In the Internet age, an excessive wait for films to cross the Atlantic is no longer acceptable.
Last week, writer-director Riley Stearns’ debut feature, Faults, finally received a UK distributor, in the shape of Alarm Pictures, and a UK release date of September 7th, mark it on your calendars. One of my favourite films of the year so far – I’ll finally get around to writing that review of it when we get closer to its release – I have been very vocal about getting this one picked up in the UK for months, as anyone who follows my Twitter will know. I’ve been hyped for it since I heard that Stearns was making a film, since I heard that it was going to star Mary Elizabeth Winstead who is one of my favourite actresses, since I saw the trailer, since the reviews rolled in… I’ve been pretty hyped, basically.
I’ve also already seen it. Faults came out in the US at the beginning of March and the months went by without any word of when we British folk would get the chance to get our hands on it. It made it to digital download services like Amazon Instant, but those are region-locked, it made it to streaming services like Netflix, but Netflix libraries differ by region, and it’s supposed to be hitting US DVD at some point, but the closest I’ve gotten to finding it are copies of The Fault In Our Stars and a VHS about proper tennis technique. It seemed like the film would never make it to the UK. So, I found a way to watch it back in late June.
Am I happy about this? No, of course I’m not! For one, I’m one of those people who enjoys watching new release films for the first time on the big screen. But, more importantly, I was more than willing to throw money in the direction of this film. Hell, I desperately wanted to! I checked every last available legal place for months on end, getting nothing, and only turned to other areas when it absolutely seemed like the film was never going to find a UK distributor. I wanted to give the people involved in this film money, but apparently nobody wanted my dirty British money.
This, infuriatingly, happens a lot, as many great (and often somewhat independent) films either take forever to cross the Atlantic to get to the UK, or just stay stranded overseas. In the Internet age, where simultaneous releasing in English-speaking countries is practically a necessity due to the rampancy of piracy and torrents and the fact that it is easier than ever to release a film in some way shape or form, this sh*t is inexcusable. Now, admittedly, I don’t know much about the pains of distribution, but I do know that anything that unnecessarily elongates the time it takes for willing paying customers to see a film, not to mention increasing the general difficulty of seeing said film, is bullshit. So, with the exception of awards season movies cos that just seems to be how they roll, here are 10 films in just the last 14 months that took way too long to receive a UK release.
01] Fruitvale Station
US Release: 26 July 2013
UK Release: 6 June 2014
No. That is not a typo. It took almost 11 full months for this haunting drama about the final hours of Oscar Grant – a young black man who was shot in the back whilst restrained by a white police officer early on New Year’s Day 2009 – to get a UK release. 15 months after it premiered at Sundance and took home the Grand Jury Prize, 11 months after it received a US theatrical release and actually broke into the Top 10, 6 months after it appeared on a laundry list of Best Films of 2013 lists, and 5 months after it was released on American DVD and Blu-Ray. That is just disgraceful. And, to add insult to injury, it only opened in “Key Cities” before being unceremoniously shunted off to DVD. Grace of Monaco, meanwhile, which opened the same week, got a full Saturation release because there’s no goddamn justice in this world.
Relatedly, the upcoming Creed is being made by the same people who made this, so open up Netflix right now and watch Fruitvale Station if you haven’t already.
02] John Wick
US Release: 24 October 2014
UK Release: 14 April 2015
Trying to nail down John Wick’s UK release date as it was happening was akin to a wild goose chase. First it was going to drop mid-November, shortly after the US release, but then it got bumped to Xmas. Then it got bumped to the start of January, before finally committing to mid-April of 2015. For those keeping score at home, that’s nearly 7 months after it was released in US cinemas, 2 months after it hit US DVD, and 3 months after it hit American download services. Oh, and to rub salt into the wound, its eventual UK release was 7 DAYS AFTER FURIOUS 7. It’s like Warner Bros., the film’s UK distributor instead of Summit/Lionsgate for some reason, were trying to kill it!
Oh, and as one last kick in the balls, the film won’t get a UK DVD release until September 21st, almost 11 months to the day after it received an American cinema release. Pitch Perfect 2, a film that did receive a simultaneous US-UK release, will also be released on DVD that day because I just give up.
03] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
US Release: 8 August 2014
UK Release: 17 October 2014
Now, this is one of the shortest gaps on this list, with only 2 months, but it’s on here because it’s a big-budget blockbuster that purposefully held off opening in a pretty empty August in favour of a heavily-crowded October. Its wait is seemingly inexplicable – since that allows torrenters, impatient parents, and pirates to spend two months milking this gap in the market for all that it’s worth – but then one realises that Paramount were perhaps trying to avoid the negative buzz the film had built up in America before re-launching it in the UK during Half-Term, free and clear of a swirling hurricane of “this is sh*t!”
Two problems with that, though. The first is that they’d tried this the year before with Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain and, err, it didn’t help at all. And the second is that, regardless of the critical mauling that it received, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wouldn’t stop making money in America throughout the barren wasteland that was August 2014. So, yeah, sterling job there, Paramount.
04] Big Hero 6
US Release: 7 November 2014
UK Release: 30 January 2015
This is less Big Hero 6 specifically and more just a stand-in for anything that Disney ever do. For some reason that genuinely boggles my mind every time, every film that Disney are involved in takes at least an extra 3 months to come to the UK. Wreck-It Ralph, Tangled, The Princess and the Frog, anything Pixar… even The Muppets had to wait 4 full friggin’ months before it got a UK release, and only complete monsters withhold anything Muppet-related from other people! The only Disney animation that has launched in the UK even somewhat close to its American release date was Frozen, one week after its US release, like even Disney realised that holding that back would be a huge mistake.
I just don’t get it. Why do you keep doing this Disney? For a studio and corporation as savvy and determined about making money as you, I’m surprised that you keep shafting us like this. Unless you just get off on withholding. Look at you, getting off.
05] Dear White People
US Release: 17 October 2014
UK Release: 10 July 2015
Justin Simien’s excellent debut feature, Dear White People, spent so long without a UK distributor that I actually acquired it through the same means that I acquired Faults, because I was that convinced that it was never going to cross the Atlantic, and reviewed it on Screen 1 at the end of February. It reached mid-April and I was still sure that the film would never see a UK release. Then, finally, The New Black Film Collective picked the film up and dropped it into the UK unceremoniously in mid-July, although they apparently did manage to get some screenings in cinemas, which is something at least. Meanwhile, I’m still sat here waiting for my US Blu-Ray import, because it is that good of a movie.
06] Song of the Sea
US Release: 19 December 2014
UK Release: 10 July 2015
This one makes a certain amount of sense. December’s a busy time for family movies so you don’t want to release your quiet little animated film then, late January/early February has Big Hero 6 and like hell do you want to battle that whilst Shaun the Sheep Movie steals your whole low-key thing, then March has Home and Spongebob Squarepants and there’s no reason to voluntarily wander into that fire. My sympathies, however, go out of the window when I see that there’s a giant 4 month gap sitting there, just begging to be filled. Hell, I remember when I saw a release date of April 10th and thought it was a canny little placement!
Instead, Studio Canal opted to release it two weeks before Inside Out and in bugger all goddamn theatres because where’s the fun in seeing a movie if you don’t have to put in the work to see it, eh? I still have yet to see this thing because it isn’t playing anywhere within a 100 mile radius of me, and withholding traditionally-animated feature films from me should be a Capital motherf*cking Offense.
07] The Interview
US Release: 24 December 2014
UK Release: 6 February 2015
This is the shortest gap on this list, but I’m including it for one simple reason. During that whole utterly ridiculous debacle where North Korea seemed willing to start World War III over what is basically a Seth Rogen buddy-comedy with an unnecessarily complicated scenario, Sony decided to let the public stick it to North Korea by releasing the film online after most mainstream cinema chains (somewhat understandably) decided to take the threats seriously. Now anyone could engage the right to Free Speech and take part in this bold new experiment of releasing BIG films on streaming and download services day-and-date with their cinema release! Everyone’s a winner!
Well, unless you lived outside of America. Then your inclusion in the revolution was emphatically denied. Yes, despite The Interview being the hottest thing in the world during December 2014 – and, God, that is going to look absolutely ridiculous to any historian, or hell any person, who looks back on us in even 5 years’ time – Sony decided to not ride this wave of momentum to its logical endpoint, and restricted the paying downloads to the USA only because…? The Interview would surface in the UK just over a month later, long after everybody had stopped talking about it because they’d all already watched it. Not an exaggeration, everybody I talked to who wanted to watch The Interview did so as soon as it came out. Brilliant work, Sony.
US Release: 10 October 2014
UK Release: 16 January 2015
Now, I said that I wasn’t going to include Awards Season films in this list because waiting a month and change for these things is apparently just how things roll, but I wanted to bring up Whiplash for the simple fact that waiting three months for an Awards Season movie is f*cking absurd. These things usually take a month, two tops ,to make it over here because they’re all dumped into American cinemas at the end of December and trying to get them out over here in a calm and orderly fashion on-time is next-to-impossible. But three months? After you released well before the Awards Season rush and are holding off your UK release for basically no reason? That’s just taking the piss, quite frankly.
And don’t even get me started on Still Alice!
09] Listen Up Philip
US Release: 17 October 2014
UK Release: 5 June 2015
In a time where we are absolutely drowning in tales about masculinity, toxic masculinity, and asshole white men, Listen Up Philip managed to find something new and interesting to the topic by refusing to sand down the utter repellency of a man like Philip and squaring its attention equally on those whose lives are destroyed in his wake, specifically those of women. Unfortunately, Listen Up Philip arrived in the UK just after an absolute glut of films about masculinity – hell, that was basically Awards Season 2015 in a nutshell – which meant that the film hit with about 50% of its intended power. It’s still a great film that I really like, but I imagine I would have been singing its praises from the rooftops if it had launched in the back-end of 2014, before this mess started, instead. You know, like it did in America?
10] Top Five
US Release: 12 December 2014
UK Release: 8 May 2015
Now this one really pisses me off. I should have just watched this one immediately. There was no way that this one was going to get a good release in the UK, it was coming out in the middle of March, for god’s sake, I should have just watched it at the same time that it hit US theatres. But, no, like a good little boy, I waited for my treat. A delay and five months later, and a good two months after it hit perfectly importable US DVD, it finally got a UK release… and was not shown anywhere near me. I have three cinemas in my vicinity – a VUE, a Cineworld, and a Reel Cinema – and not a single one of them stocked it despite nothing else coming out that week.
You know what? I’m starting to think that UK cinema chains, and especially those in Hull, have some sort of aversion to Black Cinema. Just a little bit. I’ll know for certain if they all stock Me and Earl and the Dying Girl over Dope next month. And, in fact, so will you, because I’m pretty sure that astronauts in space will hear my reaction if that’s the case.
Got any more examples of English-language films that were given the shaft when it comes to UK releasing? Let me know in the comments!