A few weeks ago, I was pleased to hear that Sarah Kernochan’s “All I Wanna Do” (as it is currently known in the U.S.) was going to be screened at New York’s Metrograph Theater. I reached out to them to let them know that I had a 35mm print they could use, and that I would see who might be available to introduce the film and do a Q&A. Sarah, my co-producer Peter Newman, and Tony Janelli, who was the DP, all agreed to come. It turned out that I couldn’t be there because I tested positive for Covid. But reports from the screening reinforced my contention that this film is a classic and deserves to be seen more widely.
“All I Wanna Do” is a movie that I’m incredibly proud of, for all the reasons that attracted me to the project to begin with. It was a very personal story, from an accomplished, Oscar-winning filmmaker, who had yet to be given the opportunity to direct a fiction feature. The script was funny and entertaining, geared toward an underserved audience (young women) and dealt with a moment in history (the birth of feminism) that would be enlightening to the target audience. Continue reading ““All I Wanna Do” – Time for a Re-Release?”
I was rummaging around in some old VHS tapes yesterday and came across a tape of a news item from 1984 about this new problem that had arisen–television viewers could now fast-forward through commercials! I had this tape in my possession because I had been featured in the piece, along with my son, as so-called “zappers.” I remember thinking the piece was funny when it first ran, but now, 38 years later, it’s hilarious. More interestingly, it shows how much technology changes over time, and yet how we seem to fret over the same issues, over and over again. Anyway, enjoy this time capsule!
I have a number of things on my mind right now, the first of which is to give you all a quick and overdue update on the Upper West Side Movie Project I wrote about last month, which brought a remarkable response. It seems I hit a nerve with the community, and I now have a long list of folks who have come forward to help in any way they can. What is it we need? For the moment, a space and, of course, money.
Since I last wrote, I have continued to be in touch with the landlords of the building I originally hoped could house the theater. While they claim to be closing a deal with another tenant, that deal is still not done as far as I can tell. I’ve scouted one other location that seemed promising, but after consulting my architect, it doesn’t seem ideal. So, at this moment, we still do not have a target location. Continue reading “Movie Theater Update, Missing Movies and More…”
When the Lincoln Plaza Theater closed in January of 2018, it was like a body blow to the Upper West Side, an area that historically housed a huge community of arts lovers who were educated, sophisticated and open to a wide variety of cinema experiences.
It wasn’t as if there weren’t alternatives. Film at Lincoln Center is one of the best curated art houses in the country. AMC has two large multiplexes that, in addition to playing the latest Hollywood movies, also squeeze in the occasional Focus, Searchlight, A24 or Neon film. But, with the passing of the Lincoln Plaza Theater, a stalwart community institution was gone.
In the time since that closure, there have been some good and some bad developments. On the bad side, The Landmark on 57th Street also closed. While it was never going to fulfill the UWS neighborhood’s needs due to its incredibly inconvenient location, Landmark did attempt to play some of the smaller art films that couldn’t find a home elsewhere. I’ve heard that someone is taking over that theater, but I’m guessing it will end up mainly playing commercial Hollywood films. Continue reading “The Upper West Side Needs More Art Film Screens”
As the new year begins, I’m going to pick up where I left off last month, discussing another media platform that is being prematurely written off by the pundits—Twitter.
For years, when I’ve discussed social media in my Business of Film class at Columbia, I have been surprised at how few of my students pay any attention to Twitter. When I quiz them further, it seems that the reason they are not on the platform is that they’ve been scared by what they’ve heard about the toxic environment they are told exists in Twitter. This, of course, was long before the takeover by Elon Musk, which has now created a narrative that is scaring even existing users away.
With Musk allowing some previously banned people back on the platform, and messing around with various ways to increase revenue, fear of Twitter has people predicting its demise and scaring users into abandoning it. Here are some reasons why I think we should all stick it out—and perhaps more controversially, why folks who have never used it should get started now. Continue reading “Premature Obituaries Part 2: The Case For Twitter”
With each passing week of meager reported box office, conventional wisdom in the press is that the tea leaves are pointing to the eventual death of theatrical moviegoing. While the numbers speak for themselves, the leap from near-term results to eventual demise is a simplistic analysis based on two factors that, while true, are not necessarily predictive. Yes, it is true that the closure of theaters during the pandemic helped to solidify home viewing as the default way of consuming new films. It is also true that many audiences (particularly older audiences) are not currently feeling ready to go back to movie theaters; nor for that matter, given their new home viewing habits, do they feel the need to.
But do these facts point to the end of the theatrical business? After all, the movie business has survived many existential threats in the course of its 100-plus-year history. The assumption here is that the business cannot adapt, as it has in the past, to the new realities in ways that could change the playing field. And the pundits seem not to be paying attention to other trends that are creating a potentially positive environment for a rebound. Continue reading “Premature Obituaries Part 1: Is The Movie Theater Business Dead?”
Bill Thompson, who passed away earlier this week, was a true mensch. I first met Bill in 1977, when we both worked at Cinema 5, and we remained friends over all these years. Through his long career, as Bill went back and forth between being a film buyer for various theaters, and a film salesperson for various distribution companies, he never lost his capacity to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. This, in spite of how vicious and competitive the indie film business can be. It’s hard to get across how special that quality was, and how much his presence in our world will be missed.
Bill was one of the stars of my film “Searching for Mr. Rugoff,” and here is an outtake where he tells us a little about his own origin story in the film business.
Last June, at the Walter Reade Theater in New York, family, friends and colleagues of Joan Micklin Silver got together to pay tribute to the inspirational and ceiling-smashing legacy of one of independent film’s true heroes. Somewhat belatedly, here is the memorial in its entirely for those of you who couldn’t be there.
This post is a bit of a departure from what I’ve been writing about lately. It involves a post-pandemic quality-of-life issue that I suspect is not unique to New York City. But those of us who live in the city may be experiencing it more extremely. The issue is the chaos caused by the sudden explosion in the use of bicycles. Anyone who walks around the city these days has most likely been subject to nearly being hit by a bicycle running through a red light and/or speeding through an intersection. Sadly, this is just one small example of a larger problem.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have been bicycling around the city ever since I first moved here in 1975. I frequently go on 10–20-mile rides around Manhattan. I am a huge supporter of urban biking and have always felt that turning big cities into havens from the automobile could be the solution to many ills, not the least of which is the environmental impact of automobile traffic. I’ve also been very supportive of the creation of bicycle lanes, which theoretically keep bicyclists safe from the threat of heavier vehicles.
However, the efforts to turn New York into a bicycle-friendly city, while admirable, never went far enough in thinking through how to safely share the streets among bicycles, motor vehicles and pedestrians. Continue reading “Can We Fix the Bicycle Chaos?”
When my film, Searching for Mr. Rugoff was released in the theaters, the most common feedback I got was how astounding it was that one company released so many of the definitive films from what, in retrospect, looks like a golden age of art films. I had so many requests for a list of the films that I included one in the press kit and provided it to anyone who asked.
It is with that in mind that I am so very pleased that the Criterion Channel is showing twenty Cinema 5 titles in conjunction with the exclusive premiere of my film. The series starts on September 12.
This collection of films might as well be a syllabus for anyone interested in non-Hollywood cinema from the ’60s and ’70s, a particularly ripe period of pushing the limits of what could be shown in commercial movie theaters. Many of the films were controversial in their day, and probably would be today. It took an off-kilter sensibility like Rugoff’s to see commercial potential in them, and many of them failed at the box office. But looking back after all these years, the collection seems downright inspired. Continue reading “Criterion Celebrates Fabled Distributor Cinema 5”