New Years Resolution: Go to the Movies (Especially THESE Movies)

Happy New Year everyone. As you think about your resolutions, I would like to suggest one to add to your list…It’s time to head back to the movies.

In conversations with friends over the holidays, I’ve heard a ton of excuses as to why many of them have not been to a movie theater in quite some time. Well, the time has come for everyone to stop with the excuses and recapture the magic that is “going to the movies.”

Let’s first deal with some of the excuses.

One common excuse is that folks are still scared of Covid or the Flu or RSV or whatever virus is floating around this week. Yet these same people are eating in restaurants– where I promise you conditions are way more conducive to viral spread than in a theater. For starters, in a movie theater, people are all facing the screen and not each other. In a well-mannered crowd (we’ll get back to this later), people may be chomping on snacks, but they are not constantly bloviating at the levels required to be heard above the din in a restaurant. On top of that, over the course of the pandemic, most movie theaters upgraded their HVAC systems to insure the safest possible air flow. If you are still nervous, just bring a mask.

Another complaint is that movie theater conditions are not great. The old tropes about sticky floors, broken seats, bad projection, etc, are hangovers from another era. Yes, there are theaters that are not well maintained, and you should avoid them. There are also theaters that are scrupulously maintained and really care about the presentation. Many of these are independent art houses, where the folks that run them have a high standard about how films should be presented. We need to support these institutions. I should add that many chain theaters are also capable of providing a good experience. Do your homework and find those locations.

Most theaters these days have reserved seating, so the annoyance of having to fight your way into a theater to get a decent seat is mostly a thing of the past. While chain theaters make you watch a half hour or more of trailers and commercials, the indie art film venues tend to limit them, once again making it a better movie-going experience. Continue reading “New Years Resolution: Go to the Movies (Especially THESE Movies)”

Exciting News about “Hester Street”

After many years of development, a pandemic delay and a lot of sweat, I’m pleased that the theatrical production of “Hester Street,” based on the film by Joan Micklin Silver, is finally happening. Joan worked closely with us on the adaptation when we first got started and my only regret is that she didn’t live to see the result. I’m confident that she would have been very pleased.

The first out-of-town production will be in Washington DC with an official opening date of April 1. You can read the details in the press release below, which went out earlier today. Tickets are already on sale at THIS LINK

If you would like to get involved, you can make a fully tax-deductible contribution here… Donate to Theater J Hester Street.

If you would rather invest in the commercial production of the show, just contact me directly.

Here is the complete press release:

For Immediate Release 10/23/23

OLIVER BUTLER TO DIRECT STAGE ADAPTATION OF
JOAN MICKLIN SILVER’S “HESTER STREET”

Sharyn Rothstein’s new play-with-music will have its world premiere in the Spring of 2024

A new adaptation for the stage of Joan Micklin Silver’s 1976 critically acclaimed film, HESTER STREET will have its world premiere on April 1, 2024, at Theater J in Washington DC, it was announced today by Producers Michael Rabinowitz and Ira Deutchman. The play-with-music adaptation was written by Sharyn Rothstein and will be directed by Oliver Butler. The new original music was written by Joel Waggoner. Continue reading “Exciting News about “Hester Street””

“All I Wanna Do” – Time for a Re-Release?

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?”

The VCR Will Be The Death of Commercials!

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!

Comments after the break. Continue reading “The VCR Will Be The Death of Commercials!”

Movie Theater Update, Missing Movies and More…

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…”

The Upper West Side Needs More Art Film Screens

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”

Premature Obituaries Part 2: The Case For Twitter

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”

Premature Obituaries Part 1: Is The Movie Theater Business Dead?

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: Indie Film Stalworth and Dear Friend

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. 

A Celebration of Joan Micklin Silver

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.

Please comment after the break… Continue reading “A Celebration of Joan Micklin Silver”