Limited patience for limited releases
posted by Michael Zoldessy on November 16, 2011 at 7:52 am
A story in the Stony Brook Press discusses the writer’s frustration in having to go all the way into Manhattan to see a particular film in limited release. She poses the question of what would happen if certain films were released wider.
Check it out and comment about what lengths you’ve taken to see a limited release.
In 1988, my friends and I drove from Santa Cruz to San Francisco (roughly 75mi) in order to attend the first showing of The Last Temptation of Christ at the Cineplex Northpoint Theatre. We arrived around 5am, and there was already a half dozen people in line ahead of us, and by 10am, there was easily a thousand people in line behind us and another two or three thousand protestors, counter-protestors and press people covering the sheer madness of it all. When we got in to the theatre, the first four rows of the auditorium was blocked off across the entire length of the theatre, and several armed guards posted between the front row and the screen, lest anyone follow through on their threat to slash the screen.
Great movie (still own the Criterion DVD), great theatre (shame it’s no longer an operational movie theatre) and a great experience I will remember for the rest of my life.
I’ve driven to Toronto for certain films that aren’t playing in Buffalo, mostly by Canadian filmmakers I’m interested in. I did it for Bruce MacDonald’s This Movie is Broken – which was brilliant (although not as eventful a screening as Edward’s – – this was a normal Saturday afternoon at the Scotiabank Theatre). I normally have to have another reason to be in Canada though – and seeing a film I can’t see in the US feels like a major bonus. I was enrolled in a graduate seminar at University at Buffalo, Canadian Studies, last fall and we had two joint sessions with colleagues at Brock University in St. Catherine’s, ON – and what was showing at Cineplex/Empire Theaters during our two class meetings in Canada….luckily Street Dance 3D (a british version of Step Up 3D that never found US distribution) and that hilariously awful (and iconically Canadian) Score: The Hockey Musical!
Otherwise – a good part of my life was spent across the river from NYC, where I had the good fortune to see virtually anything I wanted to see in a given week.
It’s the benefit of living in/near a major metropolitan area. Also — having to travel and join others who’ve gone to great lengths to see the film adds to the enjoyment.
I agree – it’s the experience that matters – which is why good film festivals are addicting. AMC and Regal are pretty clueless about experience. Theaters like Alamo Drafthouse and the Nitehawk (in Brooklyn) get it, embrace it, and deliver a pretty great experience. I had been at Nitehawk with 3 friends that love cinema a few weeks ago – we saw one movie and decided because we had a great time (food, beverages, and a great pre-show instead of advertisement crap – I’m bias because that night they were showing a short I made before Martha Marcy May Marlene, but still) we decided to see the midnight show that was about to start for a different show. That’s not many places were a great movie experience where everything is done right that makes you want to have another experience right after the one you’ve had (that and you have to be a certain kind of person) – but Regal and AMC aren’t it.
It’s part of the experience. Not everything could be given a wide release. Also wide release’s of films is part of what killed the build-up of major films. In the “old days” major pictures would have “Roadshow” releasing in major city’s only and would sometimes not see smaller venues for up to a year. Smaller films have allways had limited releases in metropolitan areas where it is reasoned that the majority of the audience is located. It still boils down to dollars. With digital it may change as print costs will be negated, and more film will be available to smaller areas. Provided theatre’s have converted and can screen the new technology.
As someone who operated art cinemas for years I can tell you what happens.
You get months of letters and emails complaining about not showing a film you showed in a timely manner and no one showed up. So you then show it again, to take advantage of new acclaim, and no one shows up either.
It is then a hit on DVD and you still get blamed for not having shown it.
I remember back in the 1960’s (prior to first run films opening on 3,000 screens) that United Artists started the then revolutionary “Premiere Showcase” A new first run film would open in one or two theatres in each market (here in the Bronx it was the Luxor). Now I have to shlep to Manhattan and pay upwards of $14 to see a limited release movie because we don’t even know if the film will go to other theatres (we have two terrible art theatres in Westchester but it’s pot luck what will play. Never caught “Robot and Frank”, “Jiro Loves Sushi”, “Last Quartet” or “English Vinglish”. When something does play there are always lines. Thank godness we’re getting an Alamo Drafthouse in a few months.
It’s a great movie