I have just returned from an International Film Festival full of archivists, academics and knowledgeable film fans. It was a great week but I was rather concerned that even there we had problems with Mobile Phones, Tablets and similar. Before each session an onscreen message in English and Italian warned audience members to ‘switch off their mobiles’! Clearly some people are impervious to persuasion.
These electronic devices have become a minor plague in cinemas and the like. Apparently it is even worse in some London theatres. The screening theatre at the Festival has an ‘opera style’ auditorium with three balconies – I suggested that the top one could be turned into a ‘sin bin’.
Unfortunately that is not an option in the venues I attend here in West Yorkshire. It has rather worried me that fewer and fewer venues actually screen a warning about their use. Recently only the Cottage Road in Leeds has had an admonition . So I was heartened by the new pre-screen trailer produced by the Picture House chain. Well executed but short, it not only admonishes regarding answering mobile phones but also lighting up the screens during a performance. Of course, such warnings are only partially effective. So I would be glad to hear from readers with suggestions about how to deal with recalcitrant ‘techies’.
Note – Cinemas subscribing to Pearl and Dean now have a new advert which appears after the trailers and just before the feature. It is an advert for Sony products, including those electronic devices that disrupt film screenings. There is no admonition about running them off or keeping them off through the entire film!
In the UK we’ve got used to 12 new film releases each week (600-700 per year) and to have cinema screens easily accessible in most cities and large towns. It’s quite a shock to be in Croatia and to discover that only the largest centres have cinemas and that these rarely open during the day.
Croatia has a population of 4.3 million and in 2014 the country’s 59 cinemas (153 screens in 2013) had less than 4 million admissions. The number of cinema visits per head is thus usually less than one per year. The comparable figure in the European countries with the highest admissions rates, in France, UK, Ireland and Iceland, is 2 to 3 per year or more.
In Split, Croatia’s second city with a population of over 220,000, there are two modern multiplexes in shopping malls and one older cinema in the tourist area. Split is lucky to also have two art cinemas but one seems to be ‘part time’ and the other has a single screen – the Kinoteka (see above) is an important part of the city’s cultural offer. But both the art cinemas and the multiplexes need more promotion to create a higher profile. It took a long time to find the two cinemas nearest to the tourist centre in the old town and when we did find them there was very little ‘point of sale’ information. If you didn’t know the cinemas were there you wouldn’t stumble across them. On the other hand, the newspaper on sale in Dalmatia – coastal Croatia – does list the main cinemas, something many UK papers have stopped doing. These cinemas also seem to only programme evening screenings. The earliest shows I could find were some ‘family shows’ at 15.00 but most were only at 17.00 or 19.00 and then later.
Most of the commercial offerings are Hollywood films subtitled, I presume, for local audiences but there are also some examples of local films and this is the norm for the country according to the Film New Europe website profile. In 2014 there were 169 films released in Croatia including seven local productions. The Film New Europe profile alongside those from Cineuropa and aspects of European AudioVisual Observatory reports suggest that the Croation government have supported the industry in various ways helping with installation of digital projection and offering support to productions, cinemas and festivals. There are twelve Croatian cinemas listed in the Europa Cinemas Network. These are all cinemas with some kind of commitment to ‘cultural cinema’ and will be expected to show European films as part of their programming. The Kinoteka in Split is one of these. My research suggests that there are several municipally-owned cinemas in the country and the film festivals in Split do, I think, receive public support. (With my usual bad luck I missed the latest festival in Split by a few days.)
My comments above are not intended as negative criticism of the cinemas or Croatian film policy. I’m interested in different approaches to film across Europe. My impression (as a tourist) is that Croatia still maintains an interest in European art cinema like other parts of the former Yugoslavia but that popular cinema doesn’t have the same appeal as in some other European countries. I was interested to see that the newspaper listings of films on TV gave the director’s name – something that again UK newspapers tend not to do routinely. The difference between the UK and Croatia is also noticeable in terms of ‘holiday viewing’. In North America the summer is the longest major season of blockbuster cinema and audiences flock to see the big films in air-conditioned cinemas open from mid morning. In the UK we’ve been more or less forced to follow suit but ironically when the sun comes out we tend to want to stay outside. In Southern Europe and especially in Italy, the summer was the worst season for big films until the new multiplexes with air-conditioning appeared as an alternative to outdoor evening screenings. In the UK, seaside holiday resorts have always tried to exploit the seasonal ‘captive audience’ and because of the unpredictable British weather cinemas have prospered with matinees on wet days. This is where I most felt the lack in Croatia – a wet day with little to do and no cinema within 20 kms – and then with no matinee showings.
It would be good to hear from readers about their holiday destinations and their impressions of local film culture. I really liked everything about Croatia – except the lack of opportunity to see films! The Number 1 film in Croatia last week was Labirint: Kroz spaljenu zemlju – Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. In Split I could have chosen between Catherine Deneuve in the Demy and Emily Blunt in Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, which doesn’t open in the UK until October 8th.
This ‘unofficial month of cinema’ runs throughout September. Following the mantra ‘Go forth and fill the land with cinemas’ there is a varied range of events in major urban areas in England, Wales and Scotland: there is also an event listed in the north of Ireland. To help punters there is a free Newspaper which includes listings which can be found at the various venues: in Leeds I pick one up at the Hyde Park Picture House and at the Arch Cafe.
As well as listings the Newspaper includes a range of articles on the various forms of cinema. The filmmaker Peter Strickland looks back at his experiences, including visiting one of the key venues for alternative and counter cinemas, The Scala. I remember many fine screenings there, including great all-nighters. Other writers sing the praises of 35mm, digital and [even] VHS. This is cinema in all its shapes and guises.
There are articles on some of the key films and filmmakers. There is an appraisal of the John Waters retrospective in London. And there is a profile of Shirley Clarke, whose Ornette Coleman: Made in America (1985) is screening at the Hyde Park Picture House. There is a London screening of The Bofors Gun (1968), directed by the recently demised Jack Gold. Also at the Hyde Park is La Grande Bouffe (1973), a film that rather puts John Waters in the shade. Manchester Home is screening Pasolini’s Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) on 35mm: this is not porn but serious filmmaking, however, it is one of the toughest screenings that I have ever sat through. And there are a really great range of films and filmmakers on offer, including radical film events.
Apart from the Newspaper there is an impressive website which enables one to track down films, venues and events. Given the range of exhibition the festival will offer a whole range of formats, some of which are not strictly theatrical. Helpfully, the newspaper lists the screening using 35mm: the format on which most of the material on offer originated.
It is good to see this Festival continuing to thrive and the range of exhibitors, film groups and enthusiasts participating. As the website recommends: ‘Vote for Cinema’, turn up to as many of these treats as possible.
Note, check the Webpages and fresh events are being added: and check events locally, I have discovered a couple of minor errors in the Newspaper.
We have had quite a number of postings on this Blog that take the multiplex sector to task. So it seems only fair to give any company credit for positive innovation. Recently the Vue chain has added an additional page of information on its websites:
Here are your 4K films and times.
It is reached by a link on the right hand side of the ‘What’s on’ page, under ‘narrow your search’ and ‘sony 4K’. This is good news because it struck me a long time ago that it was rather frustrating to read adverts about 4K projection when there was no equivalent information about the DCPs which were source.
However, this addition also points up the really stingy approach of the distribution and exhibitions sectors – the next 4K DCP is, apparently, the film advertised at the top and only due on September 29th 2015 and for a single screening.
The most that can be hoped for, I suppose, is that some other exhibitors might follow Vue’s example. Then at least we will know about the few higher standard screenings available.