Why this is not a re­view of Fame

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - Don­ald Clarke

TICKET read­ers may have be­come a lit­tle tired of read­ing that this or that film has not been granted a press screen­ing in Ire­land – and there­fore that we can’t bring you a re­view on the day of the film’s release.

The way it’s sup­posed to work is that film dis­trib­u­tors/pub­li­cists put on a spe­cial screen­ing of a film a cou­ple of weeks be­fore it goes on gen­eral release. That gives us time to watch the film, pon­der over our prose, send it in to the news­pa­per, have it lov­ingly edited and laid out by a team of sub-ed­i­tors and pub­lished on the day of the film’s release, so that you can plan your week­end’s cin­ema out­ing.

The Ticket has a pol­icy of re­view­ing ev­ery new film on the day of release, and 95 per cent of the time we do. But if the dis­trib­u­tor doesn’t put on a screen­ing, we can’t write the re­view. And there’s not much point in run­ning a re­view af­ter release, as so many peo­ple view a movie in its open­ing week­end.

The lat­est pic­ture to be sneaked sur­rep­ti­tiously into do­mes­tic cin­e­mas is the re­make of Fame (re­leased to­day with a PG cert) that, from the trail­ers at least, looks like a crafty at­tempt to make High School Mu­si­cal 4 by stealth.

We can as­sume that it has been shown to crit­ics in the UK and the US. But not to us.

Even if you re­gard the re­views in this or­gan as drivel, you would have to ad­mit that there’s some­thing fishy, not to say in­sult­ing, about a dis­trib­u­tor show­ing a movie to Bri­tish crit­ics but not both­er­ing to screen it on this side of the Ir­ish Sea. Maybe they think jour­nal­ists are meaner over here. Maybe they think we’re a lit­tle bet­ter at spot­ting crummy films. Maybe – I’m only partly jok­ing here – they be­lieve Ire­land is still part of the UK.

Any­way, ea­ger to make some sense of this phe­nom­e­non, I con­tacted the chief cul­prit. Lon­don-based En­ter­tain­ment Pic­tures, which is dis­tribut­ing Fame in this ter­ri­tory, has re­leased sev­eral films without press screen­ings.

What’s go­ing on? How come the Ir­ish Film Clas­si­fi­ca­tion Of­fice gets to see the film – a film can’t be re­leased without a cer­tifi­cate from the IFCO – but mem­bers of the press don’t?

Ruth Dal­lat of En­ter­tain­ment Pic­tures’ press of­fice of­fers var­i­ous rea­sons for the ab­sence of a press screen­ing for Fame, and claims that this par­tic­u­lar release was com­pli­cated by be­ing a “day and date” release, ie it has the same release date in the US, UK and Ire­land.

“As an in­de­pen­dent dis­trib­u­tor who reg­u­larly re­leases Hol­ly­wood stu­dio ti­tles day and date with the US, we of­ten, due to se­cu­rity rea­sons, re­ceive a print from the pro­duc­ers very close to the release of the film.

“With Fame, for ex­am­ple, the fi­nal print ar­rived with us on Fri­day, not al­low­ing us enough time to or­gan­ise a press show out­side of Lon­don.

“The fact that we have not been able to hold a press show in Ire­land for some of our re­cent re­leases is not in­dica­tive of a com­pany screen­ing pol­icy.

“Where we do re­ceive a print in time to screen in ad­vance of the week of release we do hold screen­ings in Ire­land, as in the cases of Red Cliff, The Reader, Ink­heart, Pride and Glory and City of Ember.

“We have not been able to hold any ad­vance press screen­ings (ie prior to the week of release) in Lon­don of any of the ti­tles that we have not press-showed in Ire­land.”

Hmm? A few ques­tions re­main (for those of you still read­ing). If it is pos­si­ble to screen films early on the week of release in the UK, then it is surely pos­si­ble to make the same ar­range­ment in Ire­land?

And the day and date ex­cuse doesn’t quite hold up. How come movies such as last year’s Ap­paloosa, which opened in the US be­fore arriving here, did not re­ceive an Ir­ish press show?

From 2010, Warner Broth­ers will take over dis­tri­bu­tion of films from New Line Cin­ema, the Amer­i­can com­pany be­hind The Time Trav­eler’s Wife, My Sis­ter’s Keeper, Sex and the City and many other films that En­ter­tain­ment failed to screen for the press. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if Ir­ish re­view­ers are in­vited back to the cin­ema.

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