ON THE BLOG: film in the UK – comments from the industry

To mark the 25th anniversary of the MEDIA programme, we asked the experts from the industry to comment on film in the UK. Hear about the UK’s appetite for meaningful, diverse films, and its call for more films for young people; discover how digital technology is posing both challenges and opportunities for distribution.

Education and Film Literacy

Paul Reeve, Into Film

“In the UK, and England particularly, we need to continually make the case to policy makers that cultural learning (with film as a central element) should be an entitlement for all students within their school education. Enabling children to view and critique great films is integral to that learning and the development of film literacy.  This must surely include films made specifically for a children’s audience but when you look at lists of films being made and released, where are they?

I see a steady flow of great literature and theatre being created in the UK for children’s audiences; that’s not the case in film, especially when it comes to titles for the under 12 age group.  Yet these formative years are when they’re discovering the passions that will shape their future cultural habits. I’d suggest that this is an issue that needs more consideration and debate over the coming years if we care about the vibrancy of our artform, which needs to be fuelled by new work for children as well as for young people and adults; and if we care about developing our future audience.”

Production

Rebecca O'Brien, Sixteen Films

“My main concern is that indigenous film production is being squeezed.  Producers are having to put together increasingly complicated funding packages while budgets stagnate. 
There is a lot of pressure from high end television and inward investment films and little incentive to co-produce with Europe so we’re having to be increasingly inventive to get our films made.  Not that invention is a bad thing and the resulting films in recent years have been remarkably imaginative, but it isn’t easy.

Our films keep punching above their weight in the global arena and that’s worth celebrating.  I’m hoping that we can remain part of Creative Europe when we leave the EU as the incentives available are absolutely vital for indigenous films both with regard to production and distribution.”

Distribution

Mark Batey, Film Distributors’ Association

“Distribution – the pivotal branch of the industry that brings films to market, connecting them with audiences – has had a dynamic impact in 2016. More titles than ever before have received a digital cinema release – close to 900, when event cinema is taken into account. With 1% of the world’s population, the UK delivers 6% of global box-office receipts. The professional distribution challenge is to position each release distinctly and compellingly, promoting it to screen bookers, media outlets and public audiences, and setting in motion a ‘value chain’ that will help to drive the film throughout its availability on a myriad of platforms in the months and years to follow. It is distributors who help to get films financed in the first place, as well as launching the finished product. Around £350 million is invested each year by UK distributors to advertise and publicise their titles and to provide cinema retailers with the digital file(s) they need to present them on screen. Content is king, but in whatever form audiences enjoy movies, effective distribution is and will remain the king-maker!”

Philip Mordecai, Curzon Home Cinema

“How to stay relevant in a crowded, ever expanding marketplace is one of the major talking points in UK film distribution right now. Our competition is no longer limited to what else might be in the cinema that week – with countless new digital choices and increased interest and critical appreciation of TV series – we’re competing for people’s time. This often means it’s ‘all or nothing’ when it comes to a successful release - if a film underperforms in week one it is almost certainly destined for failure.

In terms of traditional vs new digital models of distribution, at Curzon we don’t believe they should be set against each other.  Audiences should be able to watch the latest films instantly either in the cinema or on VOD.  Either enjoy a quality cinema experience in a Curzon venue or watch the exact same film instantly at home via a legal alternative, such as Curzon Home Cinema.

For the future, the industry and consumers engaging even further with the simultaneous releasing of films on a Day and Date basis. There is a premium market being established and the potential is there in the UK. We should also celebrate the wide and consistently varied selection of quality films available to audiences.  Thanks to the recent investment in cinema infrastructure the cinema going experience in the UK is second to none.”

Independent cinema exhibiton

Madeleine Probst, Europa Cinemas

"There is now not only an abundance of films being made and released (some 900 in 2016), there is also an increasing abundance of ways in which audiences can consume them. Foreign language films are having a particularly tough time in the UK, a pattern which has been accelerated by this abundance and a programming shift to more “certain" commercial titles. This makes it a challenging context for independent cinemas.

However, in an increasingly complex world, many people are looking for deeper, more thoughtful engagements with contemporary ideas, culture and society. This will make the diverse films we screen, the communal space and the invitation to meet and discuss which independent cinemas offer, all the more valuable and important.”

Head to The Bigger Picture to find out more about the wider story around what’s happening across the UK’s cultural film exhibition sector, beyond box office impact. 

Image, clockwise from top left: Tale of Tales was released day-and-date by Curzon with the support of Creative Europe; Mustang’s UK release was supported by the MEDIA sub-programme and the BFI FAN New Release Strategy, it also won the Europa Cinemas Label as Best European film in the Directors’ Fortnight section; pupils engaging with film as a tool for learning during a session by Into Film; Sixteen Films received development funding for 2016 Palme d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake.

Tess Ritchie