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Arkles Entertainment disagrees with Herald review

Arkles Entertainment’s John Davies despairs for the future of arthouse cinema.

Last week we released a wonderful, gentle, delightful little UK gem called Morris: A Life with Bells On. Herald Reviewer Peter Calder headlined his review “Morris dance comedy out of step”, gave the film 2 stars and declared it as only likely to “appeal to Morris dancers who like having the piss taken out of them”.

This is his opinion and I would never argue his right to express it, unlike his employer who believes in free speech only if it’s their free speech – read on to see how they banned my adverts earlier this year!

But, like every other newspaper review that we could find published last week for the film, I disagree with Mr Calder and at the risk of being labelled the grumpiest old man film distributor I am prepared to stand up and say so and point out that he is the only one “out of step” here.

Our ad in this week’s Time Out supplements shows the film garnered much more positive ratings and comments nationally and indeed from the Herald’s publishing stable’s own Herald on Sunday and NZ Listener.

The Herald reviews section regularly destroys films that are released in arthouse cinemas. The independent and locally owned Academy, Capitol and Lido Cinemas along with the mixed ownership Bridgeway, and Rialto cinemas in Auckland all live and breathe on the Herald’s reviews.

If they get less than 4 stars the public of Auckland, maybe not you who is reading this, but the en masse public, stay away from such films. There is almost no history of films receiving low (3 or less) star ratings succeeding in arthouse cinemas. As cinema operators and film suppliers, our industry despairs at the sway this foreign owned monopoly newspaper has on the film going community.

They offer no balance to their reviews. They don’t ever mention that their opinions differ widely from the reviews a film may have garnered elsewhere when they are. They impose their one sided opinions and even go so far as to defend that opinion by refusing to publish advertisements that dare to critique their critics as happened to us at Arkles in February this year. Why a company so large would be so afraid of one of their small customer’s opinions that they would not publish them is quite beyond me, but ban my ads they did.

For the sake of the independent distribution companies and arthouse cinemas whose lives depend on your buying movie tickets, I literally beg that you ignore the Herald’s negativity to so many films, certainly to this new film that I have sweated blood in bringing to you. I have had so many failures in the last 12 months in Auckland at the hands of the Herald that my little companies are literally at death’s door.

Most (not all obviously) of these films that have suffered poorly at the Herald’s hands have been well received elsewhere in the country and/or the world. The sad fact though is that when the single most influential source of film information for arthouse movie goers in the largest population centre says less than great things, a film is all but destroyed.

In the case of Morris: A Life with Bells On there are two large cinema screenings every day this week at the Academy and three sessions a day over at the Bridgeway as well. We need big audiences this weekend or the film will be finished in a short space of time as these cinemas can’t keep films that don’t get audiences in the door on the screens. They have to drop them. So please, find a couple of hours this weekend to grab a cinema seat and have a smile at the antics of the Melsham Morris Side.

All the best for a happy holiday season, and do come to the movies often 🙂

John Davies
Arkles Entertainment