Philippa Lowthorpe’s Miss World drama Misbehaviour and Nick Rowland’s directorial debut Calm With Horses are two of the new titles opening at the UK box office this weekend, as the country’s cinemas stay open amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Screen has contacted all major UK distributors about their upcoming releases; of those who have responded, none have reported any changes to releases for this weekend.
Curzon has said “no changes have been made yet and won’t be unless cinemas are ordered to close”, and that it anticipates “a bigger uptake” on its Curzon Home Cinema streaming platform.
It said it encourages third-party distributors to contact the company about using Curzon Home Cinema for upcoming releases, with the likelihood of an increase in demand for home viewing in the coming months.
Picturehouse Entertainment has no changes to its current distribution slate and says its cinemas are open and operating as normal. It will continue to follow official guidance from the UK government and Public Health England. It contacted all staff, and customers on its mailing lists, with a company policy on Thursday morning, which noted measures including “full training staff on prevention steps” and “cleaning high-contact points in cinemas more frequently.”
For several weeks it has been asking all staff who have visited areas significantly affected by the new coronavirus to seek medical advice and remain off work until they are given the all-clear.
Documentary distributor Dogwoof, which releases Cunningham to UK cinemas today, has made no changes to its schedule or the scale of its releases as it stands.
Event cinema company Trafalgar Releasing says it is “being agile” in its work “as the event cinema model calls for”. It is not making any current changes to its release schedule but is aware of the potential loss of screens around the world.
Glasgow Film Theatre, which hosted the annual Glasgow Film Festival last week to record attendances, says “customer and staff safety is paramount” and it is “making provisions for any changes in this fast-moving situation.” It notes a full programme for March, but also says “plans are in place to implement any government guidelines as they happen, including restrictions on sizes of public gatherings.” A full statement for customers is available on the venue’s website.
Jason Wood, artistic director – film at Manchester’s Home venue, said it has sold-out screenings for films as part of the 26th ¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Festival, which runs from March 6 – 26.
Wood anticipated new releases for this weekend such as And Then We Danced and Bacurau may be “slightly soft”, but also that the movement of large studio titles such as Mulan is not a concern as Home wasn’t playing them. He noted it may allow the discovery of smaller releases such as Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, System Crasher, Koko-di Koko-da and The Assistant.
“Until told otherwise by the government Home will continue to operate,” said Wood. “The safety of the public and the staff, of course, remains paramount and we have the necessary procedures in place. The situation is being monitored constantly.”
Carmen Slijpen, creative director at Depot cinema in Lewes, says bookings for the venue are “reasonable healthy”, but the venue is anticipating ”some drop-off compared to last year”. She also noted an “extraordinary” last few weeks at the venue, with 1,656 admissions last weekend up 17.5% on the same weekend last year (1,408).
On the coronavirus situation, she said, ”Overall, we are pleased that our venue is still very lively. The whole situation feels like we’re in a waiting game - hopefully, no hunger to follow. We have asked our staff who can work from home to do so, everybody else is happy to come to work and only some of our customers have asked if we are going to close and whether we are worried. We have an outside space too where people are now eating and drinking in the winter sun.”
“We are assessing the situation afresh every day,” she continued. ”It’s currently business as usual with all surfaces, doors, handrails, light switches etc meticulously cleaned throughout the day. We are not overly worried but have run through different scenarios like have to close the venue for a number of weeks.”
Exhibitors body the UK Cinema Association (UKCA) issued the following statement on the situation:
The decision by a number of US studios to delay the release of several of their upcoming major films presents an unprecedented challenge to many UK cinemas, and is something which may genuinely call into question the survival of a number of sites.
While we are following government advice closely, current guidance is that there is no reason for the public to avoid visiting the cinema. All UK cinema operators place ensuring the safety of their audiences and staff as the top of their list of priorities, and will each take their own view on the measures necessary to achieve that.’
Misbehaviour to open
Released through Walt Disney Studios in the UK, Misbehaviour is the second directorial feature from Philippa Lowthorpe. It tells the true story of a group of women who hatch a plan to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty contest in London, which eventually saw Jennifer Hosten become the first black woman to win the title.
Lowthorpe previously directed literary adaptation Swallows And Amazons, which opened to £677,188 in August 2016, on its way to £3.1m.
She has an extensive list of television credits, on dramas including Netflix’s The Crown, and BBC series Three Girls and Call The Midwife.
The cast is led by Keira Knightley alongside two Screen Stars of Tomorrow – Gugu Mbatha-Raw from 2008 and Jessie Buckley from 2017. Supporting cast member Charlotte Spencer was also named a Star in 2015.
Knightley’s breakout role came in Gurinder Chadha’s 2002 comedy-drama Bend It Like Beckham, which opened to £2m and closed on a strong £11.6m. She made her name globally with her starring role in the Pirates Of The Caribbean series (highest-grossing: 2006’s second title Dead Man’s Chest with £52.5m); she has more recently combined blockbuster fare such as 2018’s The Nutcracker And The Four Realms (£5.7m total) with independent features such as 2019’s Official Secrets (£537,889 opening, £2.3m total) and The Aftermath (£586,175 opening, £2m total).
Buckley’s breakthrough role was 2017’s Beast (opened: £167,195, closed: £418,359); she subsequently led 2018 hit Wild Rose (opened: £771,929, closed: £2.9m) and co-starred alongside Renée Zellweger in last year’s Judy (opened: £1.5m, closed: £8m).
Mbatha-Raw has combined notable television roles (Black Mirror episode ‘San Junipero’, Apple’s The Morning Show) with films including 2013 breakout Belle (opened: £407,120, closed: £1.9m) and last year’s Motherless Brooklyn (opened: £152,000, closed: £386,000).
Calm joins the Stars
Screen Stars of Tomorrow are also prominent in Irish drama Calm With Horses, released by Altitude. First-time feature director Nick Rowland was a 2015 Star, as was producer Joe Murtagh in 2016, writer Daniel Emmerson in 2015, and actors Cosmo Jarvis (2013), Barry Keoghan (2015), and Niamh Algar (2018).
Jarvis stars as a former boxer who is hired as an enforcer by a family of drug dealers and faces a test of loyalty when he is asked to kill for the first time.
Two studio titles to have kept their release dates are heading into their first weekends after opening on Wednesday 11.
Universal’s horror-thriller The Hunt stars Betty Gilpin and Hilary Swank in a satire on the political divide between the American left and right.
It is the second new release in recent weeks produced by horror specialists Blumhouse Productions, after The Invisible Man, which topped the charts on its first session and was up to £5m as of last weekend.
Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof co-wrote the film with Nick Cuse and co-produced it with Blumhouse founder Jason Blum. Craig Zobel, whose previous features include indie titles Z For Zachariah and Compliance, directs.
Sony’s Bloodshoot also enters its first weekend. The directorial debut of Dave Wilson (creative supervisor on Avengers: Age Of Ultron), it is based on the eponymous Valiant Comics character and is intended as the first title in a cinematic universe – a strategy previous engineered by Marvel and DC Comics.
Vin Diesel stars as Ray Garrison, a deceased marine who is brought back to life with superpowers by an organization that wants to use him as a weapon.
As mentioned above, Dogwoof releases Cunningham, following a Toronto 2019 premiere. The 3D documentary centres on dancer Merce Cunningham and the last generation of his iconic dance company.
LGBTQ+ distributor Peccadillo Pictures has Levan Akin’s And Then We Danced, a coming-of-age tale about a competitive Georgian dancer who falls for a new arrival in his company.
The film debuted in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes last year and has since won multiple awards on the festival circuit, especially for Akin and lead actor Levan Gelbakhiani. It attracted protests from far-right groups including the Church on its release in Georgia in November 2019 due to its depiction of a homosexual relationship, with Akin telling Screen at the time that he hoped the protestors would see the film.
Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles Bacurau, is released through Mubi. It won the jury prize on its Cannes 2019 Competition launch. The Brazil-France co-production revolves around a fictional small town in the Brazilian outback which is beset by strange happenings following the death of its matriarch.
STX has action-comedy My Spy starring Dave Bautista and Chloe Coleman, in the story of a CIA operative who finds himself surveilling the family of a precocious nine-year-old girl.
Verve Pictures is conducting a Scottish release for Scott Graham’s BBC Films-backed drama Run starring Screen Star of Tomorrow 2018 Marli Siu; while Kinostar has Polish crime drama Bad Boy; and Zee Studios has Indian biographical film Gunjan Saxena about India’s first female airforce pilot.