Even with 4000+ words, I didn't have nearly enough room in this week's State of the Arthouse cover story to offer a truly exhaustive portrait of Los Angeles' multi-faceted arthouse and repertory movie landscape. I spent a month talking to programmers, marketers, distributors, filmmakers and filmgoers, and though I tried to incorporate as many points of view as possible, but there were quite a few issues/ideas that just couldn't make the final cut.
First of all, focusing on very recent case studies (Dogtooth at Cinefamily, the ongoing struggles of the Laemmle theaters) required minimizing attention to many local venues with their own worthy stories. A longer version of this story would likely have included more discussion of the American Cinematheque, screening programs such as REDCAT and LA Filmforum, venues such as the Echo Park Film Center and UCLA, and assessments of the roles played by the Downtown Independent and LACMA, particularly when it comes to giving homes to movies that are not playing theatrical runs anywhere else in town. Both of those theaters have their own set of issues that deserve their own stories somewhere down the road.
As we've reported in the Weekly previously, LACMA has threatened to eliminate their film program, and though it continues to operate for the time being, that that hasn't been definitively reversed. The best place to monitor progress is the Save Film At LACMA blog, which recently commented on the news that LACMA's president and noted film program critic Melody Kanschat was retiring from her post at the museum.
Meanwhile, the Downtown Indie, located in a neighborhood that is gentrifying rapidly but still has quite a ways to go, fights an uphill battle when it comes to booking indie films from nationwide distributors.
After the jump, check out just a sampling of the outtakes from my conversations that didn't make it into the story. And feel free to add your own thoughts on these issues in the comments.
“The main problem I have with marketing films in LA is that the audience really isn't centralized. Sending a street team to Echo Park and Silverlake isn't the same thing as sending a street team to the Lower East Side or Williamsburg, and it isn't as easy as sending them to 'all the cool bars and coffee shops in Portland,' for example. There's a lot of choices, and as in NYC, it's hard for a film with a $30,000 release budget for ten cities to compete with the opening weekend of Black Swan, which is fresh and new and has a $35,000 ad in the Los Angeles Times. But it is possible-you just have to understand the scale of things.” — Dylan Marchetti, Variance Films
“The Arclight & Landmark, they're the most expensive, but it doesn't matter. I'm willing to pay an extra buck or three to get a great experience at the theater. Seriously, who out there is so stingy that they'd rather climb over rowdy teenagers looking for an empty seat in any row than spend a few extra bits for a reserved seat? If the extra $1.50 means that much to you, then you probably shouldn't be spending money on movie tickets in the first place. Go for groceries and Netflix instead.
I also think places like the Sunset 5 and the Music Hall should follow the lead of the Arclight and Landmark and use reserved seating, upgrade their layouts to stadium seats, with better sound and more comfortable chairs.” — Zach R., @TwinCinema
“If I have to search for a long time for a parking space, I start to get really frustrated. I'm also alone much of the time and I really don't like the idea of walking 7 blocks to my car at night alone. That is the key reason I don't go to say the New Beverly or The Aero as often as I should.” — Karie Bible, FilmRadar.com
“I need a website that lists all indy/arthouse films currently showing. I'm just too busy working and driving to work and running errands to pay attention to what's screening where and for how long. I missed the last Claire Denis film for this reason. Just one blog of website that has it all. I hardly go to the arthouse theaters in L.A. and probably would more if the good films they were showing were a little more in my face.” — Cathy de la Cruz, filmmaker instructor
“There's so many people [in LA] who buy DVDs and participate in the ancillary side that it's important for us to have a presence in LA… whether they go to the theaters or not, it's important that they know about the film.” — David Fenkel, Oscilloscope
“It's tough times for independent films everywhere. It's not in vogue like it was when I was just getting started in exhibition in the mid 90s. It's moved on. But the crazy thing is, I think it's relatively in vogue to watch independent film eventually–look at the success that Magnolia and IFC have had with their on demand titles. That's a real growth side of the business. But it just means that exhibitors have to get people excited to have the theatrical experience. And if you're not going to excite people, you're not going to get people engaged in what you're trying to do, then you're not going to get the audience.” — Tim League, Alamo Drafthouse
“You know, Lawrence of Arabia has been getting publicity for 45 years now. We're capitalizing on that. Los Angeles Plays Itself has become our little modern classic that we show. We sold that out a few times. A three and a half hour experimental documentary. That's a film that's probably always going to be well received in Los Angeles, and it has a situation where it can only run non-commercial, and we just keep bringing it back because people still want to see it.” — Margot Gerber, American Cinematheque
“Since the wonderful single marquee theaters are a dying breed, like the Crest, it would be great if somehow the buildings themselves added to the experience of going to the movies. Most are very soulless. I would love more cinemas to have bars or coffee shops. That simple addition makes a night of it.” — Edgar Wright, filmmaker
“The single, number one thing you could do for the arts in Los Angeles is make it super easy to get a beer and wine license.” — Hadrian Belove, Cinefamily