South West cinema goers and venues are being applauded for their role in helping make BAIT, a low budget black and white film, shot on a vintage wind-up camera and produced in the West Country, one of the most successful UK independent releases of the year.
The praise came as BAIT – written, directed and filmed by Cornwall’s Mark Jenkin, produced by Early Day Films of Bristol and distributed by the BFI (British Film Institute) – held on to its place in the UK cinema box office top 30 by taking more than £300k in ticket sales in its first month of release in cinemas.
“It’s an incredible result,” says Maddy Probst, who manages Film Hub South West, the network which helped the BFI to arrange a series of sell-out regional previews with Q&As for Jenkin’s unusually-told story about the conflicts between locals and incomers in a Cornish fishing village, prior to it going on general release on 30 August
“Obviously, the major reason for BAIT’s success is that it is an exceptionally good film – a powerful mix of comedy and tragedy, addressing issues which are both topical yet timeless and told with the aid of film-making techniques which are interesting, unusual and honest.”
Speaking ahead of a meeting of the UK Cinema Association (UKCA), she added: “We must also applaud South West audiences and cinemas for being so quick to recognise that BAIT fully lived up to its festival circuit reviews as a ‘modern British masterpiece’ and for backing it in such impressive numbers, and with so much enthusiasm. They have played a major role in creating the buzz around BAIT as did its Bristol based producers and Cornish director Jenkin who went out on the road in support of the film.”
Among the many hundreds of South Westerners who have taken to social media to praise BAIT are actor Dawn French, who lives in Fowey; Bristol-based musician Adrian Utley (Portishead) and the film director Edgar Wright, who was born in Dorset and grew up in Wells, Somerset.
Julie Pearce, the BFI’s Head of Distribution, says: “We knew that the support of cinemas in the South West would be key to the successful release of BAIT UK-wide and it has proved to be the case. With the help of Film Hub South West, regional UKCA members and the tireless BAIT team, we built a huge South West momentum which led to the film breaking out UK-wide. We’d like to thank all the South West cinemas who supported the release and were instrumental in this extraordinary success story”.
As of the first week of October, BAIT has been shown at 124 cinemas UK-wide and taken £345,770 at the box office. Another 37 cinemas have booked to show it between now and the end of the year including venues in Devon, Dorset and Gloucestershire.
The success of the BAIT has also translated into awards buzz, with its campaign and trailer being nominated for Screen Daily accolades.