Audiences at our Barbie party

Quiches Lorraine at our Barbie Party. Credit: Charley Williams

Top 10 Cinema Sellers of 2023

Posted on Mon 8 Jan

Our technicolor Christmas tree has been taken down and our festive cocktails have been retired for another year: 2023 went out with a bang and 2024 is well under way.

Last year thousands of you joined us at locations across the city to come and play as part of Bristol Playable City Week, and Cinema Rediscovered, our festival celebrating classic, restored, and rare old films, enjoyed a record-breaking year of admissions.

In fact more than 125,200 of you came to enjoy our programme in 2023 – thank you so much. It’s been a tough few years but thanks to your support last year we started to feel more like our old selves, with audiences coming back to the cinemas and new customers discovering us.

In a hit-filled year, four of our top 10 cinema sellers – including the one in the top spot - were directed by women – a record for us. Can you guess which one was the most popular with Watershed audiences in 2023?

Yes, it’s the most perfect film about the most perfect doll in the world: Barbie. You came in your droves to dance dance the night away to Greta Gerwig’s magnificent fuschia film, which we screened for 6 weeks. We loved seeing you dress up and that loads of you came along for a Barbenheimer double bill – it’s been such a shot to the soul seeing people embrace the fun of visiting us again.

But what about the rest of the list? The Top 10 is a typically outside the box Bristol affair. Here’s the full line-up of best sellers of 2023:

  1. Barbie (dir: Greta Gerwig)
  2. Asteroid City (dir: Wes Anderson)
  3. Saltburn (dir: Emerald Fennell)
  4. Past Lives (dir: Celine Song)
  5. The Old Oak (dir: Ken Loach)
  6. Tár (dir: Todd Field)
  7. Enys Men (dir: Mark Jenkin)
  8. Rye Lane (dir: Raine Allen Miller)
  9. Stop Making Sense (dir: Jonathan Demme)
  10. The Boy and the Heron (dir: Hayao Miyazaki)

Mark Cosgrove, our Cinema Curator, reflected on the top 10:

“2023 very much felt like the year cinema came back from the lows of Covid. Yes the Barbenheimer phenomenon in the summer gave the thrill of cinema-going a much needed boost but there were more great films like Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City and Celine Song’s Past Lives that Watershed audiences responded to.

“And it is heartening to see British films from Emerald Fennel’s darkly outrageous Saltburn and Raine Allen Miller’s colourful comedy Rye Lane to the angry optimism of Ken Loach’s The Old Oak doing and Mark Jenkin’s haunting Enys Men so well at Watershed. Here’s to a good cinema year in 2024.”

There’s lots to look forward to in 2024 in cinema and it’s not just new releases. We’ve been so delighted with the response to our season celebrating Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu: the first film in the season, his 1952 masterpiece Tokyo Story, sold out our largest screen at the weekend, which was also our busiest weekend since the Pandemic. Incredible news – vive le cinema and thank you for your support.

The Golden Globes were announced on Sunday night and we have some of the big winners coming up in the next few weeks: Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest Poor Things opens on Friday (12 Jan) (incidentally, his previous films The Lobster and The Favourite took the number 1 spot in our top 10 sellers in 2015 and 2019, respectfully), and Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers arrives from Fri 19 Jan.

Thank you for spending some of your 2023 with us – and here’s to a great 2024 in film. You are more than Kenough.

With the support of the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery

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