Watch this week’s 60 Seconds of Film – your bite-sized weekly round-up of film news, presented by Jules Brook.
In a world of streaming and affordable home media, the death of cinema distribution is often talked about. A belief that many would agree with. After all, why go to the cinema when you can watch a film multiple times at home for a fraction of what they would pay going to see those films at the theatre?
It’s therefore interesting that according to the UK Cinema Association, UK cinema attendance in 2018 was at its highest since 1970, with 177 million admissions. This is impressive considering all the factors going against cinema in 2018, including a boiling summer and competition from the World Cup.
But why did cinema attendance decline during the 1970s? And what was it about this past year that encouraged people to return in larger numbers? Well, join me as we dive down the rabbit hole and try to find out.
1970: Starting to decline
1970 was the year the UK saw the general release of many perennial favourites, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Kes and many others. It was also the year when cinema audiences began to decline dramatically in numbers, going from 193 million admissions in 1970 to 176 million in 1971. By the end of 1980 admissions only reached 110 million.
Many blame the expansion of television and the video recorder for the decline. And with Hollywood going through major changes at the time due to several large flops, the big crowd-pleasing spectacles that had been largely used to showcase its superiority to home viewing quickly dropped off. These pictures then took a back seat in the UK, replaced by a mix of personal and experimental projects that appealed to niche audiences as well as television adaptations and sex comedies. From there although attendance was not always in continual decline, and tentpole blockbusters returned, the audience figures never reached the numbers they once had – until 2018!
In 2018 attendance numbers rose with huge hits like Bohemian Rhapsody, Mamma Mia Here we go again, Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther.
2018: What has changed?
There are of course many factors that could have contributed to the rise in cinema attendance. Some insiders put it down to the value of the cinema experience. Going to the cinema is not just about the film anymore, it’s about the communal experience. The ability to buy food, drink, alcohol and enjoy a film with your family and friends on a large screen with luxury seating without having to spend as much as you would for a night at the opera or a football match.
The number of venues dedicated to showing films across the UK is also growing, in different geographical areas. This means that it is easier for audiences to get to cinemas, no doubt helping to encourage repeat visits.
On the other hand, the rise could be a result of Hollywood using their old hits formulas with a new approach. The big hits of 1970, M*A*S*H, Love Story and Airport all had pre-existing fanbases, all being based on novels (some specially written to drum up interest for the movie) and stars with name recognition. Airport having Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin, M*A*S*H having Donald Sutherland and Love Story having Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal. Hollywood often used these tactics in the past, but these films also covered a range of genres: disaster, romance, war/comedy and demonstrated an attempt to appeal to different tastes. Airport focused on Hollywood spectacle, Love Story on personal character drama and M*A*S*H on anti-establishment humour rampant at the time. Helping to attract different audiences.
All these elements can be seen in the big hits of 2018. The genres range from musical to superhero and biopic. And all demonstrate a commitment to bringing in broad audiences through either brand recognition or having a big name attached to the project.
But these films also tackle modern issues that help them appeal to different audiences. Instead of focusing exclusively on white straight men we now have stories about black superheroes, LGBTQ icons and women exploring their sexuality and coming to terms with their own identities. With a lot of money spent on these projects, it must be an attractive prospect for underrepresented groups to see representation on the big screen. All the aforementioned films are also rated 12a. And with cinemas being more easily accessible it makes it easier for every member of the family to watch these diverse tales. The issues of today are being told with old school Hollywood spectacle, w
A long way to go
But despite rising attendance figures, these must be viewed within context. Comparing the populations of the times the average person in 1970 would have visited the cinema around 3.5 times a year. In comparison the higher population the average person will only visit the cinema around 2.7 times a year. Which makes a difference when considering box office takings
With the average ticket price in the 1970s being £6.83 (45p, adjusted for inflation) the total box office takings of 1970 reached £1,318,190,000. Beating 2018’s takings of £1,277,122,327 despite the higher average ticket price and
The average viewer just does not visit the cinema enough to equal the 1970 numbers. So, if cinema is to return to the high attendances it once had, there is still a long way to go. And with the predicted continuing increase of the population, cinemas will need to do all they can to encourage visitors to return or attendance will continue to fall. This could result in cinema closures or another rise in the average ticket price.
Despite this, the high attendance figures of the past few years indicate that if cinemas continue to appeal to audiences, through showcasing big films that can be viewed by diverse audiences at affordable prices, then maybe we will reach the attendance figures of cinemas heyday again.
After a busy hiatus planning our last event and other projects which we’ll be revealing soon, we are back for another episode with our good friend, writer/director Mark J. Blackman.
One of only *three* directors to have screened two of their films at our Film Club events, we catch up on what he’s been up to since. Diving right into it, we explore the process of making feature lengths, the importance of cinema and his top 5 favourite sci-fi films.
In Episode 2 of The Big Picture Film Club Podcast, host Presh Williams speaks with Johnny Sachon & Katie Goldfinch. Discussions issues such as sexism, the creative filmmaking process, networking, and the future of short films.
Listen on our Soundcloud channel and don’t forget to like, follow and share!
Episode 1 featuring film makers Damien Swaby and Graham Higgins, discussing all things film including tech, funding and distribution.
Hosted by Presh Williams.
Listen on our Soundcloud channel and don’t forget to like, follow and share!
Big Picture Film Club is back! Our next event, Love & The Abstract, is an exploration of relationships, love, and the difficulties they have to overcome. We have curated a list of 5 short films, from an array of talented filmmakers, each tackling a unique perspective on love and relationships. Check out our film list below:
Signs Of Silence [@SoSilenceMovie] (Director, R.M. Moses) – Born into a world of silence, Eli finds himself not able to communicate well with people. Mainly because not everyone understands sign language. This has impacted his self-esteem and confidence. This is Eli’s story of how difficult life can be when you aren’t being heard.
Anchor [(Director, Madeleine Morlet) – Although Joni isn’t emotionally available she needs the comfort and support of Olivia. In seeking this understanding she allows a situation of forced intimacy to evolve and despite there being much tenderness between them it is clear that their expectations of one another are not matched.
Devotion [@Devotion_film] (Director, Dan Horrigan) – Devotion is an exploration of grief, and love gone dark. It’s a story about the human shadow, how it can overwhelm us if we don’t learn to live with it.
Love Me Tinder [@LveMeTinderFilm] (Director, Sami Abusamra) – Love Me Tinder is a dark comedy about an encounter between two lonely strangers. A man spends an awkward evening with an older woman after they match on a dating app. Meeting each other is easy, but as their night progresses connecting proves to be much more difficult.
Populace [@Populace_film] (Director, Dan Horrigan) – Set in 2097 it follows a day in the life of John, a clone who works for the Tyrannical, Orwellian “Populace” corporation. His world is turned upside down when he is forced to choose between the woman he loves and the reason he was created.
We all like surprises – who doesn’t? At Big Picture Film Club, part of what makes our job so cool is that we are able to find hidden gems in the expansive film world and do our part in bringing them to the forefront. One such example is the short film, Anchor, by photographer and director, Madeleine Morlet. Although only 9 minutes long, there is not a second wasted in this gripping power play between two lovers, exploring sexual dependency and complex emotions in an increasingly strained relationship.
In Madeleine’s own words, “Anchor is exploring feelings, by coming at it from a place of rigid constraints it was also possible to explore the dullness of extreme feeling. The piece captures a woman as she reaches the full saturation of what she is able to feel, to the point where everything flatlines and nothing but a dull ache remains”. We took the opportunity to have a few words with Madeleine to find out more about what she is up to and to discover more about Anchor…
Big Picture Film Club: What was your motivation in creating “Anchor”?
Madeleine Morlet: The easiest way to answer this question would be to say that Anchor wasn’t motivated by any specific cause, it was motivated by what was then, and continues to be now, a personal objective to make work.
BPFC: The overarching theme of “Anchor” appears to be Power, more specifically the use of sexual power in relationships – would we be correct in thinking this?
MM: I would say that is accurate. Reflecting on my own experience I find that often it is through another person’s eyes that you can really see yourself honestly. I like to think about power and control in relationships. In making Anchor I felt that I could walk in either characters shoes. The dynamic between two people in terms of attraction, desire and sexuality affect this power balance and the needs that drive individuals in relationships can vary greatly.
BPFC: What are you hoping people take from watching this film?
MM: It’s difficult for me to imagine this film having a wide audience, so for those who do see it my greatest hope would be that it produces an emotional response.
BPFC: Your photography work is very captivating, striking and powerful – was it your intention for “Anchor” to have a similar feel to your photography work?
MM: My intention was to make films but a lot of time and resources go into making even a short piece. With this in mind, I found that photography was a way I could actively engage these skills on a regular basis. Anchor was born from my first photography series and each frame was built from one of these original photographs, the images were then used again as a reference for the grade. So yes, it was intentional that the film has a similar feel to my photography work.
BPFC: Is this your first short film? What creative and technical challenges did you face making Anchor?
MM: I consider this to be my first short film. It eventually took 18 months from conception to completion to make Anchor. There were a lot of challenges and setbacks in making the piece, as there often are with zero-budget short films. The script, which was based on real experiences, was too unrealistic, it took six months to cast Delphine in the role of Olivia and with so much emphasis on the sound it was more than half a year to complete the score. Ultimately I approached the entire process with patience and acceptance, this film was made only on my schedule so we didn’t have to hit any deadlines – which meant it had plenty of space to overcome these creative and technical challenges.
BPFC: What is next for you and “Anchor”?
MM: Anchor is being submitted to festivals, which is a learning curve in itself, and my plan is to continue working as I am.
The Big Picture Film Club launches with the exclusive screening of Night Bus, the debut feature from British independent film-maker Simon Baker. on 23rd July 2015 at the Genesis Cinema in Stepney Green.
Set entirely on a London night bus during one journey, on one night, Night Bus is an intimate, poignant and often funny portrait of London’s characters of the night.
The Night Bus is populated by a variety of characters – the drunks and revellers, workers on the late shift, young and old, introvert and extrovert, lovers and fighters. This is about their journey, how they make it through the night, relationships end and relationships begin, but whatever happens, the bus continues to its destination.
The film has already garnered much acclaim on the festival circuit, most notably winning “Best Feature” and “Best Director” at the 2015 British Independent Film Festival.
Night Bus will be screened at Genesis Cinema [93-95 Mile End Rd, London E1 4UJ] on Thursday 23rd July. Screening starts at 7pm.