BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Big studios snub Stelios
The cinema opened in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, on Friday
The UK's first no-frills cinema opens its doors to the public later on Friday in Milton Keynes.

EasyCinema, the brainchild of EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, says it has sold 2,400 seats for its opening night.

The 10 screen cinema has no box office or food stalls and tickets start at 20p.

But the big Hollywood studios are refusing to supply it with the latest blockbusters, such as The Matrix Reloaded, which opens this weekend.

Mr Haji-Ioannou says he wants to break the stranglehold of the big distributors on UK cinema.

But he faces an uphill struggle.

"It is a problem. There are six big Hollywood studios that control a very large portion, about 90%, of the box office takings in this country.

"The problem is not dealing with them because I have deals with a couple of them already.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou
Mr Haji-Ioannou has complained to the Office of Fair Trading
"But the question is on what terms and if they will give us the blockbusters on their opening week, what is known in the trade as first run movies," Mr Haji-Ioannou told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He added: "We don't have The Matrix tonight (Friday).

"Warner Brothers, although they were happy to support us with smaller, slightly older films, have held back the biggest blockbuster they have this year."

Mr Haji-Ioannou is threatening to sue the big studios if they collude to deprive him of their blockbuster films in the first week of release.

He has also complained about their behaviour to the Office of Fair Trading.

But in 1994 the Monopolies and Mergers Commission investigated similar complaints and found that the distributors' position was "reasonable".

Ben Freidman, of the Prince Charles cinema, in London's West End, said conventional cinema pricing meant the risk was shared between the cinema and the distributor.

Low costs

"If they (the studios) don't get money from successful films, they would not be able to release more risky films," Mr Friedman told BBC One's Breakfast.

But he said easyCinema had a "very good chance" of succeeding, by attracting more people to the cinema.

Research has shown price was an important factor with many cinemagoers, he added.

EasyCinema hopes to keep costs to a minimum and drawing in business during off-peak times.

The cinema has an internet-booking only policy, no popcorn or food stalls, and a skeleton staff.

Ticket prices are expected to vary between 20p and 5 depending on times with an average ticket price of 1.50 predicted for the first year.

Consumer protection

Customers print their own tickets in the form of a barcode card and scan it to enter the cinema turnstile to their chosen film.

Filmgoers can also take their own food and drink.

Among the 10 films showing are recent US martial arts movie Bulletproof Monk, Blue Crush and British film The Heart of Me.

Sony Pictures, which owns Columbia Tristar film distributors, have given two films to the cinema on the agreement that it pays 1.30 for every customer who goes to see one of their two films, Darkness Falls and Half Past Dead.

EasyCinema said it will continue to charge 20p admission to these films.

But it will be asking for donations from their customers to The Fund for the Protection of Consumers against Hollywood Studios.

Cinema Paradiso it ain't
23 May 03  |  UK

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific