Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Plea for Independent Theatres

Thank you Girlzoot for posting so regularly on this site and keeping it alive while I have been overwhelmed with school. I would share some of the writing I have been doing for school with you all but I am sure that an eight page analysis of Barton Keyes in Double Indemnity (Wilder, 1944) would bore you all to tears.

I am writing today not about any specific film, but about the film industry. The state of independent arts is fragile. As a culture we are placing less value on truly original ideas that force us to question our world, values and beliefs. The films that are being produced by the major studios have become a long string of sequels and films based on existing material.

Moviegoers are noticing. In spite of large box office receipts, attendance to most theatres is down. While content and quality aren’t the only things contributing to this fall in the box office, I can’t help but notice that film festival attendance is up world-wide. There are now more chances to see films that would not normally be seen in larger theaters with film festivals and smaller art house theatres.

However, small theatrical venues are fighting uphill battles. They are often older venues that don’t have the glitz or glam of new multiplexes and have very little to no marketing budgets. Remember, the trailers you see on television, posters on the sides of streets and large full-page ads are for the most part not paid for by the theatres, but by the large studios that invest millions of dollars in marketing. In fact, more is spent marketing a large theatrical release than the entire budget of smaller more independent films.

Now, two recent developments have shown a possible trend in the art house community. The Weinstein Company closed Wellspring a small, independent film distributor and will now focus on direct to DVD sales of films. In the past few days Comcast Cable announced a deal with IFC (Independent Film Channel) to begin offering it’s customers the opportunity to rent films through on-demand services the same day they are released theatrically. If these trends continue, they may sound the final death knoll for many already struggling independent theatres.

With the advancement of home theatre technology it may seem like watching a film that doesn’t have big budget special effects or intense sound design at home is just as good as seeing it at the theatre. I know that I often find it difficult to make it down to a theatre because I just don’t have the time. It is easier for me to throw a DVD in my computer and watch it at home, but now we have to ask ourselves: “What are the potential consequences?”.

Here is my plea. If you have never been to an independent theatre, go to one. If you don’t know what film to see, check out their websites, and do some research. Look to people around you and ask them what you should see. Tell you what, start with Brokeback Mountain, don’t see it at the multiplex see it at the art house, that is the theatre it was made for. Come down to your local FilmCenter and see a classic film.

I know that it can be intimidating and frightening to come to an art house theatre for the first time, the titles are odd and a lot of the films aren’t in English, but most are so worth it. Naturally, the Starz FilmCenter is closest to my heart and a place that I really believe in, so I would prefer you make the trip to downtown and visit us but, if you can’t, then go to one of the other art houses in town.

Think of them like the Zoo or Museums. You would never be content watching a lion on your TV, or only seeing pictures of your favorite paintings and you shouldn’t be content being stuck watching your films at home. Get out of your house and get to the theatre before they are no longer there for you to go to.

Thanks for


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