Lights, camera, action attract an older audience to the silver screen

An increasing number of films are being made for the 50 plus market, and the trend is set to grow, says Margaret Jennings.

Lights, camera, action attract an older audience to the silver screen

THEY split up when they were younger but now in their 50s, faced with the challenge of chasing up their stolen retirement nest egg in the sun drenched Cote d’Azur, Kate (Emma Thompson) and Richard (Pierce Brosnan) rediscover each other in a new way.

The Love Punch, which opens in cinemas nationwide today, is a British comedy heist which sees the amicably divorced couple and their former neighbours, Jerry (Timothy Spall) and Penelope (Celia Imrie), get up to all sorts of shenanigans, while embracing the limitations of their age, in what promises to be a bag of laughs.

It’s the latest in a line of movies geared towards older audiences as Hollywood and other filmmakers wake up to the fact there’s a readymade middle aged market — formerly ignored — out there, who are thrilled to be represented on the silver screen.

And that market is growing. According to the World Health Organisation the proportion of people over 60 is rising faster than any other age group, so the grey pound (or euro) offers hope to movie moguls worried by the competing lure of file sharing and online entertainment.

One of the surprise hits in 2012 for instance, was the British movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — made on a budget of $10m, and grossing nearly $137m worldwide. No surprise then, that there’s a sequel due out next year.

Among some other hits from the Hollywood stable and featuring an older cast, have been It’s Complicated (2009); Red (2010), with a sequel released last year; Hope Springs (2012), and the action series The Expendables 1 and 2, — with 3 due out this year.

And let’s not forget last year’s 3-D science fiction thriller, the multi-award winning Gravity, whose main stars were Sandra Bullock, 50 this year, and George Clooney, 53 next month.

According to the Motion Picture Association of America’s figures for the US and Canada for 2013, sales of tickets to the 50-59 age bracket was at “an all time high,” with the 60 plus attendance increasing since 2009.

Closer to home, Maeve Cooke, director of Access Cinema, which distributes movies to 80 different centres around Ireland, says there has always been a ripe older audience, many of them disenchanted with what’s been on general release in a youth-driven market.

“I would say in the venues we deal with, three-quarters of the attendance are 50-plus and some film societies are actually run by older people also”.

People of this age are time rich, maybe have more disposable income and have grown up with cinema: “This is also coinciding with high-profile stars reaching a certain age themselves and ageing gracefully, some of them getting more work than their younger counterparts,” says Cooke.

It’s not all about the ching ching though. Joel Hopkins, Bafta winning British director and screen writer of The Love Punch, tells Feelgood: “I didn’t sit down and decide to cash in on the silver pound. I find older characters very appealing. They have accumulated a lot of baggage along the way, a lot of interesting life stories.”

In 2008 he directed and wrote the romantic drama, Last Chance Harvey, (2008) featuring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson’s characters, finding midlife love in London.

“The Love Punch is a heist carried out by this unlikely gang of four older urbanites. It takes them out of their comfort zone. The character played by Timothy Spall for instance reveals a past that his wife knew nothing about and as it unravels throughout, she keeps saying ‘’You did THAT?’”

While the limitations of age are confronted, one clear message is how more comfortable the main characters are in their own skin — discovering they like each other more now, than they did in their youth.

Joel says he loves the company of his parents, who are in their early 70s, and their friends, commenting “they have time to talk.”

And, it would seem, time to go to the big screen also.

* www.accesscinema.ie

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