London's film festival is underway but not all cinemas are benefitting from the sector’s popularity. As Hayley Platt reports a failure to modernise has left Europe's Odeon group in the dark.
The Imitation Game opened this year's London Film Festival. A true story about a team of code breakers who attempt to decipher German messages during World War II. It stars Kiera Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays homosexual computer pioneer Alan Turing. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTOR BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, ON ALAN TURING'S POSTHUMOUS PARDON, SAYING: "The extraordinary irony and tragedy of his life is that he was a man who worked to save democracy in the second world war, save a government and a way of living that then turned on him for being different in their eyes and morally degenerate in their eyes." The 12-day long event is all about getting people watching movies. Most UK cinemas are doing well but not the Odeon & UCI group. It's been owned by the private equity firm Terra Firma since 2004. And operates over 2,000 screens across Europe including Spain, Italy and Germany. Its failure to modernise has seen UK audiences dwindle. And its debt rating was recently slashed. It's partly due to a lack of investment. Mark Batey is chief exec. of the Film Distributors Association. SOUNDBITE: Mark Batey, Chief Executive, Film Distributors Association, saying (English): "In terms of a night out, it could be a meal or a drink or a show and in order to keep your share of that sector you do have to offer a top quality experience." Brits are big cinema goers. They account for a fifth of Europe's box office takings and Odeon and UCI share almost a quarter of that. Overall UK ticket sales last year topped 1 million pounds. 44% higher than a decade ago. The number of movies being made has more than doubled. But with many different mediums to watch them on, competition is fierce. SOUNDBITE: Mark Batey, Chief Executive, Film Distributors Association, saying (English): "Around 70 percent of titles are watched on disc on DVD or Blue Ray and around 30 percent now are watched on demand, digitally, streaming or downloaded and of course that's been a very significant change in recent times because a few years ago that would have been zero." Some U.S. movie theatre owners are beginning to feel the impact. Last week shares in Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark Holdings fell after Netflix announced a film production deal with Adam Sandler - bypassing movie theatres altogether.