A dispute has broken out between Sheffield’s two arthouse cinemas - amid claims the city’s Showroom venue has been barred by the Curzon chain from screening new films when they are released.
Ian Wild, the chief executive of the Showroom on Paternoster Row, says Curzon, which opened on George Street earlier this year, has ‘blocked’ his cinema from showing Force Majeure - an award-winning Swedish picture - until next Friday, two weeks after it was first shown in the UK.
Mr Wild said the Showroom has also been stopped from showing another three upcoming Curzon films on their release date - meaning the newer cinema now has a competitive edge by screening films exclusively.
When the Curzon opened in January, its bosses said it aimed to ‘complement’, rather then compete with, the Showroom.
Mr Wild said: “We’ve been open for 20 years and over that time we have built up a very good relationship with our audience. It seems a shame that audiences are being made to suffer in this way by having to wait for films to be shown.
“While we recognize that Curzon, as a private company, can operate however it wishes, it receives substantial amounts of public funding to help support the release of its films and supporting public policy objectives for ensuring as many people as possible have the opportunity to see them.”
However, a Curzon spokesman said the firm was ‘surprised’ by the claim - saying it was ‘standard practice’ to limit the number of cinemas on a film’s opening weekend.
“We rarely open in more than one cinema per city for the first week but we do make our films available to cinemas across the country in the following weeks,” he said.
“Force Majeure is a good example. The film will play in over 100 cinemas during it’s run, but only opened in 15 sites outside of London to encourage high attendances across the opening weekend.”
The spokesman added: “We have been very open about this, and made all our films available to the Showroom from the second weekend of play. The Showroom have accepted this offer, and will continue to play our films.”
Mr Wild said last year Curzon received £646,488 in Lottery money from the British Film Institute, as well as €741,160 from the European Union.
“We do not believe that companies and organisations in receipt of public money should restrict public access to films. We have written to the European Commission to clarify its policy on this issue, and await their reply,” he said.
“The BFI has reassured us that the films it supports should be available to any cinema operator to show.”