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TOPIC: Landmark Theaters and the "limited" release

Landmark Theaters and the "limited" release 31 Dec 2008 14:04 #30625

  • kugel
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I would like to know why the films Landmark Theaters play are almost always hard to see anywhere else, as the films are considered limited. What are the reasons for them being limited?

1. Large chains don't see a profit in them?
2. Does a theater have to know the right people in order to show these limited releases?

I live on the SE side of Wisconsin, and the only theaters that show interesting films would be the Landmark theaters, both of which are located in Milwaukee, which is an hour drive; and in addition, 2 dollar parking.

For instance, why couldn't an independent theater operator get a broker to get interesting films like "Waltz with Bashir", "The Reader, "Milk", "Slumdog Millionaire", "I've Loved You So Long",..etc? What's holding them back?

By the way, the area I live in has a population of roughly 113,000 in the county, and the only theater is a 13 screen operated under Marcus Cinema, which typically only plays the big hits. Occasionally they play the "limited" releases but usually only around Oscar Time(e.g. "Doubt" is playing right now.)
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Re:Landmark Theaters and the 31 Dec 2008 14:25 #30626

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kugel wrote:
... why couldn't an independent theater operator get a broker to get interesting films like "Waltz with Bashir", "The Reader, "Milk", "Slumdog Millionaire", "I've Loved You So Long",..etc? What's holding them back?

Nothing, really.

However, not all film bookers are "connected" on a daily basis to the independent & foreign studios, so you might not hear much about available pictures. If I wanted to run such film, I'd look for a booker that customarily buys from indie studios.

As for why you don't see indie films spread all over town, you pretty much figured it out. I think it's a marketing thing. To begin with, the audience numbers aren't as large, so you really have to cultivate the clientele. From what I've seen, the "indie crowd" expects a somewhat different treatment than what the mainstream audience tolerates, or the typical chain staff understands. They frequently look for a different (more refined) concession lineup than the typical "popcorn & soda" fare, and the overall experience is more of an event. Location seems to mean more, too. Indie houses seem to fare better in college towns & more "upscale" communities.

If you were to consider opening such a theatre, I'd think you'd need to know your community, be conversant about the films, and have the patience and finances to build your customer base. I've heard of no recent cases, where the crowd was lined up down the block on opening day.
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Re:Landmark Theaters and the 31 Dec 2008 14:30 #30627

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So any theater operator/owner can get "Waltz with Bashir" on the opening day just like NYC and LA? There's no catch?
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Re:Landmark Theaters and the \"limited\" release 31 Dec 2008 16:24 #30630

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Here is an article from the NYT that sort of address's the same issue.

Films Reach Theaters a Drib Here, Drab There

LOS ANGELES — Nearly a month ago, the University of Wisconsin’s Badger Herald gave a rave to Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon,” calling it a “masterpiece that excels in all three areas of film’s holy trinity of acting, directing and writing.”
Studios are creating pent-up viewer demand by staging big premieres and then showing new films in only a very few theaters.

Maybe so. But if folks in Madison, Wis., were looking for a movie last weekend, they would have had more luck with the 2:45 matinee of “Bolt.”

“Frost/Nixon,” described far and wide as a favorite in the Oscar race, has yet to open in midsize cities with audiences as sophisticated as those in Madison, New Orleans or Tulsa, Okla.

Instead, Universal Pictures put the film in just three theaters on Dec. 5.

A week later “Frost/Nixon” slipped into three dozen more spots. It finally opened last weekend in 205 locations in the nation’s top 50 markets. But that was still fewer than half the number that played Mr. Howard’s Oscar-winning movie “A Beautiful Mind,” in what was viewed as a cautious debut when it was released in 2001.

This year’s movie awards season has played out like Oscar night at Minsky’s. At least a dozen of the supposedly hottest contenders — among them “The Wrestler,” from Fox Searchlight; “Milk,” from Focus Features; and “Revolutionary Road,” from Paramount Vantage and DreamWorks — are being teased out to the public in peekaboo release patterns.

That approach became especially common this year, as studios held many of their more serious movies until after the election. They then found themselves crowding into a marketplace that made a slow rollout look like the safest pattern even for some films, like “Frost/Nixon,” with big studios behind them. That sort of release is meant to build anticipation, by trading on good reviews and accumulating nominations from bellwether awards like the Golden Globes. It also allows a studio to hold back its big advertising buys until the audience is really ready to connect. But it can frustrate potential viewers who have been bombarded with information about movies they still cannot see.

“I’m surprised we don’t have ‘Revolutionary Road’; we usually do pretty well here,” said Sam Stephenson, a film buff and an instructor at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies in Durham, N.C.

Though it features Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, “Revolutionary Road” was in just three theaters last weekend. Similarly, Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of a beaten-up battler in “The Wrestler,” the talk of the Toronto International Film Festival in September, had yet to play in more than about 15 locations as of last weekend.

Four years ago Warner Brothers unveiled “Million Dollar Baby,” which eventually won the best picture Oscar along with a directing award for Clint Eastwood, in an excruciatingly slow release that began with eight theaters in mid-December and did not reach most of the country until six weeks later.

The studio this year has dribbled out Mr. Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” — starting with just six theaters on Dec. 12, and fewer than a hundred by Christmas — even while widespread publicity has piqued the curiosity of an audience that will be largely unable to see the film until it moves to still more theaters on Jan. 9.

“You should see my e-mails,” Dan Fellman, Warner’s theatrical distribution president, said recently of the inevitable response by would-be viewers, many of whom find it hard to accept that New Yorkers and Angelenos should spend weeks with a big-star movie before it gets to their hometown malls.

With “Frost/Nixon,” perhaps the most heavily promoted of the season’s trickling releases, Universal’s plan is to reach more screens when and if the movie picks up awards at the Golden Globes on Jan. 11, or Oscar nominations on Jan. 22.

The film has moved slowly because its appeal is more dependent on reviews and awards than the drawing power of its stars, Frank Langella and Michael Sheen. “This was a passion project,” said Adam Fogelson, Universal’s president for marketing and distribution.

That a certain number of people may be wondering where the movie is does not worry Mr. Fogelson. “If people are interested enough to ask those questions now, I suspect they’ll be interested when we bring it to the wider market,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday.

Still, some films are disappearing even before a slightly confused audience can find them.

For instance, Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York,” released in nine theaters in October by Sony Pictures Classics, expanded briefly to 119 locations, and then the number dwindled.

John Muller, a Yale Law School student who comes from Santa Monica, Calif., was hearing a lot about the film, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, weeks ago and went looking for it in the New Haven area, to no avail.

“I guess I’m spoiled, because I’m from Los Angeles,” Mr. Muller said Friday. “I expect films to come out when they say they’re coming out.”

www.nytimes.com/2008/12/31/movies/awardsseason/31plat.html
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Re:Landmark Theaters and the \"limited\" release 31 Dec 2008 21:49 #30632

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Not every picture can play every theater as many studios like some theaters over others that play art.We have an exclusive on 2 pics this xmas that the big guys would love to have but dont.I have 79 screens around me and we have 2 exclusives doing big numbers.We will also play all there pictures year round.
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Re:Landmark Theaters and the 01 Jan 2009 17:47 #30636

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kugel wrote:
So any theater operator/owner can get "Waltz with Bashir" on the opening day just like NYC and LA? There's no catch?

There are catches to everything we do in this business. Nobody here, who runs their films on the break, got where they did by merely opening their doors.

The exhibitors' relationships with their suppliers (the studios) is built over time, and includes past theatre performance, competition, location, and payment history, among other things. Only those who have a running track record could open a new location and even think of starting off with first run product, extended payment terms and no advances.

As for dealing with the art crowd, you can probably expect a certain amount of extra scrutiny, because they normally don't flood the country with prints. They're far more concerned about how each print will do, and can be expected to be more picky about where they place the ones they have.

If a film opens in NY and LA with 10 prints, it's highly unlikely that even a well-performing theatre in Seattle will get one soon. That pretty much rules out everyone else but maybe the most rabid art crowds. The more prints there are in the market, the better your theatre performs with them, and the better your relationship is with the issuing studio, the more likely it is you might get a print.

Like I said, unless your theatre is an obvious gold mine, this is something you build over time, and some exhibitors are far better at it than others.
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Re:Landmark Theaters and the 02 Jan 2009 13:02 #30641

Everyone has made really good points on this topic. As a film buyer it is more difficult to get the specialized titles as it is on a more limited scale. Even the houses that are successful now at one time or another had to work their way up the chain to prove themselves. The larger companies Landmark, Regal, Cinemark etc usually have a bit more clout as they have some theaters that are huge grossers and negotiate for those that are not but can use this knowledge to their advantage. Another point is if you are a terrific grosser but you don't pay on time and it is troublesome to do business with can lose their standing in the print allocations.
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Re:Landmark Theaters and the 05 Jan 2009 02:30 #30655

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Isn't Landmark, HDNet, and Magnolia Pictures all owned or run or in the same pocket of the same guy? If so, doesn't that explain at least some of the titles being released only at Landmark Theatres.

Also, what other theatres would want to play those movies they play that are being released on the same day on HDNet or DVD?
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Re:Landmark Theaters and the 05 Jan 2009 02:38 #30656

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We play Magnolia often with some very good results./SURFWISE & FLAWLESS OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD IN 08.Some very nice numbers on both.The terms are 40-35
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Re:Landmark Theaters and the 05 Jan 2009 02:47 #30657

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Also MAN ON WIRE did ok on that also last year...
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Re:Landmark Theaters and the 06 Jan 2009 01:39 #30661

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