The British invade again

Columns

According to the U.K. Film Council, 2009 was another record year for British films and talent, scoring 6.7% of the global box office (http://bit.ly/UKFCboshare09) and taking home almost one in five of “the world’s major awards” from international film events and festivals (www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk/statscalendar). A total of 36 awards—up from 32 in 2008—went to British winners from top-tier festivals like Sundance, Cannes, Berlin and Venice to the Academy and BAFTA Awards, where Slumdog Millionaire with six each was the biggest victor.

Danny Boyle and friends also had the highest-grossing of the U.K. independent films with $327 million globally. Overall, British films accounted for $2 billion of the $29.9 billion earned worldwide. Cautioning about direct comparisons to 2008, when the U.K. share was $4.2 of $27.8 billion, Film Council CEO John Woodward explained, “These figures can fluctuate quite significantly every year thanks to only one or two massive films, like Mamma Mia! or the latest James Bond. So, whilst it’s disappointing to see the share drop in 2009, we’re anticipating a bounce-back next year, thanks mainly to the higher number of big event films made in the U.K. during 2009.”

Those generally fall in the category of U.K. inward investment films that are wholly or partly financed by U.S. studios but qualifying as British through the Cultural Test. “Thanks in no small part” to the success of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Sherlock Holmes, they earned 4.4% of the worldwide box office. U.K. films had a market share of around 6.6% in the United States and Canada, Germany and France, with a slightly higher 7.2% share in Spain.

Getty Goes Hollywood

Throughout March and April, the Getty Images Gallery in London is celebrating 100 years of Hollywood “through the lens.” The glamour and grit photos, selected by both the Gallery and exhibition sponsor Canon from the Getty archives, show “the evolution of Hollywood portraits through the golden age of cinema through to modern icons.” Gallery director Louise Garczewska adds, “The early days of Hollywood showcase the passion and creativity of the photographers of the age, using available technology and processes to capture a split-second magical image which tells a rich story of the subject, the era and even the cinematic style of the day.”

Norway’s Digital Spring
Beginning in late April or early May, the digital rollout in Norway will be underway in earnest. The Norwegian cinema association, Film & Kino, has entrusted Unique Cinema Systems to fit out theatres in Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. The Nordic Digital Alliance will handle digitization in the western region of the country. “The world’s first non-commercial complete national digital rollout” will cost about $65.5 million.

April 6 update:
Following the posting of the above item, the man in charge of the rollout at Unique Cinema Systems touched base with European Update. UCS director David Spilde noted that the rollout, though termed "the first non-commercial" one, in fact "involves all cinemas, private and city-run, in the country... The only unique thing is that the cinema trade body Film & Kino has funded 40% of the cost. However, these funds are monies paid by the industry over decades, so this is not government funding. If it was, it would not be allowed by the EU."

Unique was awarded nine out of the ten tenders in the country. With about 420 screens to be taken digital, that represents 82% of the total. The remaining 72 screens in the western part of Norway went to the Nordic Digital Alliance.

European Bridges to Turkey and Hong Kong

During the 29th Istanbul Film Festival in mid-April, European Film Promotion launched a new program of 10 current European and 12 Turkish productions by up-and-coming directors. In addition to the “aim of raising public awareness for the selected films in this year’s European Capital of Culture,” Hamburg, Germany-based EFP says, “the idea is to facilitate and improve the films’ distribution beyond their borders. Key European distributors will be invited to Istanbul to see the newest in Turkish fare; at the same time, the Turkish industry will have the chance to watch new and exciting European cinema with festival audiences.”

Similarly at FILMART in Hong Kong, and for the second year in a row, FFS extended its Film Sales Support to European sales agents for the marketing of 17 films, including four documentaries and one animated film. “The ongoing demand…for support at markets shows that we made the right decision,” stated FSS project director Susanne Davis. FSS is supported by the MEDIA Programme of the European Union and has been running since 2004.

Kinepolis Records 46% Growth Rate

As admissions climbed from 21.87 to 21.98 million across its markets, Ghent, Belgium-headquartered Kinepolis Group recorded revenue of €231.2 million in 2009 ($308 mil.), up 6.6% over the previous year. At the same time, net profits grew by 34% to €20.4 million ($27.2 mil.) and free cash flow 316% to €39.9 million ($53.3) due to “very good results in 2009, sale of CinemaxX and one-off decrease in working capital, resulting in significant debt reduction.” Investor relations also named the ongoing strategies for marketing cinema operation and enhancements to property values as additional reasons.

Sweden Spotlights Fashion & Films

When it comes to fashion, France usually comes to mind. With Sweden, it’s more like ABBA, Ikea and meatballs. New York’s Scandinavia House, the Nordic Center in America, recently set the record straight with two films and accompanying lectures. And, for dinner and a movie, Smörgås Chef at Scandinavia House does indeed serve Swedish meatballs and lingonberries.

Ingmar Bergman’s work with designer MAGO for Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) was described as “firmly establishing an example of centralized cooperation between the two artists” who “could unite their artistic vision for absolute quality.” MAGO also dressed Mannequin in Red (1958), “designing effeminate fashion without—it seems—any limitation to his creativity and fantasy.” Directed by Arne Mattsson, dubbed the “Swedish Hitchcock,” “the combination of uncanny murders, romantic love and traditional comedy make this film one of a kind.”

Producers Agree to Archive

On the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Berlin International Film Festival, film producers worldwide signed an agreement covering voluntary deposit of film and film materials in European archives. FIAPF represents 24 national producers’ organizations from 21 countries from Europe, Asia, Pacific, North America and Latin America. The organization’s president, Luis Alberto Scalella, recognized “the indispensable and valuable work film archives carry out with respect to preservation of the film heritage.”

Counting 40 national and regional preservation bodies among its members, the Association of European Cinémathèques needed an update to a 1971 agreement, not only “to take into account the new digital environment and the enlargement of the European Union.” ACE president Claudia Dillmann noted, “Without the commitment of all parties involved, we would never have achieved this goal.”

E-mail news and comments for Andreas Fuchs to kevin.lally@nielsen.com.