With thanks to the bbc college of journalism blog
It was sheer nostalgia- outside and inside the cinema. Scores of people queuing to get in before, cascading excitedly to the winter air afterwards. Inside the Phoenix Cinema in Jericho in Oxford it was sitting room only. Packed for the early show and i bet packed for the late one too. I’d never seen this before. Not even for ‘Mamma Mia’! The demographic? Posh,white and older.Well,this is North Oxford after all. The film ‘The King’s Speech’ and that plainly has performed a winter miracle to bring the masses back to the picture houses this January. Why?
A big reason and a lesson for all hack/ettes is that it tells a story and a simple one at that.How one man, a voice coach Lionel Logue,helped King George VI to cure,or at least control,the stammer that would have ruined him as King .Done through science,love,bullying.sarcasm,whisky and more.’Bertie ‘The Duke of York starts with a stammer and ends as King George VI with a stirring speech calling his people to war after the invasion of Poland. You cannot beat simple stories,simply told. Writes John Mair…
Tell those stories through people. What better than the two main characters-‘Bertie’ York,played with superb control-even down to the stammer- by Colin Firth and Logue, played in the best upstart Colonial way by Geoffrey Rush and their fragile if close relationship which worked wonders .Lionel was there at the stammer and there at the speech.
Throw in the British Royal family and you get recognition especially for this haut bourgeois audience. Throw in a Coronation and the outbreak of a World War (in 1939) and you have a winner. It helps that the script is believable and the sets and settings simply stunning. Little CGI. The direction by Tom Hopper ain’t half bad either. Many other films have many of these ingredients but have not entered box office bonanzaland that The Kings Speech has . They’re all going to see it. I hear of a sheltered village in Surrey where they are organising weekly coach trips to see it in Esher.The old people stand and applaud at the end !People want to go or seen to go. I met a former senior BBC executive at the weekend who had booked out his Sunday night for Kings Speeching at the Phoneix.It is that sort of film,that sort of event.That sort of quiet hysteria.
Hype has helped.It does with any media product.Firth has been good at that on both sides of the Atlantic. Stories of finding Logue’s private papers on the cusp of filming make the story seem even more credible.
Formal marketing(half the budget of an average modern feature film)has done its’ job too. But,what really has brought them out of their houses and off the streets of North Oxford in their scores?
In my view the sheer quality of the film and the word of mouth that has generated. It is de rigeur to talk about it. Even better to see it.Just like old times. All of us making media products can learn from the tale of ‘Bertie’ and Lionel and how ‘The King’s Speech; seems to have captured a new(or old)public..
John Mair teaches journalism at Coventry University.He lives in North Oxford not far from the Phoenix in Walton Street