether through luck or foresight we aren’t sure. The first ever CJ article was about a trailer airing during a broadcast of “The Daily Show,” back when Jon Stewart was at its helm, of an upcoming action film called “Iron Man” from comic book publisher Marvel, who had previously turned out films such as “Blade” and “Howard the Duck.” The entire ad block was the trailer, meaning people would be less likely to fast-forward through it on their Tivo (remember those?).
The second article was about the new head of the UK’s Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, one Phil Clapp, who was replacing CEA stalwarts John Wilkinson. Clapp joined CEA from the UK government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) and the snarky 30-something CJ journalists probably thought they were clever/funny when they concocted the headline “UK’s Cinema Exhib. Ass’n Gets Clapp” (get a dose of that journalism talent). Charting, interviewing and highlighting the work of the many people behind the scenes of the cinema business is one of the things that has been at the heart of CJ’s mission for the last 15 years…
Intensive preparations, a huge variety of programs and an overwhelming response from the audience made the first ever Kinofest a rousing success in Germany this past weekend. Cinemas throughout the country combined to not only break this year’s previous admissions record, but also make it the weekend with the highest number of visitors in the last ten years, matching a level hit in September 2019.
The 685 participating cinemas with their 3,193 screens and 560,878 seats recorded almost 1.1 million visitors during the two day promotional event. “Minions: The Rise of Grue,” “After Forever” and “Where the Crawdads Sing” were the top three films during the event. Kinofest is an initiative of the industry associations HDF KINO, AG Kino Gilde, the Federal Association of Municipal Film Theatres, the Association of Film Distributors (Vdf) and the AG Distribution.
According to Christine Berg, a member of the HDF KINO board, it looks as if Kinofest may be getting a sequel or become a franchise. “Our goal was to celebrate cinema with a low-threshold offer and to bring back the magic of the big screen to the audience,” she said in a statement. “This lays the foundation for an event that will take place regularly from now on, which we will establish as a fixture in the annual event calendar with this very good start.”
France’s leading cinema circuit Pathé is set to list on the Paris stock exchange in 2024 according to its president Jérôme Seydoux. Pathé is France’s only vertically integrated film production, distribution and exhibition operation. Pathé has cinemas in France, Netherlands and Switzerland, having also acquired the cinemas of Gaumont in 2017 as well as the smaller CinéAlpes circuit in 2019. The company is in the process of refurbishing and rebranding the Gaumont cinema to Pathé for a unified multiplex brand across all territories.
Entering the Paris stock exchange should allow Pathé to pursue its ambitious plans to produce bigger event movies for theaters, and well as upgrade its cinema venues, notably with laser projectors, and expand overseas, including in Sub-Saharan Africa, a spokesperson for Pathé told Variety.
Pathé recorded a loss of approximately EUR €100 million during the financial years 2020 and 2021, primarily as a result of cinemas in France being forced to close for a total of 300 days during the pandemic. The French cinema market has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with polls finding that many audiences are reluctant to return to cinema primarily on account of cinema tickets being perceived as expensive.
The announcement about the Pathé IPO plans comes at a time when the other of France’s three major exhibition circuits is looking for a buyer. France’s second largest chain CGR Cinémas is looking for a buyer, but with a price tag of around one billion euros in a “bundle” that also includes hotels and Burger King restaurants, no prospective buyer has so far been announced.
After National Cinema Day proved to be successful earlier this month in Germany, the United Kingdom and North America, other countries are jumping onboard the promotional bandwagon. India, for instance, had scheduled their own National Cinema Day for 16 September and had most of the country’s multiplex operators onboard to sell discounted movie tickets for Rs 75 (USD $0.94).
The Multiplex Association of India, which is organizing the event, has now postponed National Cinema Day to 23 September “on request from various stake holders.” There are some reports that the stakeholder in question was Disney, whose latest release, “Brahmastra: Part One – Shiva,” opened to an impressive USD $24 million globally last weekend.
It is completely within reason for Disney, or any distributor, to protect the second weekend grosses of a hit movie. Thus, the 4,000+ screens throughout India participating in campaign will have to wait one more week to celebrate National Cinema Day.
Celluloid Junkie is the leading online resource dedicated to the global film and cinema business. The Marquee is our newsletter focused on motion picture exhibition; keeping industry professionals informed of important news, the latest trends and insightful analysis