In a UK first, A Field In England was released on UK TV, in cinemas, and on Blu-ray, DVD and VoD simultaneously on Friday 5th July. So what happened? Did the audience prove they would always go for the cheapest option? Or would different audiences choose different platforms for different reasons? Let’s take a closer look…
July 5th inaugurated the hottest weekend of the summer so far – glorious sunshine, barbecues across Britain, and parks full of picnickers. On the small screen, Andy Murray offered the temptation of the Wimbledon to end all Wimbledons, delivering a ridiculously tense must-watch victory. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t a teensy bit nervous about how the combined whammy of sun plus Wimbledon might affect your appetite for films on the opening weekend of A Field In England, the first feature film to launch on UK TV, in cinemas, and on Blu-ray, DVD and VoD simultaneously. So how did the experiment pan out?
Let’s take a look at the results platform by platform.
As you might expect, the official premiere screening on Friday night at the Ritzy in Brixton, broadcasting a Q&A with Ben Wheatley and the entire cast to 16 sites nationwide, delivered very satisfying results, with £12k from 16 cinemas. Continuing in this vein, the most successful screenings over the subsequent weekend provided the added value of cast and director Q&As, and we’re delighted to report that these virtually sold out, with one screening at the Curzon Soho on Sunday moved at the last minute to a larger screen to accommodate demand.
And the big picture? The film currently sits ahead of its theatrical targets, and has made it into the top 20 at the UK box office, with £21,399 total. When you bear in mind that this is a low budget, independent film, which, had it not been for the additional buzz around the multiplatform release enabling a wider, 19 screen release, would have been released on around 5 screens, this is a cracking result by any standards. We’d like to echo the words of Ben Wheatley at his weekend Q&As and thank all those who turned out in person to see the film in cinemas on the hottest weekend of the year.
With part-consolidated viewing figures of 357,000, the UK TV premiere of A Field In England on Film4 Channel was a resounding success. This figure exceeds normal viewer levels for this slot – so for a film described by most critics in glowing terms as a psychedelic trip verging on the avant-garde to exceed this norm is a particular achievement. The TV screening was the most frequently mentioned of the four platforms on Twitter, where the film trended twice during the daytime build up to the screening, and again throughout broadcast – resulting in the film ranking number 9 in the most-mentioned broadcasts across the Channel 4 portfolio for the whole week, and number 6 on the Friday.
As it was a premiere, we didn’t tweet once A Field In England started playing, so the social media storm that ensued during broadcast was entirely user-driven, with sentiment overwhelmingly positive. It was incredibly gratifying to see the majority of tweets expressed a deep satisfaction in the adventurous, experimental nature of the film, proving a hunger for truly independent filmmaking on the part of our viewers. We were also able to direct viewers to our A Field In England Digital Masterclass once the screening had finished to answer further questions about the film, providing a truly interactive viewing experience.
Available to stream or download on Film4oD, Virgin and iTunes, to watch where you want, when you want, A Field In England was the most popular film purchased in its first 3 days on Film4oD, and was the week’s bestselling title on Film4oD despite having just opened on the Friday. Impressively, as a percentage of weekend buys, A Field In England represented 30% of Film4oD’s entire weekend sales.
We also saw a boost for other Ben Wheatley titles on Film4oD, who ran a mini-Ben Wheatley Season drawing together the director’s back catalogue to support the new release. Unsurprisingly, the Ben Wheatley Season was the most viewed season of the weekend. This was followed with spikes in rentals of Sightseers, which also made it into the top 10 bestselling titles for the week, suggesting a desire to get to grips with Ben’s filmography as a whole, as well as watch his latest. This illustrates the convenience of VoD for an audience – you can instantly set the scene for a new film by also enjoying a director’s previous films, at a time to suit you.
One thing which stood out for us about the DVD and Blu-ray pre-sales of A Field In England was that the vast majority who ordered in advance from 4DVD opted for the Blu-ray package over DVD – though of course we don’t know whether it was the higher definition, the extended extras or both of these things that tempted that section of the audience. We’ve now shipped 11,300 units to retailers including Amazon, HMV and WHSmith, with Asda and Sainsbury’s joining in from today. On the day of the launch, we saw tweets rolling in from the moment the shops opened, as dedicated Ben Wheatley fans let us know that for them, this was an “event purchase”.
As you may surmise, here at Film4 we are delighted with the way this release has played out so far. We entered into it in the spirit of experimentation and it is really the audience we have to thank for bearing out the faith that we and the filmmakers had in them. Here’s to the coming weeks, and to even more viewers taking a trip…