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Stream on, but film directors say movies must be kept on big screen

Award winners say coronavirus could change how blockbusters are made

10 May, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Kevin MacDonald directed Last King Of Scotland

AN OSCAR-WINNING director says he fears that independent cinemas face an uncertain future as viewers get used to streaming films during the coronavirus lockdown.

Oscar-winning director Kevin MacDonald, who lives in Dartmouth Park, directed such celebrated films as One Day In September and The Last King Of Scotland told the New Journal that he feared the prolonged closures may mean some of the capital’s best loved art house picture houses may not be able to re-open at all.

He said: “A few were struggling, and they have lost a huge amount of money. I worry that this could be the final nail in the coffin for some of the independents. Many were already in a tough place.”

Mr Macdonald had been working on his latest release, a political thriller starring Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch called Mauritania before work was forced to stop. He had hoped to screen it at film festivals in the autumn – something that may not now happen.

But the idea of films by-passing cinemas altogether and going straight to streaming services – as happened with Universal’s film Trolls World Tour last month – would change how directors approach scripts, he added. “As much as I love Netflix, making films for a smaller screen alters the way a film is shot, edited, scored,” he said.

“If you think your film is for the big screen, you shoot it wider, you allow the story more time to develop, there is more subtlety.”

Some directors are still hoping for cinemas to re-open in the middle of next month, in time for the summer season of blockbusters.

Mike Newell on his doorstep during lockdown

Films such as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, partly shot in Hampstead, still have a planned release.

Four Weddings And A Funeral director Mike Newell, who also lives in Dartmouth Park, told the New Journal that he thought films streamed at home could not replicate the joy of a cinema visit – and that the industry would find a way of surviving.

Bafta-winning Mr Newell said: “Just as the theatre gets at you emotionally and intellectually, movies lean on you – these great big screens loom up. There is no way some films would work being watched on a small screen.” He added: “You just shouldn’t do that with something like a Star Wars movie.” And he added: “It would be catastrophic not to be able to shoot a movie for cinema. Film directors like to think in terms of the big shot. Jerry Bruckheimer once said to me: ‘Movies take you to place you have never been’. It may be a simple point, but it is true.”

He added: “I do not think this period will be the final nail in the coffin of cinemas – people said the same about bookshops 15 years ago, but I’m struggling with the fact I can’t currently visit my favourite bookshop on Kentish Town Road. Books are fine – and the movies will be, too. Perhaps studios will respond by making films even bigger and even better.”

He said he looked forward to visiting the Curzon cinema in the Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury, once again.

He said: “There are four screens, one dedicated to documentaries, absolutely wonderful staff, and great sound.”

The Odeon chain has reacted to Universal’s approach to Trolls World Tour by refusing to screen the company’s further releases. This could mean that the long-awaited next Bond movie would not be shown by the chain in Camden Town – Daniel Craig’s local cinema – and Swiss Cottage.

No Time To Die’s release date was postponed until November at the start of the outbreak.


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