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October 3 at 8:30am

Independent Distribution In America Is Seriously Threatened

By Ted Hope

And the reason is because independent exhibition is even more seriously threatened.  This is likely the last year of 35mm projection and the problem of that goes much deeper than whether you appreciate grain or not.

Sure the promise of digital projection & delivery is partially lower costs, but the cost of conversion is out of reach of many small exhibitors.  The funding scheme that many theater chains have utilized, instituting in a Virtual Print Fee (VPF), puts the financial return in jeopardy for indie films — we could not play DARK HORSE in theaters that required a VPF because after the film rental split, another $800 in VPF risks having us not just not make money, but lose money.

The studios all require the theaters to be DCI compliant.  The cost of being so is out of reach for smaller theaters.  Yet, the studio, and their specialized subsidiaries, represent such a large share of the box office, theater owners have to consider this move.  But if distributors don’t want to lose that $800 that goes to the VPF, can the same theater offer projection on one of the many cheaper systems.  Why not?  Because evidently the MPAA went to The Supreme Court and got them to approve an exception to the anti-trust laws and require all the theaters to sign a no-compete clause and use just a single platform.  This sucks and is not what I expect from a country that prides itself on being the “Land Of Opportunity”.  

A former intern of mine, Ricky Camilleri, hosted a great conversation on this topic on HuffPostLive.  His guests include

Here it is that discussion non-live.

 

 
Two further notes: I have to say I really like this style of Google HangOut forum for discussion, particularly with the added in comments and questions from the audience/community.  It feels very participatory.
 
I wanted to title this “Independent EXHIBITION In America Is Seriously Threatened” but I suspect that “Distribution” will make more folks read this post.  More and more as I look at what is the lifeblood of independent cinema culture I come to exhibition.  They should be are heroes.  The industry and culture needs to celebrate them far more than we do.  The era of the filmmaker/exhibitor collaboration should already be here — but it’s not.  Shall we try to fix that too?


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