FilmFour hopes £15m gamble will revive fortunes

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The Independent Culture

It's not unusual for the release of a big British film to be judged as a litmus test for the industry. But in the case of Charlotte Gray, the state of one of the cornerstones of the film industry is indeed at stake.

With a £15m budget, the film is the most expensiveproduced by Channel 4, through FilmFour, its movie production and distribution arm. Since 1982, Channel 4 has built up a reputation for backing hits, from My Beautiful Laundrette and Four Weddings And A Funeral to The Crying Game, Trainspotting and East is East.

But, recently, films such as Lucky Break, starring James Nesbitt, have not made much impact. And other productions, such as The Business and Late Night Shopping, won awards but flopped at the box office.

Channel 4 spends about £35m a year on film. The BBC's film division is at last proving a rival with hits such as Billy Elliot and the Oscar-nominated Iris. Channel 4's Ray Winstone film Sexy Beast is also Oscar-nominated but it has had little else to shout about recently.

Emma Cochrane, the editor of Empire magazine, said: "[FilmFour] clearly thought Charlotte Gray would be Oscar and Bafta material, but it isn't ... FilmFour is a key part of the British film industry, and the industry needs it to do better."

But Peter Buckingham, FilmFour's deputy chief executive, said: "Charlotte Gray is an important film for us, but no film is of overriding importance and our destiny is not riding on it. All film companies go up and down at the box office, but the UK box office is not the only barometer."

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