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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 08:35 GMT
Potter and Bond 'block smaller films'
James Bond
The 20th Bond movie is released in November

The producer of British comedy East is East has called on the UK Government to introduce film quotas after her latest production was squeezed out of cinemas by blockbusters.

Leslee Udwin told BBC News Online her film, The One and Only, was due to be released at the end of the year but had to be moved to February because Harry Potter, James Bond and Lord of the Rings will dominate cinema screens in the UK.

These cinemas are hungry monsters

Mark Batey, Film Distributors' Association
She said: "They have voraciously eaten up all our screens. It's terribly frustrating."

The three films are released in November and December this year.

But film distributors have said there will still be plenty of choice for cinema goers who do not want a diet of magic, epic fantasy and spy thrills.

"There should be quotas to protect films for sure," said Ms Udwin.

Her call for quotas comes as the Film Council, charged with developing and supporting the indigenous industry, announced proposals to ensure more home-grown films are shown.

The three blockbusters, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Die Another Day and The Two Towers, have a combined budget of $336m (215m).

Swallowing up

They are expected to take up at least half of all screens in the country.

If the films prove as successful as the film studios hope, they could be shown on 1,000 screens each, swallowing up most of the 3,100-plus screens in the whole of the UK.

Leslee Udwin
Leslee Udwin: "Against Potter and Bond - we've had it"

"What those three films have done this year is unprecedented," said Ms Udwin.

"When East is East went on release in November 1999 we were alongside The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project and the new Bond and those were mega films.

"[But] as mega as they were - the Sixth Sense was on 400 screens, Blair Witch was on about 300 screens and Bond, the biggest of the lot, was going out on between 500 and 600 screens.

"But with Potter, Bond and Lord of the Rings, we have three of them on a thousand screens in a row - we've had it."

Distributors will not say exactly how many screens their films will be released on.

But Harry Potter tickets went on sale seven weeks before the film was due to be released and many multiplexes will be showing the film on multiple screens at the same time.

Mark Batey, chief executive of the Film Distributors' Association, said the next two months would be a "fantastic period for cinema-going in this country".

'More films'

"At the peak it may well be the case that with Harry Potter and Die Another Day more than half of all the screens in the country will be showing the films.

"But there is still room for more films."

He added: "These cinemas are hungry monsters and they thrive on product. One blockbuster is not enough to drive cinema-going in this country."

Harry Potter
Harry Potter will hoping to cast his spell on audiences
Mr Batey said there was a "diverse collection" of films released between Harry Potter, on 15 November, and Lord of the Rings, on 18 December.

But he admitted that Harry Potter and Die Another Day could still be doing very good business during the Christmas period at the peak of the release for Lord of the Rings.

On Tuesday, the Film Council outlined proposals to ensure "more international successes" for the British film industry.


They included offering distributors incentives to ensure British product is seen on screen.

The government should get in and start interfering with what these exhibitors are doing

Leslee Udwin
Currently, more than half of British films made are never shown in a cinema.

In 2000, US films took more than 61% of the UK box office, while home grown films took just 4% of the box office.

'Tiny film'

Alan Parker, chairman of the Film Council, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday that film makers should use their common sense.

"I have a film I have just finished. I would not bring it out at this moment in time," he said.

Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings films were made back to back
But Ms Udwin said the three blockbusters were also shutting out medium-sized films.

"If my film had been an art-house film it would not have been the slightest problem because you can find your 10 to 15 screens around the country.


"If you are going on 200-plus screens, which is traditionally a big release in this country, then you are not going to find the screens now."

She added: "The French protect their films using quotas - they have been enviable and admirable at what they have done."

She blamed the exhibitors and said they took "in the region of 73% of box office takings" for each film.

"That's shocking. The government should be legislating against that and ensuring producers get a fair crack of the whip."

East is East
East is East was a British comedy hit
But Mr Batey, of the Film Distributors' Association, said his members would resist such a move.

"The idea of forcing cinemas to show films the local markets do not want to see - that is going down a difficult path."

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the government had no plans to introduce quotas.

"We will be sitting down with Film Council to discuss how best to serve the film industry's needs."

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