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February 1999, Week 4


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Fri, 19 Feb 1999 11:08:55 -0600
TEXT/PLAIN (64 lines)
Darryl Wiggers comments:

> So why support an "art" film that few people want to see? The reason for
> this is complex, but it's not unlike other countries which often choose to
> promote similar, bland movies. The downside is that those who aren't into
> "art" films (the majority) are subsequently denied (through lack of
> distribution) or disinterested in seeing (because they watched one of those
> "critically-acclaimed" films) some of the more daring and interesting films
> each country produces. And every one suffers for this.

This is just as true in the U.S, even with much of that "safer" fare.
Out here in the Minnesota hinterlands, our ability to get the local
chains to play anything other than predictable hits (or more often
flops) is spotty at best, even though we have a reasonably big
population base (50,000 in the region), a good sized state university
(12,000 students) and a nationally-known liberal arts college (Gustavus
Adolphus) in close proximity.  In all my years here, there has *never*
been a subtitled film screened in town (even though DAS BOOT played in
nearby New Ulm).  And, according to one of the chain managers
(headquartered down in the Carolinas) there never will be!

We have gotten most of Spike Lee's recent films, but they sneak into
town with little notice.  CELEBRITY also snuck in and was the first
Woody Allen film to play here in several years.  Even made-in-Minnesota
films like FARGO and A SIMPLE PLAN open here only after the Oscar
nominations are announced--a sign of the importance of that factor.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE--this year's national "sleeper" hit--has been in
the Twin Cities for more than a month, but just opened here last week.

If a somewhat riskier film does not do boffo box office, it will be cut
from the roster even if it has been advertised--BELOVED, AMERICAN
HISTORY X and several others suffered that fate last year.

There is no attempt on the part of studios, distributors or theaters to
build an audience for an unknown film.  Newspaper advertising locally
is mostly nonexistent.  When THE GODFATHER was re-released a while ago,
it played in town for one week.  When I asked the theater why there was
no advance notice, I was told it was because they were surprised to get
the film themselves!  (All the real decisions for rural Minnesota are
made in South Carolina or Texas.)  It was a genuine surprise to have a
film like CHASING AMY show up without advance notice or award hoopla.

There are some ways to get around this de facto embargo--go to the Twin
Cities, wait for video (in one of the two stores that offer more than
100 copies of ARMAGEDDON), subscribe to a premium cable channel--but
first you have to know what to look for!  And even then, you'll be
hardpressed to find more obscure titles.  Such publicity is one
value--and one limit--of the Oscar nominations.

Don Larsson

Donald Larsson

Minnesota State U, Mankato
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