Tag Archives: Picturehouse

Brixton Ritzy latest: we have our happy Hollywood ending

30 Oct

Ritzy victory

Whoooop! On Monday I wrote of the Brixton Ritzy that “Next time you see one of those nicey-nicey adds for Picturehouse Cinemas that run before every screening, with smiling staff tending to enraptured patrons over Stuart Hancock’s beautiful and elegiac score, you have my permission to vomit into your box of overpriced popcorn.”

This was in reaction to the shocking news that, having agreed to the Ritzy’s staff’s year-long campaign for something approaching the London Living Wage, management had then turned round and said they were to sack a quarter of the workforce to pay for it.

Yesterday I wrote of the swell of support for Ritzy staff, in particular the fact that Curzon Cinemas had announced the London Living Wage for all of their staff. I warned that Picturehouse and its parent company Cineworld were “sleepwalking into a PR shitstorm” and hoped, as in a Hollywood film, that this third-act twist might yet resolve into a happy ending.

Well… it has! The Evening Standard today reports that Cineworld has backed down, and that there will be no redundancies at the Ritzy – one of Picturehouse’s most profitable cinemas. Said chief executive Mooky Greidinger, “Group management was not aware of plans to enter consultations for redundancies at The Ritzy, which is managed by Picturehouse. I am now making this a group matter and I have decided together with Picturehouse management to put an end to the [redundancy] consultation process.”

This modern protest may have run via Facebook and Twitter and email instead of with picket-lines and placards, but it seems to have worked. Well done everyone who took the time, as I and many people I know did, to contact Cineworld and make our displeasure known.

Brixton Ritzy strike latest: Curzon announces London Living Wage for staff

29 Oct
Brixton Ritzy staff strike for London Living Wage

Brixton Ritzy staff strike for London Living Wage

The Brixton Ritzy strike is playing out like a movie. How long before it joins the miners’ strike film Pride, ironically still playing at the Ritzy, on the big screen?

We have the hero’s quest – the staff’s year-long struggle to be paid the London Living Wage. We’ve had the false dawn, where a few weeks ago they seemed to have achieved their goal. Two days ago we had the sudden reversal and the “all is lost” moment, where Picturehouse announced that, to pay for the wage increase, they would be sacking nearly a quarter of the staff. And now we have the intervention of the wise old mentor that gives new hope to take our protagonists into the third act.

The wise old mentor comes in the shape of Will Self in the Standard, Owen Jones in the Guardian, and, um, me in my blog two days ago, which has been Shared on Facebook more than any other I’ve written, proving to me the strength of feeling on the matter.

But much more than that, it comes now in an amazing twist from Curzon Cinemas.

Today, Curzon announced that it is introducing the London Living Wage for all its staff. Said Chief Executive Philip Knatchbull: “This could not have occurred without the support of our shareholders who will subsidise the cost of doing this in the short term until the cost is self-financing through the better quality of work we think paying people properly will engender.”

He was too polite also to say, “Yah boo sucks, Picturehouse, thanks for sleepwalking into a PR shitstorm and giving us all your disaffected boycotting customers.”

The third act of this drama is still unwritten. This isn’t Hollywood, so it may still not have a happy ending. But since entreaties to fair play are useless to a corporation that has a duty to its shareholders, I like the way Knatchbull has phrased it. Curzon is paying its staff because it believes that will pay off financially in the long run. What is true for Curzon is surely also true for Picturehouse.

Companies spend years and millions on building a brand. Picturehouse, under the relatively new management of Cineworld, is flushing all that hard work, money and good will down the toilet for the sake of a couple of quid an hour. It’s just bad business.

So come on, Picturehouse. If you won’t do right by your staff out of a sense of fairness and civic duty, do it because, in the end, it makes financial sense; because that’s what your customers want.

Give us our happy third-act ending.

LATEST NEWS: Protest works!! bit.ly/1wgUsC4

Brixton Ritzy staff: “Please, sir, may I have some more?” Bosses: “You’re fired.”

27 Oct
Ritzy staff campaign for the London Living Wage

Ritzy staff campaign for the London Living Wage

Next time you see one of those nicey-nicey adds for Picturehouse Cinemas that run before every screening, with smiling staff tending to enraptured patrons over Stuart Hancock’s beautiful and elegiac score, you have my permission to vomit into your box of overpriced popcorn.

I had been feeling good again about my lovely local cinema, the Brixton Ritzy, since the staff’s year-long campaign for something approaching the London Living Wage recently reached an amicable conclusion – even if the timing, which preceded the announcement of a giant gleaming refurbished Picturehouse in the Trocadero Centre, seemed a tad conveniently designed to deflect any negative publicity.

Well, it seems parent company Cineworld giveth with one hand and taketh with the other. They have just announced that because they are paying staff a little more, they will be sacking nearly a quarter of the Ritzy’s workforce: “at least” 20 out of 93. No other Picturehouse cinema is affected, because no other Picturehouse cinema has yet banded together to ask for a wage increase. They claim to have warned union Bectu that wage increases might entail redundancies, but the scale and speed has taken everyone by surprise.

I’m not a revolutionary or an idealist, but I do believe people should be paid enough to live on. Even George Osborne has been bitten on the arse by the now nearly non-existent power of unions and collective bargaining, when it was announced that though the jobless total had decreased, average Britons were being paid so little that there was an unexpected hole in tax revenues.

Picturehouse cinemas make money because they are friendly places where the cinephile patrons like to linger over a beer to discuss the movies they have seen. This image is reinforced by the aforementioned ad, which puts excellent customer service front and centre. Picturehouse are foolish to allow even the appearance of punishing or deterring those workers who, like Oliver Twist, dare to ask “Please, sir, can I have some more?”.

Sort it out, Picturehouse, before you do irreparable damage to your brand.

LATEST NEWS: Protest works!!! bit.ly/1wgUsC4

The magic of Miyazaki: new film The Wind Rises, and Picturehouse retrospective

14 May


What a privilege it is to get one last great film from Hayao Miyazaki. My sons have grown up with his movies, so it wonderful to be able to take Sam, now 18, to what is Miyazaki’s most adult film. The Wind Rises tells in two hours the ten-year quest of Jiro Horikoshi to create the perfect airplane – albeit one that will be used to drive Japan’s war machine.

The deceptively simple animation, hand-drawn as ever, is achingly beautiful. Tiny details such as the patter of raindrops or the fall of snow leave you on the verge of tears, even before the love story at the film’s centre causes them to spill over.

It’s obviously an intensely personal story for Miyazaki. His father owned a factory that designed airplanes for the Second World War. But he is also a life-long pacifist who saw at first hand the devastation of war: he has recalled how, aged four, he and his family fled their burning city, with his uncle kicking away poor refugees who tried to board their truck.

He was inspired in making it by a quote of Horikoshi’s: “All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.” It’s not hard to see in Horikoshi’s quest for perfection in engineering an echo of Miyazaki’s own exacting standards in animation. And in the end, both dream of flight; though Miyazaki’s is one of imagination.

“Airplanes are beautiful dreams,” says Horikoshi’s hero, the Italian aeronautical pioneer Count Caproni; “engineers turn them into reality.” Substitute “films” for “airplanes” and “animators” for “engineers”, and it’s about as perfect a distillation of Miyazaki’s career as you could wish for.

Picturehouse cinemas are running a We Heart Miyazaki retrospective season this month and next. Here’s the roll-call, with my own rating:

ImageMy Neighbour Totoro (1988): magical coming-of-age drama in which a young girl befriends the woodland spirits. As in later Miyazaki movies, the protagonists express little surprise to find that there is a spirit world moving alongside the “real” world, such that it comes to seem quite natural to the viewer, too. *****

ImagePorco Rosso (1992): Apart from being set amongst pilots, and starring a flying anthropomorphic pig, this is the least “Miyazaki” of his movies. It’s light, it’s funny, it’s silly, and the animation is nothing special. ***


Princess Mononoke (1997): The ecological issues first explored in Nausicaä Of The Valley of Wind (1994) are given full rein, adding depth to a gripping supernatural samurai drama. Miyazaki even bested US distributor Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein, who asked as usual for a re-edit, and received instead a katana sword with the message, “No cuts”. *****

ImageSpirited Away (2001): This will stand as Miyazaki’s masterpiece. As in My Neighbour Totoro it’s a world where the magical and the real co-exist, where hungry demons stalk and dragons fly through the skies. But it’s also a very human drama about a ten-year-old girl learning to make her own way in life. *****

ImageHowl’s Moving Castle (2004): I didn’t get this one. Maybe it’s because it is based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones rather than being an original Miyazaki story, but it seems to me nothing coheres: it’s like a parody of Miyazaki tropes, of witches and monsters and magical happenings, but without a clear identity. ****

ImagePonyo (2008): This one I haven’t seen – it was pitched too young for my kids by then. But it’s apparently a beautifully animated, sweet and simple story loosely inspired by The Little Mermaid. ****