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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 16:22 GMT
Do you want more movie choice?
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter is the first of three winter blockbusters
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 the release of her film, The One and Only, has had to be postponed because Harry Potter, James Bond and Lord of the Rings will dominate cinema screens in the UK, leaving no room for other movies.

The debate is now closed. Please see below for a selection of your comments.

Quotas would be a step backwards. If British film makers cannot market their films properly they should not cry to the State. Perhaps these niche film makers should start thinking about alternative distribution channels, e.g. cable TV channels and the web. Who says films have to be seen on the big screen?
W Boucher, UK

My old local cinema had 3 screens. When our new 10 screen cinema opened we were promised more choice. There was a point last winter when they were only showing 2 films (5 screens each) - Harry Potter & Lord of the Rings.

No way is there enough choice. The cinemas are full of Hollywood rubbish when we should be looking at other films. If you take the average multiplex, sometimes it is hard to find anything appealing. It doesn't help that the major studios own the multiplexes.
Tim Baker, Wales

The idea of introducing quotas is ludicrous. Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter and Die Another Day will be taking up thousands of screens because millions of people will want to see them. If film-makers produce films that have a limited audience appeal, they cannot look to blame poor box office performance on the lack of screens. Cinema has become, for better or worse, a popcorn spectacle. Small, "worthy" films usually find their niche on video and DVD. A set allocation of screens would only result in one thing: half-empty cinemas.

But, if this bizarre idea gains support, can I then tack on a rider that the same "quotas" be applied to the music charts to reduce the number of "Popstar/idol/rivals" allowed in the Top 40 each week?
Craig, UK

We should be celebrating the fact that this Christmas the cinemas will be full of blockbuster movies packed with British talent. The British film industry is not very good at making films that the majority of people want to see - one major reason why it is so poor. Homegrown successes like Harry Potter (perceived as British even if the director and distributor are American) are good for business.

Leslee Udwin should arrange to release her film at a quieter time of year. It's not difficult to work out - after all, the average 12-year-old has probably known the release dates for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings for about six months!
Sally, UK

In response to Leslee Udwins comments, I think it would be a good idea for her to watch her film again. I saw "The One and Only" in Cannes this year and walked out. It is the worst film that I have ever seen, I can't even believe that it is being distributed. Just because a film is low budget and British, doesn't mean that its good. I have no sympathy for her whatsoever, I think its great that a record number of people will be visiting the cinemas this year.
Mark Emms, England

This is probably a bit of a freak occurrence: three films coming out of established "franchises" and able to generate much more pre-release interest than is usual. Last year, HP and LOTR had to establish themselves, this year they are building on that success. It is quite rare for there to be such short intervals between releases of films in such a series. So overall, I think there is usually quite a wide range of choice of film on any one day - its just that for a few weeks until Christmas this year it will look as though there is only two films on. The choice will still be better than it was traditionally: only one screen and one film (well, usually with a B movie thrown in as well).
David W, UK

I think we do need some kind of quota scheme; to ensure that homegrown talent gets the exposure it deserves. The French have a perfectly acceptable system in place which ensures that non-Hollywood films are guaranteed screen-time, whilst at the same time the major studios still get their films shown. The system in France works, so why not simply bite the bullet and do it? I think a better suggestion would be that the quota be for European film, rather than just UK - if films such as Amelie and Todo Sobre Mi Madre had got more exposure here, then I insist the world would be a better place!
Paul Madley, UK

Can anyone explain the point of having multiplex cinemas as they don't actually offer us more films?
Chris Smith, UK

Although the idea of French-style quotas is a bit unpalatable to British tastes there really is no other way that small releases get any reasonable amount of time in the cinemas. I would suggest a quota system that promoted "all" low-budget features not just British produce - perhaps by capping the proportion of screening time in any one day devoted to any one release.
Pete, UK

Quotas are unnecessary, yes over half of the UK screens will be showing one of three films for the next two months, but this is unusual, this may even be unprecedented.

I, for one, like the choice it gives me, I get to pick the best time for me to watch and even if I turn up late I can catch another screening, this gives me more flexibility than my local bus service.
Michael Pearce, UK

It's not really the blockbuster films themselves that push the smaller films out of the cinemas... It's the consumers. The majority of us prefer to see the big films rather than the smaller, less awesome ones. Also, these smaller "cultured" films are usually not too appealing to young children whereas Harry Potter, for instance, is. People like their "brand named films" like James Bond. There have been 20 James Bond films and people know what to expect from a new one. It is unfortunate that the smaller films don't always make it to the cinema, but these days too many people are looking for something spectacular in their films and the smaller films can't usually provide that. If there was as much money in the British film industry as the American, maybe one day we could churn out one of these awesome blockbusters, but until then most consumers will remain drawn to the big American films.
Paul Prendergast, United Kingdom

This would be a great way to stifle the film market. Big blockbusters have done a lot of groundwork for independents: it's because of them that video hasn't killed cinema. The two can co-exist quite comfortably without the crazy overhead of quotas - Ms Udwin will just have to release her film a few months later than she'd hoped - and plan her timing better next time round.
Richard Kirby, UK

My main frustration at the moment is not being able to see good "family" films at the cinema - three films (The Rookie, the Importance of Being Earnest, and Two Men go to War) have recently been released in a very small number of cinemas only, making them almost impossible to see, while blockbuster 15-rated films dominate - I'd like to see more choice of good clean entertainment.
Jan Dawson, UK

I don't see why small specialist films should get preferential treatment - if she wants to compete she should make more popular films, why should the paying public not be able to see the films they want ?
Arkan, England

We were told the multiplex would give us a greater choice of film to watch - instead the same films run for longer and we merely have a greater choice of when to catch the same old American blockbusters.
Simon Jerram, UK

If people wanted to see Ms Udwin's films, she wouldn't need a quota.
Alan Fisk, England

We have no cinema in Trowbridge (the county town for Wiltshire) even though we are screaming out for one, so I can't see anything!
Graham Hedley, England

Hmm, I am all for culture, but to put limitations and regulations in place? Surely that is why we all spend so much time talking about "bad" China etc?
Paul, UK

Regularly a film will jump out of the Sunday film review sections that simply is not available at the local cinema, while six screens show the latest "blockbuster". Regulation would be a bad thing if it forced cinemas to show minority films to empty theatres while queues waited to see Spiderman 2. What is needed is a level playing field in terms of distribution to ensure that smaller films get both the exposure and screen time they deserve. Even a single "small film" screen in every multiplex would be a massive step in the right direction.
Iain Simpson, Scotland

Sounds like a case of sour grapes to me. The reason that Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and James Bond will be shown on so many screens is because they are so popular!
Anne, UK

The system in France works because the set-up not only protects the French film industry but also encourages their film industry to grow. This provides more employment in their film industry and provides the country with a national identity of their own, rather than relying on Hollywood for hand-outs and influence.
Calum McQueen, UK

If this is a bad time to release smaller films, then surely the answer is to wait until the blockbusters have waned, and then show them. I thought that Harry Potter was a home grown film (and I'm not certain, but I thought that Lord of the Rings and Bond were too) - so how can this be a bad thing for the British film industry? Market economics are what drives the supply and demand of these products - interfering with them can be a difficult exercise with unpredictable results. In the run up to Christmas, let the blockbusters have the screens - if you fight them you're likely to lose.
Richard Godivala, UK

Face facts: people WANT to see Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and James Bond. Most do not want to spend an expensive evening just on the off-chance that the totally unknown film on screen 14 will actually be worth watching. You hire videos or DVDs "on spec", not take a family of five out for a seven mile trip that costs an arm and a leg! In the three years that her last film has been out, I have had absolutely no interest in seeing it so don't go blaming the cinemas for catering to the public's desires - this is about the only industry in the country that still does! Stop whinging and start producing something that people will want to see. Don't go down the protectionist route of "quotas" and compulsory screening of films simply because the makers want to extract money from an unwilling public.
Frank, England

I have all but stopped going to the cinema because of the awful choice in films they put on. Marvellous stunts, explosions and computer graphics are no substitute for a good story, good acting and good production. Unfortunately the greed of the cinemas is decimating the art of proper film-making
Andy Wilson, UK

Film quotas are a ridiculous idea. Who is to have a quota imposed upon them? My local (single screen) cinema relies upon the blockbuster films to survive. Are they to be compelled to show something else instead? It would be ironic to see the desires of independent film-makers putting independent cinemas out of business.
Darren Jones, UK

As an exiled Scot now living in England I was excited at the prospect of seeing the new Ken Loach film Sweet Sixteen. It was even filmed in my home town - even better. Guess what though? The nearest cinema to me actually showing the film was 20 miles away despite there being at least 50 available screens within that 20 mile radius. Disgusting!!!
Andy, UK

I think there is more than enough choice. Showcase at Bluewater have 10 screens of choices. Leslee Udwin should not even think about releasing her film at this time. February will be a better time for her. There are 52 weekends in the year and there are not 52 blockbusters released a year.
Steve Morris, England

If a film does not stand on its own right. Then why should it have a protected quota. Shouldn't the film producers then compensate the cinemas on the potential lost revenue. Just a can of worms. Again the British film industry whines.
John, UK

To say that we need legislation to make cinemas show British films is ludicrous. One of the reasons that people are drawn to the cinema as a form of entertainment is escapism. All the time that British film-makers are producing depressing storylines based on the lives of misfits on a council estate in Birmingham in the rain in the middle of February they cannot expect the cinemas to want to show them. I am afraid that Ms Udwin has to face the 'reality' that she is so fond of bringing to her films.
Graeme, UK

I have to agree that blockbusters are currently and have been for a while monopolising the cinema screens. Okay so these are the types of films that the general population of cinema-goers want to see but when they start to limit the amount smaller films having a wide release the problem begins. If I want to see films such as Amelie, Crouching Tiger or Donnie Darko I have to travel to smaller independent cinemas. I cannot see how this will or can change.
Jack, UK

See also:

06 Nov 02 | Entertainment
05 Nov 02 | Entertainment
25 Oct 02 | Entertainment
30 Sep 02 | Entertainment
20 Sep 01 | Entertainment
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