Sunday, 16 March 2014

The achievment of 2014

Audiences at The Courtyard © Christopher Preece 2014
With enthusiastic audiences, talk of “the best festival yet” and still another weekend to go, I had to ask, does this mark a highlight in contemporary cinema, or is Herefordshire becoming increasingly affectionate about this springtime film marathon?

The answer is not so simple and cannot be resolved with certainty here, but that shouldn’t stop one trying.

The crucial point that drives cinema sales across the country and has dramatically benefited Borderlines in recent years has been the awards season and the fanfare and interest that is created around a handful of films.

Before this year, the best example of a film which combined a successful awards season with a triumphant appearance in Hereford was The Artist in 2012 (winning  five Oscars). Up to now this is the best performing film in the 12 year history of Borderlines. However 12 Years a Slave is coming ever closer!
Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o and Chiwetel Eljiofor in 12 Years a Slave

Looking at the film release schedule for January and February 2014 it reads like a film of the year list.  In the space of 3 weeks from mid January to early February, the heavyweights - 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club and The Wolf of Wall Street (not playing at Borderlines) battled it out garnering 19 Oscar nominations between them and sharing four of the key six awards; Best Film (12 Years a Slave) Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey - Dallas) Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto - Dallas) and Best Supporting Actress ( Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years.)
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey  in Dallas Buyers Club

Bookmarking these three were American Hustle, the Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis and Her with Joaquin Phoenix. It has been a phenomenal period for cinema with film playing a much greater role in cultural life, interjecting daily conversations and a massively expanded media coverage. Of course this is a seasonal, industry-led distribution cycle that we see every year and Borderlines is perfectly poised to reap the benefits.

In terms of box office the main benefactors of the Oscar attention were 12 Years and Dallas, although this is somewhat stating the obvious as both won awards, yet it is inevitable a summer or autumn release would have been seriously detrimental to their performance? The awards fanfare was less critical for Llewyn Davis and Wolf of Wall Street due to the reputation and historical success of their respective directors, the Coen brothers and Martin Scorsese.

National UK Box Office
1.    The Wolf of Wall Street - £21,970,632
2.    12 Years a Slave - £18,921,943
3.    Dallas Buyers Club - £4,490,052
4.    Inside Llewyn Davis - £2,411,016
5.    August: Osage County - £1,890,549
6.    Nebraska - £995,000

And how does this national popularity compare to the taste at Borderlines? As of Tuesday 11 March film sales compared to audience rating at Borderlines (at the Courtyard Hereford only, many of these films were also shown at other venues)read like this:
Clearly 12 Years is the outright winner for audience reaction and ticket sales. The gem that is Nebraska was neglected by UK audiences but fared better at Borderlines. The melancholic and mopey Llewyn Davis did not warm to Hereford despite selling a good share of tickets
Had Wolf of Wall Street been in the program would it have fared better than 12 Years? Highly unlikely and perhaps its performance would have been closer to Nebraska in 5th place, in contrast to its national box office domination.

My conclusion, yes, 2014 has seen an incredible plethora of film, however the success of Borderlines is not limited to a group of glossy American films.

As anyone reading this must be thinking, to bang on about numbers, box office and to pay such attention to the Oscars is to completely miss the point about Borderlines. Strong audiences crossing French classics (La Belle et la Bête), independent UK features (Kiss the Water) and Hereford’s own offerings (Chewing the Cud and Rural Media/BFI Film Academy) illustrate the point. Spanning 2,000 square miles of Herefordshire and Shropshire rural bliss, projecting Jean Luc Godard, Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett across venues from Oswestry and Ledbury to Wem Town Hall is part of the magic.

Finally I take nothing but sheer delight from the fact that the Harry Dean Stanton documentary, depicting the fragile soul of Paris Texas, Alien and Twin Peaks is currently winning the audience award.
Harry Dean Stanton in Paris Texas

Incredible Borderlines!

Luke Doran (Borderlines board member)

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