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Old 01-02-2013, 12:09 PM
2,720 posts, read 5,297,063 times
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I was surprised that it took me forever to find a cinema that showed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Apparently, that straight political thriller movie was considered "arthouse". I noticed the same back when I was wanting to watch Michael Clayton. I just don't get why all of these films that ten years ago would've been in the mainstream theaters are now being shown in smaller specialty cinemas showcasing art, indie or experimental films?

Arbitrage with Richard Gere, excellent movie, yet it took me a while to locate a cinema showing it. It was in one mainstream theater with two showings and another smaller arthouse one across town. What was so "indie" about that film? It was a straight movie about a shady businessman.

Indie to me is Kevin Smith's clerks shot for a small budget. Wes Anderson's original Bottle Rocket or Chris Nolan's Memento at best.
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Old 01-02-2013, 01:36 PM
Location: Colorado
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When I'm feeling particularly cynical, I think "arthouse" means any movie that Hollywood producers don't understand, doesn't have a super high body count or doesn't feature Adam Sandler.
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Old 01-02-2013, 01:55 PM
Location: Nantahala National Forest, NC
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Interesting question...

Can't tell where you live regarding..likely has a lot to do with which theaters show what films. I saw Michael Clayton at a "general"cinema...but Memento at a smaller one, same for Wes Anderson films.

IMO, an art film can be in wide release, depends on your definition. The recent release of Anna Karenina in general cinemas is an example....to me, this WAS an art film. Very creatively done, the utmost in costume design, color, sets etc.

Independent films-much lower in budget, are not designed to become blockbusters so therefore don't contain material that interesting to the masses but rather a smaller group of movie goers. Many actors seem to love gettting these meaty roles too. Some are so over-the-top funny or wildly satirical....BEST IN SHOW or FARGO....others are deeply biographical, ie POLLOCK re artist Jackson Pollock. Most are "thinking films".....would not be popular with a majority of the public...so we who love them get to see them in intimate theaters.

We have a small specialty theatre in my area....my friends and I are very good customers...but you are right, if you miss them at THIS kind of theater, you might have to wait for video...

Look forward the posts of others, and their ideas, to your thread!
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Old 01-02-2013, 03:09 PM
Location: Atlanta
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I think you can objectively try to quantify what constitutes an "arthouse" or "indie" flick, but I think those have to get mixed in with the subjective reality of what theater operators believe will make them the most money. I think 10+ years ago you could catch a Michael Clayton-type movie (think The Insider) at the general theater because we were still in the tail end of the megaplex expansion phase. All the 8-10 screen theaters of the 80's and 90's had been replaced with the 24-screen behemoths, and owners were showing a wide variety of different films to fill all those new screens and a lot of films that otherwise would have been relegated to a specialty or arthouse theater had an additional outlet.

Nowadays the appetite for the big Hollywood blockbuster, combined with 3D, has driven those fringe movies out of many of the megaplexes. A routine scan of IMDB showtimes in my area frequently show that the 24-screen giants are routinely only screening 10-12 movies at a time, because they will have 3 screens dedicated to multiple 2D showings of the latest big movie, with an additional 2 for the 3D showings. Unfortunately, many of the smaller and specialty theaters have since gone out of business (or can't afford the transition to digital), and these fringe movies now have no where to go. I'm hoping the trend will eventually run its course and we'll see the return of these smaller movies again, but given the growth of other options available to film distributors, it's doubtful.
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Old 01-02-2013, 08:13 PM
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I remember watching Fargo in a mainstream movie theater. It was the first indie art house movie I've ever seen.

These days Fargo would be only at specialty theaters.

Keep the ideas coming, guys!
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Old 01-03-2013, 04:46 AM
Location: Oxford, England
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Originally Posted by chilaili View Post
When I'm feeling particularly cynical, I think "arthouse" means any movie that Hollywood producers don't understand, doesn't have a super high body count or doesn't feature Adam Sandler.
You forgot Loud Explosions, 3D , Special effects ad nauseam and of course the big names which are rolled out for most mainstream film regardless of suitability or excellence....

To me an "arthouse" movie is about the storyline rather than extraneous flim-flims like CGEs, 3D,or big "stars" to put bums on seats. It does not patronise the audience and does not rely on anything but the actors to make the script come to life.

I have almost given up on most mainstream films, as 90% of the time they are major let downs and usually scraping the bottom of the barrel... Of course there are exceptions but it is as though most Hollywood producers could not care less about talent, originality and good writing but simply want to dazzle and distract from appalling plots and unsuitable actors with as much gaudy irrelevent features as they can.

I suppose they are pandering to a public who would rather watch two hours of utter crap than a well crafted, beautifully shot, superbly acted film with no bells and whistles.

I see it in the theatre as well. It is getting harder to get higher quality productions now, everything has to be made "sexier" or to "widen the appeal". Meaning some true horrors in the stage, with crappy musicals taking in millions when wonderful and intelligent plays make a pittance in comparison. There is it seems little appetite for quality.

If it shiny, and loud enough and has a huge budget than the movie and theatre goers will love it apparently regardless of excellence or lack thereof....

I would be rather depressed as a proper Director/Actor to realise that quality is not what people want. Dazzle them with a few dangling baubles and the public will lap it up. Perfect distraction for poorly written scripts.

To me a good movie is like a book. It is about the story. Nothing else matters.

I go to the theatre almost weekly and the best productions often are the ones pared down and with little in terms of sets or costumes.

One of the best productions I saw was "War and Peace" done by 6 actors with about three chairs, one table and a couple of crates as a set. And yet the acting was so superb, that almost instantly you forgot about it and there you were immersed in Russia from the battle of Austerlitz to St Petersburg and Moscow salons....

When the acting and the story can stand on their own nothing else matters.

Occasionally a mainstream film does surprise you and really captivates you but this is getting rarer and rarer IMO.

And no I do not watch just serious films or plays. I love comedy and silliness too but this does not mean having to surrender quality of acting or writing.

I would rather watch "Lars and the Girl" a hundred times than some dire Hollywood mainstream rom-com.
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Old 01-04-2013, 08:59 PM
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The economics of running a theatre and the booking decisions can be opaque to outsiders. The points covered could take pages to properly explain, but I'll try to give the overview.

Indie films is short for independent production companies (not affiliated with Warner/MGM/Fox/whatever current or past). With enough money, anyone can make a film. The problems start when you try to get the film distributed into theatres. No theatre wants a dud, and no theatre wants to upset longtime relations with existing distributors, upon which they depend for bread and butter. There were some small distributors of independent films in the past. Donald Velde and a few others made a decent job of it. When art suddenly looked like it was going to boom, the major distributors stepped in with their own "art film" departments. That was the last blow for the small distributors in a rapidly changing industry.

The grosses from art film depend on a REGULAR supply of good product. During peak seasons, demands from the major releases for maximum exposure crowded art of multiplex screens. After a couple of tries and having the rug pulled out, the customers abandoned this.

In a different release system, the ideal size of a multiplex would be about eight auditoriums, each with one or two films. However... to maximize opening day grosses, which peg later contracts for video and tv release, a film like "Star Wars 42 the Revenge of Jed Clampett" will demand five screens in an 18 plex and run on a half hour break, with umpteen shows a day, starting the night before. Get a couple of other "big" releases in the same time frame and you might have four choices of product in that 18 plex if the booker isn't careful. Lots of good stuff gets kicked out or to a later release date.

The small theatres trying to cater to an intelligent audience (different market) get starved for good product at reasonable rates, and have to judge anticipated receipts during peaks and valleys, and will pick up a decent but not spectacular film to bridge gaps. The full story is much more complicated and that is a little botched, but it is the basics.
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