Animation Articles: May 3, 2020

A selection of the best animation articles including news, opinions, and features from around the world for the week beginning the 3rd of May, 2020.

Continue reading “Animation Articles: May 3, 2020”

How Animated Films and Cinemas Can Avoid Sliding Into Oblivion

The theatrical market for animated feature films has remained much the same for many decades. A few things have changed of course, but on the whole, things operate in much the same way that they always have. That is to say, films are released to cinemas first, then home media, then PPV cable, then regular cable, before finally spluttering onto regular TV many years after the initial release. Such a model has served the industry well for decades, but for cinemas, the jig may finally be up, and animated features are going to have to change if they are going to survive and thrive.

Continue reading “How Animated Films and Cinemas Can Avoid Sliding Into Oblivion”

The Blockbuster Backlash Is Coming

Via: KidFocused
Via: KidFocused

It’s been on the horizon for quite a while and yet is rarely discussed even though it has the potential to wreck the entire industry. It’s been discussed here of course, but in the grand scheme of things, the good times will seemingly never end for movie studios. Yessiree, the blockbuster has become the king of all movies over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down. That’s a problem though, because the question now isn’t so much whether the industry will crash, but how far it will fall.

The Current Blockbuster Bubble

The New York Times had an article last week that looks at the current situation:

Steven Soderbergh, the much-admired filmmaker, delivered a blistering critique of the phenomenon at the San Francisco International Film Festival a few weeks ago, bemoaning studio executives’ lack of imagination and their fixation on big-budget franchise films. “Cinema as I define it, and as something that inspired me, is under assault by the studios,” he said. He likened the big studios to “Detroit before the bailout” and worried that the hegemony of the blockbuster is “a trajectory that I think is pretty difficult to reverse.”

But his warning may have come too late for this summer, when the studios seem to be headed over a blockbuster cliff.

….

With its acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and, last year, Lucasfilm, Disney has spent billions to acquire others’ intellectual property, and what Disney hopes will be the foundation of generations of future blockbusters. Whether this bold bet ultimately pays off remains to be seen, but Marvel under Disney has gotten off to a strong start. “Disney is basically 100 percent blockbusters,” Mr. Creutz said, not counting films it distributes for others, like DreamWorks Studios. “There are a few exceptions, but when they’ve invested in the big event movies, they’ve come out pretty well.”

Essentially, Hollywood studios see blockbusters as being more expensive but embodying less risk than if they made many films for the same price. The logic is sound, but only if you’re the only one doing it.

What’s Causing Things to Crack

Blockbusters are everywhere now, there’s practically one every week. Sure there are losers just as there are winners (John Carter being the recent example), but even those can come close to breaking even thanks to both foreign receipts and home media sales.

The concern is that with such large budgets at stake, studios will narrow their range in an attempt to maximise both the size of the potential audience as well as how much money they can hope to extract from them. Hence, the recent rash of comic book-based films and a heavy reliance on franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter.

Inevitably, we start to see the same kinds of films popping up week after week; Thor last week, The Avengers this week, Iron Man 3 next week. Notice a pattern? Animated films aren’t immune either. Large budget efforts from pretty much all the major players mean that parents (the prime targets for animated films) are getting close to being over-stretched.

The Consequences of the Fall

So there’s no doubt that the crash is coming. What we’re seeing is an increasing number of hands dipping into the same pot. That can only last so long, and since gold rushes always result in people being empty-handed, the only question is how many, and how badly?

First of all, cinema attendance will drop. If you discount all the fanboys who’d show up regardless, that leaves single people and families. The former will undoubtedly continue to visit the cinema; they’ll just look for alternative films. The latter will just flat out look for cheaper alternatives. That isn’t a snide at cinema’s or ticket prices, just economic realities. Kids don’t particularly care whether the content they view is brand new or not. Parents make that decision and something on DVD is a lot easier on the wallet than a trip to the omniplex, especially if you’re tired at shelling out for the same kind of movie with the same kind of jokes week after week.

So if consumers start to look for alternatives, what’s the impact? Well, films aren’t made in a day, and large blockbusters can be in production for a year or more. Imagine if you’re a studio with a full slate of films in production that suddenly no-one wants to see; you’re pretty much up the creek for about a year or so, aren’t you?

Large studios are therefore the one’s most likely to get tripped up. They’ll be a few tough quarters that Wall St will undoubtedly penalise them for. Smaller studios may be OK, but they will find it difficult to both infiltrate large cinema chains and pay the necessary marketing budgets to attain a profitable release.

Rock Bottom

For the purposes of this post, rock bottom is going to hit animation harder than anything else. Animated films take longer to plan, longer to produce, and carry budgets that dwarf most live-action films. That puts them in the crosshairs for cuts, especially if they don’t bring in the moolah.

Animated films are not immune at their traditional homes either. They only survived the 80s at Disney because Walt continued to cast a very long shadow over the studio. It’s hard to see anyone in that place batting an eyelid at shutting an unprofitable division now though.

So what’s the worst-case scenario that we’re facing? Well, expect severe cutbacks at all major houses. Expect Disney to yank on the rope around Pixar’s neck harder than it’s ever done before should that studio’s films start to lose traction. DreamWorks is a target for FOX and the smaller players (all subsidiaries) will most likely get shuttered.

What’s important to take from all this is that the major animation studios bar DWA are all subsidiaries of parent corporations. Animation is not a prime driver of their business and employment within those divisions is a function of profitability (both local and corporate).

This isn’t to scaremonger either, it’s a fact of capitalistic life. If people stop buying a product, there are consequences up and down the supply chain.

Will animated films survive? There’s no doubt about it, but budgets will be much, much smaller. More will be done with less (in all respects) and we will likely see fewer releases from fewer players. (Who those will be, I leave up to you.)

Rebuilding Advice

The simplest way to approach a crash like the one we are facing is to do more than simply look at where we went wrong. An over-reliance on a narrow range of content? Sure. A false belief that throwing enough money at a production will make it profitable? Absolutely. But what else can we analyse?

Are we making films in the right way? Are we making money from them in the best manner? Huge box office grosses make for great opportunities to crow on the Monday morning news but they’re a on-shot deal. A hit is great, but a miss is disasterous.

What will need to be done isn’t hard or complex, but will have to be done in earnest:

  • Make more for less. Instead of one $300 million picture, why not six $50 million ones?
  • A greater variety of stories: Instead of attracting the largest possible audience, attract a varied one instead.
  • Don’t bore consumers with franchises. The risk of failure is less, but the risk of burnout is higher; and the latter will never become apparent until it is too late.
  • Vary the style! CGI is a singular style and has been done to death for the last 10 years.

Lastly, all the above pertains to studios. What about the animators on the ground? The bottom line, vary your skills and be prepared financially as best you can. There is still time to prepare. News of layoffs has only just begun, not peaked. Get those personal projects going and practice your hustling skills. We’re in for a tough couple of years.

Tugg People To The Cinema!

Tugg logo

Via: Indiewire

One of the things I recently discussed was the shift in the entertainment business from a ‘push’ model to a ‘pull model’. In other words, instead of creating content and enticing consumers to view it, you basically let the consumer tell you what they want to watch and create it for them instead. It’s all very simple to how Dell makes computers, i.e. they don’t make your computer until you actually order it.

So it came as quite a surprise to discover that there is a startup out there, going by the name of Tugg, whose business model is exactly that; to pull content and people into the cinema!

The concept is almost deceptively simple:

 how tugg works

It’s a pretty cool concept with a very basic (and almost shockingly underused) concept which is to basically sell the seats in the cinema beforehand, thus eliminating the risk of a loss in a screening. However Tugg is much more than a website to petition for a screening near you. It also attempts to act as a platform for the entire experience. Witness the soon-to-come ability to share events:

 

There’s even the option to attend an event organised by someone else, surely the icing on the cake for both the cinema and Tugg if they can draw in outsiders.

However perhaps the greatest part is the ease of setting up a screening:

 

Now you know that anyone can do it. Which is nice, because the risk to everyone is nothing. The cinema doesn’t risk renting a film that they can’t recover the costs on, you benefit because you can see films you like on a big screen and Tugg benefits because it’s likely either getting a flat fee from the cinema for the screening or (more likely) skimming money off every ticket sale and (probably) gathering info on viewing habits to sell back to the studios. Everybody wins!

This post is about much more than Tugg though, because the advantages of the site should play very well into the hands of animation fans. Why? The reasons are simple.

  • Animation from studios other than the large ones are rare in mainstream cinemas
  • Adult animation is continually shunted in favour of more profitable mainstream fare (both animation and otherwise)
  • Cinemas only care about bums on seats and they will gladly favour a screening with a sold out theater for an obscure animated film than a half-empty house screening the latest release.
  • Digital distribution already eliminates the cost of distribution so cinemas can cheaply screen films without having to pay the large handling fees of traditional film.

All in all it sounds like a sweet deal. Imagine the scenario; you want to watch, say, The Secret of Kells for your birthday. You go online, find a smaller cinema in your area (say a 50-100 seater). You set up the event in Tugg and invite your friends. Let’s say you get 35 people to come. That’s pretty decent, but now the social aspect of Tugg comes into play and people in the area learn that the film is playing. Now they want to come too! Suddenly your birthday party is much more than that, it’s about bringing people who share the exact same interests as yourself together!

So what’s the downside (you knew there had to be one didn’t you)? Well, as with anything and everything to do with the film industry and Hollywood, it isn’t simply a matter of Tugg or the cinema “renting” the film from the requisite studio. Yup, just like Netflix and every other company out there trying to innovate in the market, Tugg is bound by rights. What does that mean? Basically if they don’t have the rights to show a film, they can’t.

What does that result in? Why a limited selection of course! Now naturally we can expect it to grow over time, but as of now (September 2012) Tugg is showing just 25 animated titles ranging from A Town Called Panic to Alvin and the Chipmunks. So unfortunately we may have to wait a while before we can organise that retrospective on Ralph Bakshi.

The future looks bright though. If people can organise their own screenings of animated films, it would greatly increase the diversity at the local multiplex. That can only be a good thing for everyone.

Why The Cinema Experience Needs to Change [repost]

Via: zizzybaloobah on flickr

This is a repost from November 2010 but a recent post by Mark Mayerson over on his blog brought it back to my attention. In it, Mark points out that the distribution models for movies is about to rapidly change, and not necessarily for the better as far as cinemas go:

Just like record stores have mostly disappeared and physical bookstores are suffering, movie theatres may be next.  While they won’t vanish entirely, we could be looking at a drastic reduction in the number of theatres.

It sounds scary, but it’s not unavoidable, below is my post where I outline how cinemas can improve their business, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of effort either.

Almost as if on cue, Brad Bird also tweeted this morning about the current design of cinemas and his distaste for their bland design:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/BradBirdA113/status/248420923210878976″]

What do you think? Does the cinema/movie theatre experience need to change? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

 —

The other night I went to see Harry Potter (which contained a surprise animated sequence). It was a rather unique experience because we didn’t go to our usual cinema. Sadly, the 7 o’clock showing was all sold out there (and likely overrun with rowdy teenagers to boot), so instead we had to find somewhere else.Thankfully, The Senator Theatre was re-opened just in time and it turned out to be about the same distance away from the house too!

All in all, it was a great evening and the film was fantastic to boot. Normally we drive up, park, get gouged when we buy our tickets, get gouged again when we buy the popcorn and then have the pleasure of watching 20 minutes of commercial content followed by another 20 minutes of advertising before the film finally starts.

At The Senator, we got our tickets online for less than usual with the popcorn being slightly cheaper as well, and there was no beating about the bush when the lights went down. We got a rating certificate and then the film. I hadn’t seen start that quick since I was at a sneak preview for The Simpsons Movie!

Throughout the evening, what struck me most was how much different it was from our usual cinematic expeditions. It was more like a special event, an occasion even. Granted, it was Harry Potter, so things were slightly more electrified than normal although that did not cloud the overall experience.

All of this got me thinking and it made me a wee bit sad to think that going to the cinema is no longer treated as something special. It is now a run-of-the-mill chore that is forgotten as soon as we leave the building. How did things become so bland and mundane? Let’s take a look back.

The Golden Age of Hollywood between the 20s and the early 50s was also the greatest era for cinematic entertainment in this country. New cinemas were popping up all over the country and changed the face of evening entertainment in the US.

The cinema owners knew this and realised that the best way to earn business was to have people come to their cinemas, and come often. They achieved this through competition, either in size, features, luxury or price. Often it was a combination of them all. Yeah, the studios may have block-booked timeslots and owned the cinema chains but they still had each other to contend with.

There was a time when you could go to dinner at the theatre and then go upstairs to watch the show. You might have even been able to enjoy a drink at the bar afterwards and your movie ticket would have been all of 25 cents. Even adjusted for inflation, this is cheap by today’s standards.

The point is that owners made going to the cinema an experience. They wanted attendees to feel special, that they were being offered a glimpse into the Hollywood glamour; customers responded in kind by dressing up for the evening. The result of all of this is that they came back, again and again and again. In 1930, attendance was 80 million people, or 65% of the entire population! Since then, audience numbers have declined to the point that barely 3% of the population visits the cinema on a weekly basis.

Why is this? Television certainly has its role to play. Why indeed would you drive all the way to the cinema, cough up your kids college fund and then watch a film with a guy on the left who can’t stop farting and a woman on the right conducting a live directors commentary, not to mention the kid behind you kicking your seat. When you think about it, you really would be much more comfortable at home on your own couch, maybe even in your underwear and being all the happier for it.

The point here is that today, cinema owners and movie studios are under a number of illusions when it comes to why people go to the cinema, which I will now dissect:

  • “People want to see it first” – I can download it at home before it even comes out (legality aside)
  • “People want to see it on a big screen” – I’ve got a 50″ plasma screen with surround sound at home and I don’t have to worry about someone blocking the view
  • “It’s affordable entertainment” – YouTube is affordable entertainment
  • “Its 3-D” – This is a tricky one, because I cannot see things in 3-D (bad right eye) and the third dimension has been bandied about twice in the past without success.

As you can see, there is actually very few reasons why any of us should go to the cinema. It’s normally an expensive, cold, noisy hour and a half with very little to show for it in the end. I haven’t even touched on the strip searches some chains have implemented to catch “pirates”. Talk about pissing off the people who are handing over their hard-earned cash.

Compare that to the golden era when customers were treated like royalty. The expansive architecture (check out Uncle Eddie’s Theory Corner and his comparison post if you don’t believe me) , the awe-inspiring theatre chamber, the men’s lounge (seriously, the Senator has a men’s lounge you pass through on the way to the bathroom) and the feeling that you are doing much more with your evening than watching a film.

That way of thinking has been lost in this country. Today, cinema-goers are treated like cattle, “get them in, get them out” is the order of the day. Patrons somehow “owe” the cinema the pleasure of their business rather than the other way around. Why has it come to this? Why is it that as a film fan, I am forced to make choices about whether it is worth my while going to see a film or not? I shouldn’t have to, and the entire industry is worse off because of it. I may be just one person, but if one farmer in Iowa is judged by the Supreme Court to come under Federal law because of the corn he grows, then I am certainly not alone.

Instead, would it not be better if going to the cinema were treated like the occasion it used to be? Instead of being given the Wal-Mart treatment, we were enlightened by our evening and as a result, are far more likely to consider patronising The Senator again (definitely once they get that bar open though). In the past, the addition of more screens, stadium seating and better sound were thought to entice people from their armchairs. Now it’s 3-D that’s been given another crack at the limelight, and it too, looks to falter again. All these things cost a ton of money, which could perhaps have been better spent on giving the customer something they actually want.

Hundreds if not thousands of cinema gems have been lost over the years, the victims of growing suburbia, socio-economic upheaval in their surroundings and a general apathy towards history in this country. The March of Progress, etc. etc. The oft-quoted response is that such buildings are “a dime a dozen”. Sadly, there isn’t that many left.

Is there hope for the future? Perhaps. Cinemas such as The Senator are dependent on two things: continued patronage and the uninhibited ability to show the films they want. I fully enjoyed my little slice of American cinematic glory. Its time we all did.

My Two Cents on Digital Projection Technology

  1. It provides a crisper, clearer picture than the traditional 35mm film.
  2. So does a HD plasma screen TV.

The bottom line: If I wanted to watch a digital film, I’d wait for it to come out on DVD/Blu-Ray. Assuming the film was digitally distributed too, I should be paying a lot less for my cinema ticket* but there’s fat chance of that happening.

This is because there is not the same financial outlays involved in shipping physical cans of films around that a traditional setup involves.

American 3D Audiences Have It Lucky

Not animation-related per se, but relevant to movie-going nonethless. While over beyond, we went to see the last installment of the Harry Potter series. While the film was awesome, the presentation was not. The reason? It’s all about the goggles.

Below are the Dolby goggles we were handed for the presentation.

Via: Ubergizmo

Below is the warning printed on the side. Yes, you’re 3D surcharge doesn’t seem to cover the goggles and there are shoplifter-like security gates at the cinema to ensure that you don’t “accidentally” take them home with you.

Via: Video Technology

My real beef though, is how they sat on my face (not very well and after half an hour, my ears were killing me) and the fact that they are not nearly as large as the ones offered by RealD, which at least have lenses large enough to cover most prescription glasses.

Via: Celluloid Junkie

So all in all, it was by far my worst 3D experience to date. It just proves how poorly managed the  gimmick is but as bad as it is here in the US, there are those that have it much worse.

Here’s How Digital Projectors Will Ruin Animated Films

Via: Nina Paley’s Blog

Last August, I wrote about the wonderful analogue nature of going to the cinema and how the industry has been more resistant than most to the move to digital. Since then, there has apparently been a massive shift to digital projection after the technology finally improved enough to the point that it could rival traditional celluloid and since Sony began giving away their projectors in exchange for promotion rights.

What’s interesting though, has been the coincidental and simultaneous shift to 3-D projection. Naturally projecting in 3-D is a bit trickier and with new projectors are necessary, it seems only advantageous to also move to digital distribution as well, whereby films are downloaded directly from the internet rather than shipped in cans.

However, it occurred to me yesterday (as I read the Cartoon Brew post and the Boston.com article) that the advent of digital projection, while ushering in a whole new era for cinematic entertainment, is not without its teething troubles.

For starters, the claim that cinemas are short-changing patrons by leaving 3-D lens in for 2-D films is disheartening, but also how projector companies like Sony are using DRM in their projectors (yes, projectors) because they don’t want anyone to open them. So the end result is a dull picture projected onto the screen because the 3-D filter lens absorbs so much light.

That’s the first way digital projection can harm animation. If 3-D lens are not switched out, the picture is utterly ruined. In a live-action film this may not be so much of an issue due to the greater detail being projected, but for animation, there are often some very vivid and lively colours that will not ‘pop’ near as much as they should. Animation has been a traditionally very colourful artform and whose appeal rests largely on its creative use of colour.

The second way is resolution.

My computer monitor is a 22″ widescreen with 1920 x 1080 pixels. It’s nice and big, sure, but it’s resolution is lower than my mobile phone at about 72dpi. What does this have to do with film? Well, I remember when digital cameras first came out and how atrocious their resolution was compared to traditional film cameras. Now in fairness, they’ve improved a lot but only in the perceptive sense. A good quality SLR film camera will absolutely trump a digital camera when it comes to image quality simply because film has the capacity for storing images at much higher resolution than current digital technology.

My point? While digital projectors have improved greatly over the last decade, they are still at that early stage that digital cameras were at all those years ago. They represent a sufficient substitute for 35mm film, but only in the sense that the human eye cannot immediately detect the differences.

Personally, I would (and do) feel short-changed for paying extra to see a 3-D film and in return see a lower quality film in both colour and resolution.

What are your thoughts? Am I right or reading far too much into this for a Tuesday morning?

Why The Cinema Experience Needs to Change

Via: zizzybaloobah on flickr

The other night I went to see Harry Potter (which contained a surprise animated sequence). It was a rather unique experience because we didn’t go to our usual cinema. Sadly, the 7 o’clock showing was all sold out there (and likely overrun with rowdy teenagers to boot), so instead we had to find somewhere else.Thankfully, The Senator Theatre was re-opened just in time and it turned out to be about the same distance away from the house too!

All in all, it was a great evening and the film was fantastic to boot. Normally we drive up, park, get gouged when we buy our tickets, get gouged again when we buy the popcorn and then have the pleasure of watching 20 minutes of commercial content followed by another 20 minutes of advertising before the film finally starts.

At The Senator, we got our tickets online for less than usual with the popcorn being slightly cheaper as well, and there was no beating about the bush when the lights went down. We got a rating certificate and then the film. I hadn’t seen start that quick since I was at a sneak preview for The Simpsons Movie!

Throughout the evening, what struck me most was how much different it was from our usual cinematic expeditions. It was more like a special event, an occasion even. Granted, it was Harry Potter, so things were slightly more electrified than normal although that did not cloud the overall experience.

All of this got me thinking and it made me a wee bit sad to think that going to the cinema is no longer treated as something special. It is now a run-of-the-mill chore that is forgotten as soon as we leave the building. How did things become so bland and mundane? Let’s take a look back.

The Golden Age of Hollywood between the 20s and the early 50s was also the greatest era for cinematic entertainment in this country. New cinemas were popping up all over the country and changed the face of evening entertainment in the US.

The cinema owners knew this and realised that the best way to earn business was to have people come to their cinemas, and come often. They achieved this through competition, either in size, features, luxury or price. Often it was a combination of them all. Yeah, the studios may have block-booked timeslots and owned the cinema chains but they still had each other to contend with.

There was a time when you could go to dinner at the theatre and then go upstairs to watch the show. You might have even been able to enjoy a drink at the bar afterwards and your movie ticket would have been all of 25 cents. Even adjusted for inflation, this is cheap by today’s standards.

The point is that owners made going to the cinema an experience. They wanted attendees to feel special, that they were being offered a glimpse into the Hollywood glamour; customers responded in kind by dressing up for the evening. The result of all of this is that they came back, again and again and again. In 1930, attendance was 80 million people, or 65% of the entire population! Since then, audience numbers have declined to the point that barely 3% of the population visits the cinema on a weekly basis.

Why is this? Television certainly has its role to play. Why indeed would you drive all the way to the cinema, cough up your kids college fund and then watch a film with a guy on the left who can’t stop farting and a woman on the right conducting a live directors commentary, not to mention the kid behind you kicking your seat. When you think about it, you really would be much more comfortable at home on your own couch, maybe even in your underwear and being all the happier for it.

The point here is that today, cinema owners and movie studios are under a number of illusions when it comes to why people go to the cinema, which I will now dissect:

  • “People want to see it first” – I can download it at home before it even comes out (legality aside)
  • “People want to see it on a big screen” – I’ve got a 50″ plasma screen with surround sound at home and I don’t have to worry about someone blocking the view
  • “It’s affordable entertainment” – YouTube is affordable entertainment
  • “Its 3-D” – This is a tricky one, because I cannot see things in 3-D (bad right eye) and the third dimension has been bandied about twice in the past without success.

As you can see, there is actually very few reasons why any of us should go to the cinema. It’s normally an expensive, cold, noisy hour and a half with very little to show for it in the end. I haven’t even touched on the strip searches some chains have implemented to catch “pirates”. Talk about pissing off the people who are handing over their hard-earned cash.

Compare that to the golden era when customers were treated like royalty. The expansive architecture (check out Uncle Eddie’s Theory Corner and his comparison post if you don’t believe me) , the awe-inspiring theatre chamber, the men’s lounge (seriously, the Senator has a men’s lounge you pass through on the way to the bathroom) and the feeling that you are doing much more with your evening than watching a film.

That way of thinking has been lost in this country. Today, cinema-goers are treated like cattle, “get them in, get them out” is the order of the day. Patrons somehow “owe” the cinema the pleasure of their business rather than the other way around. Why has it come to this? Why is it that as a film fan, I am forced to make choices about whether it is worth my while going to see a film or not? I shouldn’t have to, and the entire industry is worse off because of it. I may be just one person, but if one farmer in Iowa is judged by the Supreme Court to come under Federal law because of the corn he grows, then I am certainly not alone.

Instead, would it not be better if going to the cinema were treated like the occasion it used to be? Instead of being given the Wal-Mart treatment, we were enlightened by our evening and as a result, are far more likely to consider patronising The Senator again (definitely once they get that bar open though). In the past, the addition of more screens, stadium seating and better sound were thought to entice people from their armchairs. Now it’s 3-D that’s been given another crack at the limelight, and it too, looks to falter again. All these things cost a ton of money, which could perhaps have been better spent on giving the customer something they actually want.

Hundreds if not thousands of cinema gems have been lost over the years, the victims of growing suburbia, socio-economic upheaval in their surroundings and a general apathy towards history in this country. The March of Progress, etc. etc. The oft-quoted response is that such buildings are “a dime a dozen”. Sadly, there isn’t that many left.

Is there hope for the future? Perhaps. Cinemas such as The Senator are dependent on two things: continued patronage and the uninhibited ability to show the films they want. I fully enjoyed my little slice of American cinematic glory. Its time we all did.

The Longevity of The Secret of Kells

It’s no secret among those who know me that I am a huge fan of The Secret of Kells, and not just because it’s Irish! I’ve already made my thoughts known in my review, which I wrote for Asifa-East’s Exposure Sheet way back in July 2009. What I’m posting about today is that the film is still making the rounds in US cinemas, in fact it is returning to New York’s IFC Center on August 14th, over a year after it premiered there.

What makes this incredible, year-long run even more extraordinary has been the unprecedented marketing campign, that is to say, the lack of one. The film was released in Europe in spring of 2009 and received the usual advertisement. However, such a campaign would have been prohibitively expensive in the US. The market is too big and crowded by the ususal suspects in California.

There was some talk about bringing the film to the States and things really got going when distributor GKids (the fine folks behind the New York international Children’s Film festival) entered the film for Academy Award consideration. The news that it was shortlisted for nomination gave the film a huge boost, suddenly people wanted to find out how a film they’d never heard of before was conisdered for an Oscar.

Thanks to its qualifying run in Burbank and of course, the Academy Awards themselves, the film was assured national showings of some sort. What has sepereated Kells from other independent films has been the potency of people’s word of moouth. OK, sure you have superfans like myself telling everyone to go see it, but in addition to that, I am pretty sure that every single animator/illustrator in the country has gone to see it and told all their friends to go see it to.

This type of promotion has been the key to the film success statewide. Well, that and the fact that it really is an amazing film. People listen to their friends and family more than anyone on TV or in the newspaper and The Secret of Kells is proof of that.

The film was released on DVD last year in Ireland (and sales received a very welcome boost with the Oscar nomination) and will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the US later this year and will undoubtedly make its way into a high percentage of those who saw it at the cinema.

The Secret of Kells is proof that you do not need to spend massive amounts of money to have a successful film. Sure the money doesn’t flow through the box office as quickly as it does for a blockbuster, but it does flow for longer, far longer and the fact that The Secret of Kells is still being talked about 2 years after it was completed is proof that it is better to be a slow burner than a bright flash.