Mobile digital cinema travels to rural England

Columns

December marked the debut of mobile d-cinema standard screenings hosted by White Horse Pictures, the rural cinema initiative for Wiltshire and Test Valley counties in the U.K. With only an average of eight full-time screens per 1,000 sq. km (386 sq. mile) versus 22.3 screens nationally, U.K. Film Council-sponsored research identified the region of 542,000 people as underscreened.

Showing the animated Legends of the Guardians, sing-along Grease, Julian Fellowes’ new Christmas period drama From Time to Time and action comedy RED, “the new scheme is bringing the big screen to viewers that would normally have to travel long distances to enjoy a modern digital cinema experience,” co-funder South West Screen stated. In January, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is on the program, “a blockbuster that would usually have to be screened on lower-quality DVD in smaller local venues,” Caroline Norbury, South West Screen’s CEO, said. “The White Horse Pictures consortium…has done a great job in coming together to deliver these screenings, and we hope local residents will use and enjoy the service.”

Bristol Bottle Yard Open for Business
Also from Southwest England, the agency reported that the region’s largest dedicated film and television production facility, The Bottle Yard, is hosting its first feature. Alastair Siddons’ The Dark Half is one of three films to be made under South West Screen’s iFeatures digital filmmaking scheme. “As well as further enhancing Bristol’s growing reputation as a leading media hub outside of London,” the media release stated, “there is also potential to work with local partners to offer placements, training and industry links to education, including film-related apprenticeships in specialist grades of skilled new labor.”

As the name implies, the 300,000 square-foot (27,870 sq. m) production facility operated as a winery and bottling plant for over 50 years. Throughout 2009, South West Screen registered more than 1,600 filming days and approximately £62 million inward investment (US$98.15 million; 73 million euros) brought into the area by film and television production. Titles include Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go, Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe and Richard Curtis’ Pirate Radio.

EU Parliament Awards Prix LUX
Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer may have set a record six wins of seven nominations at the 23rd European Film Awards, but Feo Aladag’s Die Fremde (When We Leave) won the 2010 European Parliament Prix LUX. Germany’s official entry in the Foreign Language Oscar race centers on a Turkish woman living in Berlin after escaping her abusive husband in Istanbul. Clearly a good story match for the LUX cinema prize honoring films that illustrate the founding values of European identity, explore cultural diversity, or contribute insights to the EU integration debate. For even more integration, the cash bourse of 90,000 euros (US$121,000) goes towards subtitling the film in all official EU languages, adapting the original version for visually or hearing-impaired people and producing one 35mm print per EU member state or for the DVD release.

French Film Fêted Online

Film promotion agency UniFrance and consumer site www.allocine.fr, with the support of the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, organized the first online film festival for French films: www.myfrenchfilmsfestival.com will be live from Jan. 14 to 29, 2011. “The objective is to take fully into account the evolution of cultural consumption and to reach a new audience for French cinema abroad,” organizers stated. Along with Jean Renoir’s French Cancan (1955), ten recent features and as many shorts are available via video-on-demand, with subtitles in German, English, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and others. Internet viewers can vote for their favorite film along with foreign bloggers and international press.

Swiss Films Favored at Home
With a record 82 homemade films opening in cinemas, the market share of Swiss films climbed from 3.5 to 5.2 percent in 2010. The most successful was Michael Steiner’s Alpine western Sennentuntschi, which opened the Zurich Film Festival and was distributed by Disney. Provisional admission figures for 2010 by the federal office of culture BAK showed 150,000 more moviegoers for Swiss films compared to the previous two years, with a total of around 700,000.

3D Deal for Utopolis
Leading Benelux operator Utopia/Utopolis Group entered into an agreement with the regional subsidiary of Germany’s FTT  for the installation of 45 MasterImage 3D d-cinema systems. The deal includes providing the necessary silver screens. “Having tested different options,” Utopia S.A.’s general manager Nico Simon found MasterImage to be the solution “that suits our requirements best.” Utopia Group of Cinemas operates 90 screens at 13 locations in France, Luxembourg, Belgium and The Netherlands. In June 2006, Utopolis Luxembourg became the first 100% digitally equipped multiplex in Europe.

Weimar Cinema Comes to New York
Until March 7, Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in association with Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Stiftung of Wiesbaden, Germany, and Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin, are presenting “the most comprehensive exhibition surveying the extraordinarily fertile and influential period in German filmmaking between the two world wars.” MoMA adds, “It was during this period that film matured from a silent, visually expressive art into one circumscribed yet enlivened by language, music and sound effects.”

Curated by MoMA Department of Film’s Laurence Kardish and Kinemathek’s Eva Orbanz, the series is showing 75 features and six shorts under the headline of “Weimar Cinema, 1919–1933: Daydreams and Nightmares.” An accompanying Titus Theater lobby exhibition was organized by Ronald S. Magliozzi with Kardish and Rajendra Roy and displays posters and photographs of Weimar filmmaking. Also included are “rare studio presentation books” that department founder Iris Barry acquired during her 1937 tour of Europe. “The selection attests to the German film industry‘s distinguished application of design and graphics to the promotion of the medium in the period,” MoMA noted. For those who can’t make it, there is always the 224-page illustrated publication (www.momastore.org).

Figueras Fancies Hollywood VIPs
Figueras International built a new recliner chair “intended to turn the simple act of sitting into a genuine pleasure,” the Spanish seating manufacturer promises. Appropriately named Hollywood, the VIP model features electric button controls for adjusting the back- and footrest “without a sound” and for “optimal sightlines at all times.” When vacated, the chair automatically returns to the base position. According to Figueras, this assures “an orderly appearance in the hall” and that “access points are always kept clear so users can move freely between rows.” Accessories include writing tablets, cupholders and tables for in-between.

Please e-mail news and comments for Andreas Fuchs to kevin.lally@filmjournal.com.