Sight&Sound - 05.2020

(Jacob Rumans) #1
May 2020 | Sight&Sound | 9

weekend ever, up 89 per cent on its previous
best. Transaction revenue for The Truth’s was
66 per cent higher than the platform’s previous
best for a single title on a single weekend.

Smashed window
The independent cinemas that spoke to Sight
& Sound about how they were coping with
the impact of the coronavirus – including
HOME Manchester, Watershed Bristol and
Edinburgh Filmhouse – are all in the privileged
position of being backed by charitable trusts.
None operate zero-hours contracts and all
intend to carry on honouring contracts with
both full-time and part-time employees.
As for the long-term impact, opinions
differ. Rod White, director of programming at
Edinburgh Filmhouse, says: “I doubt the current
situation will change the conversation around
the theatrical window, unless it goes on for
much longer than any of us expect.” But Jason
Wood, HOME’s creative director for film and
culture, says, “I am not sure we will return to
the full theatrical window.” A period dominated
by relatively affordable home viewing might
have an impact in another way: “Cinemas
need to look at their pricing, because many
are prohibitive, especially in London and the
south-east. Everyone should have access to
cinema, not just the elite and the privileged.”
Mark Cosgrove at Watershed adds, “I’m not
surprised by the theatrical window being broken

  • the logic of digital is ‘Everything available
    now’, but each film deserves its own release
    strategy for which a window might be part.
    The theatrical gives important cultural as well
    as economic value to films, and our colleagues
    in distribution know and understand this.”

of Haifaa Al-Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate, which
was set for 27 March, buoyed by momentum
from March events, including the Glasgow
Film Festival and London’s BFI Southbank on
International Women’s Day. “We decided to stick
to schedule and move from physical to virtual
cinema spaces and encourage audiences to stream
the film as a new release,” Gabereau says. These
spaces include Curzon Home Cinema and BFI
Player: “We hope that when cinemas resume
business, we can revive the film theatrically
with events and talks as originally planned.”

Platform alterations
In the exhibition sector, responses to the virus
have varied. Picturehouse began writing to
cinema staff on 19 March, advising them that
they would be laid off. Following Sunak’s
intervention the next day, the company had a
rethink. At press time the situation was under
review, “and we will be updating our employees
soon”. Over at Curzon Artificial Eye, which was
acquired by the US-based Cohen Media Group
in December, the company was already putting
measures in place before Sunak announced the
salary subsidy. Jake Garriock, head of distribution
strategy, explains that staff had opted for a pay
cut “to ensure all staff, at HQ and at our venues,
can retain their jobs and receive a basic salary
during cinema closure”. With government
assistance, they can now improve that offer.
Even before cinemas were ordered to close
on Friday 20 March, the company’s focus had
pivoted to Curzon Home Cinema, including
the release that weekend of Curzon Artificial
Eye’s own The Truth, directed by Koreeda
Hirokazu. This premium-priced title helped
the platform to achieve its highest-grossing

By Charles Gant
After acquiring Levan Akin’s And Then We
Danced following its premiere at the Cannes Film
Festival last May, Peccadillo Pictures spent many
months planning its release campaign. The UK
distributor, which specialises in foreign-language
and LGBT+ titles and has scored notable hits
with Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (2011) and Ciro
Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent (2015), picked
Friday 13 March as the release date for the Tbilisi-
set coming-of-age gay love story. The film, which
received its UK premiere at the BFI London Film
Festival in October and was Sweden’s official
entry to the Oscars’ International Film category,
was nicely positioned to land in UK cinemas
after awards season titles had played out.
Luck, however, was not on Peccadillo’s side. By
13 March, public concern over the coronavirus
was gathering pace: Premier League football
fixtures were suspended that day; the following
day confirmed UK cases of coronavirus passed
1,000; and recorded UK box-office takings for
that weekend were the lowest since April 2011.
Next, on 16 March, came the government’s
advice to avoid public gatherings, leading to a
rash of cinema closures, and on 20 March venues
were officially ordered to close. Total UK box
office for And Then We Danced had reached just
£22,400, including festival and other previews.
Although Peccadillo often releases titles
simultaneously in cinemas and on digital
platforms, in the case of And Then We Danced,
given its estimated broader appeal, the film
was released with the intention of having a full
16-week theatrical window, allowing it to play
Picturehouse and multiplex venues (including,
for example, seven Vue sites in week one). With
cinemas shut, however, Peccadillo plonked And
Then We Danced on to Curzon Home Cinema
and BFI Player from 20 March. Other platforms,
including iTunes, Sky Store and Google Play,
will follow on 13 April. After all, with studios
including Universal, Sony, Warner Bros,
Paramount and Disney quickly transferring their
released titles on to premium VOD, the theatrical
window model was now definitively junked.
Tom Abell, Peccadillo’s founder, is not
expecting any complaints from venues
(“If it was still playing in cinemas, then
it would not be going on to VOD”), and it
remains to be seen whether the disruption
of the window model will have any lasting
consequences. “For small titles, we just don’t
have the money to publicise them twice,” says
Abell, who views the 16-week window as a
particular challenge for small distributors.
Now the challenge is to remain in
business. Such measures as a VAT holiday,
chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Coronavirus Job
Retention Scheme and government-backed
loans for small businesses may help.
At Modern Films, managing director Eve
Gabereau faced a similar dilemma with the release



With UK cinemas shut, and a nation
of couch potatoes glued to Netflix
and Curzon at home, the way people
watch films may be changing forever



Friday 13 March
Saturday 14 March
Sunday 15 March
Monday 16 March
Tuesday 17 March
Wednesday 18 March
Thursday 19 March
Friday 20 March
Saturday 21 March




155 %
Up on

347 %
Up on same
from 2019

89 %
Up on
previous best

2020 VS 2019

January February March



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