IndieWIRE updated the news regarding New Yorker Films with the following statement sent to filmmakers by Jose Lopez, an administrator with the company. Here’s what he had to say:
“I have sad news. The parent company of New Yorker Films has defaulted on a loan. The assets of New Yorker were used as security on the loan. The lender has informed us that it intends to foreclose on these assets. New Yorker stopped doing business yesterday…We are in total shock that after forty three years this has happened.”
I can only assume that all of the prints and rights were listed as assets in this agreement. Does this mean some bank has taken over rights of these titles? Will they suddenly be listed as part of a future auction like so many of the empty condos that occupy our cities? And if so whose hands will these end up in?
And really where are the Scorseses in this mess? Where are the Tarantinos? Hollywood just had one of its most glorious months ever. Are these people really interested in cinema? Granted many of their email boxes must be full of messages these days reading, “desperate film organization/company in need of help”! So much so that it probably appears as often as a solicitation from some African dissident looking for a secure off-shore bank account.
But has our business has fallen so low that it can’t recover? And if so is the internet i.e. free downloads, as per the daily emails from Matt Dentler at his newly found Cinetic Media post, really be the future? And if so what are we really in this game for? For certainly the cinema was meant to be seen in a cinema, a public setting, with people, sharing a dark room having a shared experience.
That is why so many filmmakers started making films. Yes to get their work seen, yes to engage an audience. But the cinema was first experienced not in some virtual world but as part of cafe culture. The Lumieres after all screened their films in a cafe before a public who was not just fascinated by the experience of seeing a moving image, but also by the conversations that followed with complete strangers about the experience they just had. That experience mutated into cinematheques and community theatres where strangers met to engage the moving image and continue the conversations that ultimately forged the future of the history of cinema. Conversations that still guide viewers, both filmmakers and filmgoers alike, both in the real and yes sometimes virtually, watching in dark rooms as light flickers upon a large white screen inspiring new conversations, inspiring new films, inspiring life.
The death of New Yorker is just part of the recent destruction of American cinema culture further deteriorating what makes cinema vital to life, vital to culture, vital to society. It provided a lifeline to the public, community engagement of cinema. Where then is the bail out for New Yorker Films? A company who has arguably done as much for America as General Motors or JP Morgan. Some may call this hyperbole but in all honesty New Yorker Films is as vital to our existence as the interstate highway system. Perhaps more aptly the side road, the scenic byway. It feeds so much of our foreign cinema screen time that this loss is the equivalent of tsunami wiping out the architectural history, the foundation that has built our cinemas society. And yes we can see still these films on the web.
However, if cinema moves itself to a virtual world exclusively it is no longer the living breathing art form that we have all grown to love. It is dead upon arrival. No more linegring conversations. No more discoveries of our neighbors around the corner, our neighbors from our same apartment buildings, who also experienced and quite enjoyed this byway. We are in a room. Alone staring at a screen. Secluded apartments. Seculuded screens. Perhaps it is fitting then that this weeks nearly digital only release is entitled MUST READ AFTER MY DEATH. A good epitaph for the culture that has been the back bone of my own upbringing for the last 15+ years.