What a day to get sick! In between naps as I lay suffering from god only knows what bug that has rendered my body achy and poured some fluids into my lungs, I received two notices from two ends of the film industry that make my illness pale in comparison to that of the celluloid image. A fellow film programmer forwarded me a press release issued by NATO, that would be the National Association of Theater Owners and not the folks currently conducting bombing raids over Libya, which was a sort of call to arms for theater owners and operators. Who was the fight against? Well the studios of course, who’ve decided to shorten the window of release between theatrical and VOD, something that smaller theaters like ours succumbed to several years ago when many of the indie distributors often eliminated them completely. The theater owners were of course no consulted about this, and it appears as thought perhaps all the majors made this decision as an industry wide mandate.
If that weren’t enough cause for concern, my industry insider also included a quote from a speech delivered at something called CinemaCon, an excerpt of which I’m including here.
John Fithian told exhibition at CinemaCon:
“For any exhibitor who can hear my voice who hasn’t begun your digital transition, I urge you to get moving. The distribution and exhibition industries achieved history when
we agreed to technical standards and a virtual print fee model to enable this transition. But the VPFs won’t last forever. Domestically, you must be installed by the end of 2012 if you want to qualify. Equally significantly, based on our assessment of the roll-out schedule and our conversations with our distribution partners, I believe that film prints could be unavailable as early as the end of 2013. Simply put, if you don’t make the decision to get on the digital train soon, you will be making the decision to get out of the business.”
Whoa… film prints unavailable as of 2013?! A few studio repertory divisions are already making it very difficult to secure prints for retrospectives. But when your multiplex goes all digital that suggests a seismic shift in the way films are exhibited FOREVER.
And that my friends is just item number one.
Item two comes from the caretakers of some of experimental cinema’s (you read correctly) finest treasures; Canyon Cinema. It was the kind of plea that we received back in February of 2009 from the Filmmakers Coop, who were threatened with eviction. Canyon labeled their plea an “Important Message To The Film Community” and starting with the the sentence, “This is a very serious letter.” And it is very serious. Canyon is going through some difficult financial times, and are considering some drastic measures. Their appeal while not exclusively financial, is also for creative solutions, of which they offer a few possibilities.
In the opening paragraph they suggest part of this trouble comes from the fact that universities are purchasing dvds instead of renting prints for classroom use, which of course they acknowledge is due to changes in budgets and equipment. Our own Search and Rescue program was born out of this quagmire a few years back.
My illness seems to have coincided so perfectly with that of the moving image. What a day!