I count my blessings that I live in a city where pretty much any wide release will play in at least one cinema, with my cinema viewing being pretty varied and plentiful as a result. Living in an age where online streaming is becoming much more common place, meaning that many smaller releases can be seen by folks at home, after a small period of time, as they go through whatever theatrical and home video releases they have to go through.
This idea of streaming is something that some have taken to heart in quite a large way, for example Curzon, who recently launched an On Demand service which means that many films playing at their London locations are available to watch online. Obviously there’s a price to pay but if you don’t live in London, as I’m sure the vast majority of those reading this don’t, then you can have a chance at getting some more variety in your lives. Recent limited releases such as The Hunter, Swandown and Polisse are all there, and reasonably priced in this writer’s opinion. Then you’ve got the smaller distributors which find it hard to get cinema space in other cities, the inclusion of streaming so close to a film’s theatrical release, could well be the future for them.
In cinemas this weekend sees one film in wide release, the CG animation The Lorax, and next week ushers in only Ted and Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3. One film which I was particularly interested in was the Fox Searchlight flick Sound of my Voice, a film which has been on my radar for over a year and which has been keenly anticipated by myself and I am sure many of you reading this. With only Ted and Wimpy Kid in cinemas new next weekend and barely anything this week, surely this is a time for smaller films to maybe get a push? OK, the Olympics are here but Sound of my Voice isn’t a film which demands a 300 site release. It’s one in which Fox have thrown some money towards and could offer some decent counter-programming surely?
This morning I tweeted Fox Searchlight UK’s twitter account, @SearchlightUK to ask them how the site count was going for the impending release. The answer? It’s going to be playing exclusively in Curzon Soho and Wimbledon.
How exciting! EXCLUSIVELY at two cinemas in London!
I’m sure those looking forward to the film in London must be very happy, indeed I would be. I’d also have been happy to learn Searchlight’s release of Lola Versus, a fun looking rom-com starring Greta Gerwig would be playing ONE WHOLE CINEMA in that great city also.
This isn’t meant to be a whine about not living in London, though I wish distributors of smaller films would make more of an effort sometimes. This is a more a monologue on just how this can be in everyone’s benefit, at least aside from the exhibitor and to be honest, fair play to them. Instead I wonder just what Searchlight expect to get out of this? A decent screen average, a gross which won’t trouble any kind of box office reporting to any real extent and then a release on Blu/DVD/both which will garner the film more attention than even going on the big screen in two places would do in the first place.
Here’s an idea, and it’s not exactly rocket science. CURZON do an on-demand program, CURZON are playing your film. LET CURZON PUT IT ON DEMAND. While I’m sure there are plenty of rights issues which wouldn’t be worked out in time, why isn’t this kind of thinking put into practice more? I for one would be happy to pay £7 to see Sound of my Voice legally on my PC if I could next weekend, just as I’d be happy to have paid the same to see Lola Versus last weekend. It’s not a premium experience in terms of how to watch the thing but at least I, and many interested the UK and Ireland over, would get a chance to actually take a look at the thing and support it financially.
I don’t expect anything to get done about this. A corporation like the one Fox Searchlight is owned by would never do something so forward-thinking until it has seen how its done by more enterprising sorts, such Picturehouse and Artificial Eye, but it’s just something to put a voice out there.
The realities of today’s marketplace make big-screen viewing of these kinds of films less and less likely; the performance of Fox Searchlight’s own Another Earth and Martha Marcy May Marlene over the last year or so are examples of over-reaching and not making any real money. But hey, streaming is secure, convenient, and in terms of profit margins, probably pretty intriguing. I say only this – play and I’ll pay.