GFT in 2018

Let’s look back at the many highlights (and few lowlights) of what has been another rollercoaster year at GFT.

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


January marks the start in earnest of the Hollywood “awards season” and with it a deluge of Oscar-worthy contenders. Despite some foul weather in its opening week, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri led the charge at GFT, delivering the best seven-day performance of the year and then sustaining its healthy audience numbers and appreciation throughout its three-week run here. Martin McDonagh’s multi-award winning comedy crime-drama would eventually end up in GFT’s all-time box office top ten.

Just to emphasise the concentration of quality new releases around this time, Darkest Hour and The Post played alongside Three Billboards… and provided strong support despite often having to play in our smaller screens.

Phantom Thread and The Shape of Water led the field at GFT in February, ahead of the 14th Glasgow Film Festival, and our season of Paul Thomas Anderson films (all on 35mm) proved to be the most popular CineMaster selection of 2018 – and second only to David Lynch since we launched our CineMasters strand in early 2017.

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GFF18 Opening Gala

GFF18 kicked off in style with Isle of Dogs – which became our fastest-selling Opening Gala ever – and by its midway point, admissions were 9% up on the equivalent period in 2017’s edition. And then we were hit by the “Beast from the East”. The impact of closures and cancellations at GFT and across all of our partner venues, as well as the ongoing travel and access issues for numerous days thereafter through to and beyond the end of the Festival, wiped out all of our earlier gains and then some.

Once everyone had thawed out, the quarter ended strongly with Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird and 2017 Palme D’or-winning The Square commanding some fine late winter numbers.

Over the quarter, over 70,000 people attended a screening at GFT, making it the busiest three-month run in GFT’s history, despite the best efforts of the “Beast”.

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As the days grow noticeably longer and the chill in the air eases, it is harder to attract audiences to spend a couple of hours in the cinema. The mainstream cinemas and film distributors tackle this by releasing their big blockbuster titles (like Avengers: Infinity War) during this period; this, however, is not an option we choose to take at GFT. Thank goodness then for GFT favourite Wes Anderson and his Isle of Dogs which ended up taking six times more box office income than the next SIX biggest Spring 2018 titles combined. During its run at GFT, it clocked up three records: it would end up being the biggest new release at GFT in the whole of 2018, it set a new all-time box office record for a Spring release and it holds the records for the most screenings of a new release at GFT (83).

But generally, April and May were quiet. Indeed, it was so quiet that very limited, but immensely popular, runs of The Greatest Showman Sing-a-long and the Nick Cave concert film Distant Sky easily made our top five titles over this period.

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Rupert Everett Q&A

Good weather is as much a curse to cinemas as bad weather. So as the clouds parted as we entered June, the instant positive reaction to Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui’s acclaimed documentary on the life of designer Alexander McQueen was warmly welcomed. It would go on, after a second run later in the summer, to just miss out on a place in our box office Top Ten for the year.

June 15 saw the highest Friday admissions numbers at GFT for three months, despite coinciding with the start of the football World Cup. This was on the back of the releases of two popular new titles (Hereditary and Studio 54) and two newly restored classics (Pandora’s Box and The Piano). The devastating fire at the Glasgow School of Art that night saw GFT having to close for a second time unexpectedly this year during a period that promised so much. After having to close for two days, it was clear that ongoing issues were having a clear impact on our audience numbers; the 10 days that followed were the quietest of the year at GFT. Having promised so much, Hereditary only ended up scraping into our top thirty box office releases of 2018.

Thankfully, June was able to end on a positive note at GFT with the release of The Happy Prince, which was aided by a Q&A appearance by Rupert Everett at one screening, which swiftly sold out just after its late announcement.

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Both containing scenes of torment, agony and fake injury, the football World Cup ended just as our biggest film of July, Paul Schrader’s richly complex First Reformed, opened. It was clearly a big word-of-mouth hit, as attendances at the end of its run were as strong as its numbers at the start of the week.

Traditionally, the number of new titles released by distributors falls over the summer, so, at GFT, we try to respond to any gaps by curating our own mini-seasons. July and August saw the return of the original Indiana Jones trilogy and a limited six-film Studio Ghibli Classics season play to enthusiastic audiences – unsurprisingly the most popular titles in each of these runs were Raiders of the Lost Ark and Spirited Away. We also ran a much-appreciated Jacques Tati CineMasters retrospective as well as a season of Berlin on Screen films in association with Festival 2018, as Glasgow played co-host to the European Championships. However, topping all of these was our Alfred Hitchcock season with ten films over ten weeks, making it our most extensive CineMasters season yet – the three most popular of which were, in descending order, Rear Window, North By Northwest and Psycho.

The popularity of these seasons alongside the fine performances of new releases such as Apostasy and The Children Act were already guaranteeing a strong August. And then along came BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee’s fantastic new film (do watch it, if you haven’t already) helped us set a new all-time admissions record for the month of August. Although, perhaps the disappearance of the sun this month helped a bit too.

Late-summer closed strongly with Cold War, the multi-award winning romance from director Pawel Pawlikowski, which saw audience numbers almost three times that of his debut feature, Ida. Our second-most popular title in September was the one week run of 2001: A Space Odyssey on a special “unrestored” 70mm print. It took twice the business of our one-week run back on June of the same title on a new digital restoration.

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After his first two films earned rave reviews and sizable GFT audiences, expectations were high for Damien Chazelle’s third feature and our October brochure cover title, First Man. While it would be unfair to suggest that this particular rocket failed to take off, its performance at GFT and elsewhere did fall well short of that of both Whiplash and La La Land. Instead, top honours for October went to The Wife, starring Glenn Close (will someone please just give her an Oscar?). The other unexpected big hitters in the month were Black ’47 and the once-seen-never-to-be-forgotten Mandy.

In November, Nae Pasaran finally returned to GFT on its general release following its heartwarming World Premiere on the closing night of GFF18. Audiences continued to be drawn in large numbers leading, on its final screening, to it overtaking My Scientology Movie as the biggest box office hit ever at GFT for a documentary. Meanwhile, director David Mackenzie made a welcome return to GFT for a sold-out Q&A screening of Outlaw King, starring Chris Pine and a local cast of thousands, many of whom came to see themselves on the big screen it seemed. Director Steve McQueen went four-for-four with another significant hit at GFT with the thrilling Widows, and our final CineMasters season of the year featuring the films of Billy Wilder entertained many, just falling short of the totals set by the Paul Thomas Anderson run at the start of the year. To the surprise of practically no one at GFT, Some Like It Hot was the most popular film within our CineMasters strand the year.

Before the start of our traditional busy Christmas programme of It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf and other festive treats, December started in fine style with the astonishing Three Identical Strangers; it would eventually become the biggest hit ever at GFT from documentary distributor Dogwoof. (At time of writing, however, it looks like that record may be short-lived as their latest offering, Free Solo sold out most of its pre-Christmas screenings very quickly with a couple of added shows on December 27/28 in GFT1 selling fast too. Don’t miss out!) We were also one of the lucky few cinemas in the UK that were able to screen Alfonso Cuarón’s gorgeous Roma – the finest way to end a review of our year.

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GFT screened nearly 700 different titles in 2018, from over 60 countries, covering every continent of the world.

In 2017, GFT saw 200,060 admissions through our doors – the first time in our history that we had passed the 200,000 mark in a single calendar year. At time of writing, it looks likely that we will fall agonisingly short of this total in 2018. We could look at what the numbers (and new records set) might have been had we not suffered our two unplanned interruptions, but instead we are focussed on what has been another successful year and looking ahead to what may come in 2019.

We’ve enjoyed the journey. We hope you have enjoyed it along the way with us too.

And finally…


  1. Isle of Dogs
  2. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
  3. Nae Pasaran
  4. BlacKkKlansman
  5. Phantom Thread
  6. The Shape of Water
  7. The Post
  8. You Were Never Really Here
  9. The Wife
  10. Widows
  11. McQueen
  12. Cold War
  13. The Happy Prince
  14. Black ‘47
  15. Darkest Hour
  16. Lady Bird
  17. First Man
  18. The Square
  19. First Reformed
  20. Molly’s Game

David Gattens Finance/Commercial Director

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