This article was written by Natacha Pavlov for Keyframe Entertainment.
We’ve come a long way since the silent, minute-long films of the 1890s that eventually incorporated sound in 1927. Black and white imagery gave way to color in the 60s, as national theater chains expanded, answering the demand for films and thereby solidifying cinema as a prime component of modern cultural entertainment.
Steady changes in technology have continued to infiltrate all industries, and the world of cinema is no exception. While this has caused some to worry about the future of cinema, it’s a trend that’s been seen before, with VHS transitioning to DVDs, and the latest video on demand (VOD) feature that makes movies accessible from home. However, as Indiewire’s Paula Bernstein states in her article on VOD and the future of independent cinema, “Since the introduction of television, people have been declaring the death of cinema, but so far, nobody has been able to replicate the immersive, communal theater going experience at home.” While people enjoy watching movies from home, it’s clearly not the only way to watch movies, or even always the chosen method. Indeed, despite changes, a 2014 Bloomberg article shows a rise in movie ticket sales, with worldwide film box-office sales rising about 4 percent to a record $35.9 billion in 2013. While ease of access has been facilitated, people yearn for the communal interaction in lieu of the internet and technology, which they can and likely already use on their own on a frequent basis. As film Director and Producer James Cameron states in an interview on the future of cinema, “I think there will be movie theaters in 1,000 years. People want the group experience, the sense of going out and participating in a film together.” If innovations in technology are any indicator, people like having options, and cinema screenings offers that outlet. Indeed, some may argue that certain films need to be seen on the big screen, or that at the very least it won’t be the same as seeing it on DVD. Perhaps most importantly, film critic Mark Kermode reminds us that, “Firstly, people get to choose how they see it. Secondly, people who go to the cinema are seeing it in the cinema because they want to be in the cinema. There is nothing worse than being in a cinema with a bunch of people who don’t actually want to be there; they’re on their phones, on their laptops, they’re talking, they’re throwing something.” As such, the growth of options should draw each viewer to the kind of viewing experience they wish to have, to be enjoyed in its entirety.
It’s no secret that getting your film in Hollywood is no easy feat given the need for industry connections and its demanding selection process. However, as Sundance infographics show, there is no shortage, but rather an increase of independent films being made. As Adam Leipzig of Cultural Weekly states, “With an annual production budget that exceeds $3 billion, independent movies rival the major studios’ spend on filmmaking, even as indies vastly outstrip the studios in sheer volume.” As a result, thousands of independent films are created each year that remain unheard of, leaving audiences in the dark about the creation of a wide array of films. This makes it increasingly challenging for indie filmmakers to get their film screened to audiences. In addition, the typical movie-going experience is so structured and, despite the crowds attending, entails limited community involvement. However, alternatives to this model have been appearing, as seen by the emergence of new screening platforms. Tugg, Gathr, and Ourscreen in the UK, are companies that allow viewers to create a ‘cinema on demand’ opportunity, allowing organizers to select which film(s) they’d like to see played in a venue in their city. Viewers pre-purchase tickets to ensure that the screening will be held. If not enough tickets are sold, the screening is canceled.
Alternatively, art houses and communities nationwide have figured out that they can create their own public community screenings. Inspired by this development, the Keyframe-Cinema film screening platform licenses independent niche films, where Screening Partners earn income by creating their own tailored film screening event. Keyframe Screening Partners create unique events, determine cost of admission and present films of their choosing from Keyframe-Cinema’s catalog. In addition to licensing films to Screening Partners, Keyframe-Cinema curates unique Transformational culture films, potentially allowing filmmakers to get their film screened worldwide; think independent distribution for independent films. By providing Screening Partners with the tools to create their own screening event, the Keyframe-Cinema platform fosters community interaction by connecting filmmakers with their audiences in a variety of ways. Tailored film screening events can include panel discussions, Q&A session, related workshops, Skype calls with the Director, and more. The result is a personal, immersive viewing experience shared by an audience which helps to drive dialog and build community support for these independent films. Keyframe film screenings explore the use of alternative venues and can happen in places such as yoga studios, clubs, community centers, libraries, art houses; any place where you can seat an audience and set up a projector and screen.
Another company entering the community cinema space is WeVu. WeVu has created a presenter network made up of event producers and venues across the country who will present screenings of independent films on a regular basis. WeVu empowers this alternative microcinema network with tools, training and resources that assist in their revenue producing screenings. Brad Nye, Founder/CEO of WeVu says, “WeVu is helping to provide a new marketing and distribution channel for filmmakers, while offering our Presenter network the opportunity to manage their own screenings and curate specifically for their particular communities.”
The future of community cinema is full of opportunities because more films are being created than ever before. As Julian Reyes of Keyframe-Cinema states, “Not only has the acceleration of technology made it possible for independent filmmakers to create quality work, but the availability of projector technology has made it possible for anyone to organize their own independent film screenings.” The enhanced opportunity to connect offered by technology is closing the gap between filmmaker and audience, allowing fans to support films and activate their community through their own independent community film screening events. As highlighted by the revival of large-scale music festivals and the creation of aforementioned companies, mediums change and may continue to change, but not the basic things people yearn for like community, love of film and engagement, and being part of something larger. Using these new tools to connect rather than isolate us, people should be empowered by the possibilities inherent in community cinema and support film screenings events that foster community building.