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Friday, September 28, 2007

Suburban screen rant

Posted on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 1:35 PM

Ah… my first posting to The Coast editorial on-line presence, Bloghorn. If you know me from my prior freelance contributions, you know me as largely a movie guy. Reveling in that status, here’s a fresh screed about being an audience member in this town:

3:10 to Yuma

In The Valley of Elah

The Hunting Party

You may live downtown, you keen, film lovers. You may be a student, so many of us are. Or you may be new to Halifax. You may have wished to see one of the three critically-lauded films, one of which has recently left theatres (The Hunting Party). And you’d have to go to Bayers Lake or Dartmouth Crossing to do so.

Does this mean peninsula-dwellers don’t like Westerns? Or dramas about American soldiers returning from Iraq, directed by a multiple Oscar-winning Canadian? Or satiric thrillers set in Bosnia starring Richard Gere as an asshole, a weirdly appealing cinematic stew if I ever heard one…?

Nope. It’s the fact that Empire Theatres has an economic model, thrust upon them by the distributors, they claim, that says all movies do better out in the ‘burbs, even the obvious arthouse flicks you’d think would go right into The Oxford. They’ve even said they don’t have that much choice as to where the films play. To that, I say, really? With no competition at all in our little market, you can’t bring these movies downtown at all?

Maybe, if you’re like me, the opening of a new cinema complex in town made you excited. Another 12 screens can’t be a bad thing, right? Even if they are out in Big Box Heaven on the edge of the Dartmouth sprawl, on the way to the airport.

But what does a bunch of new screens really mean? Does it mean that existing prints for quality films rolling into theatres in the coming months, the most fertile time for the Hollywood machine, will get sent to fewer slots at Park Lane or The Oxford and be seen only by those who have cars and don’t mind driving out to the BLIP or The Crossing?

Credit where it is due: Empire Theatres brought every Best Foreign Language film nominated at this year’s Academy Awards to town (with the exception of After The Wedding, last year’s closing gala at the 26th Annual Atlantic Film Festival) and most of those screened downtown. It’s a sign they do give a shit about cinema goers stuck in the city and are willing to throw us a few bones in terms of movies beyond the Hollywood schlock.

What would really make us wanna pucker up and kiss ‘em is if they instituted some kind of rotation, where suburban screened movies also had a run downtown, even for a week, before heading out again. They could advertise such a thing as a limited run and I’m sure it would sell a lot of tickets. Or, better yet, open another cinema on the peninsula. Like, say, in the north end.

I know those Empire folks are thinking about things like this. In the last week of August, they ran a limited number of daytime screenings at Park Lane of all the big summer movies, in case you (or the kids) missed them. Now, that was thoughtful. How about the same deal for the grown-ups of grown-up movies?

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