I recently attended the seventh annual Art House Convergence, a four-day gathering of more than 400 people from all over the world who are devoted to making, distributing and showing quality films. The event, held under the auspices of Sundance, is devoted to the idea that cinema should be promoted and cherished as one of the world’s most important art forms. What’s interesting, though, is that where some people see real value in a particular film, others see vapid entertainment. Which may explain why filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier felt the need to apologize for the fact that his movie, Blue Ruin, which was screened there is a genre film. And that’s the art house paradox.
The Big Picture
For more than four decades the Downtown Community Center in Lower Manhattan has been a vital resource for training and nurturing independent filmmakers, in particular documentary filmmakers. For most of that time DCTV has called a landmarked 1896 firehouse home. The center reached a significant milestone recently, as the funding is finally in place for a new theatre there that one DCTV executive called “the last piece of the puzzle.”
The seventh annual Arthouse Convergence conference takes place January 13-16 at the Zermatt Resort in Midway, Utah. The event is expected to draw nearly 400 arthouse theatre owners and managers to more than 25 sessions over the four days. Film critic Leonard Maltin is among the keynote speakers and the sessions will cover such topics as customer service, concessions, memberships and programming. I will be at the show and will have reports from there.
Russia has a long and proud tradition of 3D films and now comes a new entry. Already selected as the Russian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, director Fedor Bondarchuk’s Stalingrad claims to be Russia's first movie ever to be completely produced with digital stereoscopic 3D technology.
Frank DeMarco’s most recent assignment, All is Lost, was an opportunity for the cinematographer to re-team with director J.C. Chandor and to work with a legendary actor, Robert Redford. DeMarco and Chandor had success with their previous project, Margin Call, which scored at the box office and earned Chandor an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. Like Margin Call, All is Lost was reportedly made for less than $10 million.
Digital Cinema Report celebrates its eleventh anniversary this month and, rather bizarrely I admit, the milestone made me think of one of the most famous (and surely most often misquoted) conversations in movie history. Even though it’s comedy I think the scene speaks rather eloquently about the ongoing and never-ending dynamic between the creative community and the engineers who supply them with technology that is always better than ever. The conversation takes place, of course, in the cult classic This is Spinal Tap between heavy metal rocker Nigel Tufnel (played by Christopher Guest) and documentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner). They are speaking about the band’s unique amplifiers.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity has created more buzz in the digital cinema production world than any motion picture in recent memory. The (quite literally) breathtaking twelve-minute single take opening shot that begins in outer space with a satellite repair mission gone wrong and ends with Sandra Bullock's astronaut cast terrifyingly into the void is just one of Gravity’s filmmaking achievements that has captured wide attention.
As the second decade of the digital cinema exhibition era progresses it’s a fitting time to consider the ten movies that played the most definitive role in moving the transition forward.
Kathy Staab bought the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport, Rhode Island in 2004, initially simply as an investment while still active in her long and successful career in fashion and retail. Over the years she had held various merchandising executive positions at Brookstone (Gardeners Eden), Talbots, Jordan Marsh and Macy’s where she developed a clear sense of current trends and customer demands. When exactly the theatre became not simply an investment but her passion is unclear but today she’s using all the skills she learned in retail to revitalize and remake one of the oldest theatres in North America.
In the early days of digital cinema, advocates of the new technology said one of the best things about it was the ability it gave theatre owners to show all kinds of content, not just Hollywood movies. The studios scoffed at this and labeled anything they didn’t produce as, essentially, worthless garbage. One early term was ODS, which stood for Other Digital … well, you get it.