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Forum discusses Fresno independent cinema

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After Sunday’s screening of “The Rep,” a documentary film about the life and death of a Toronto movie house, the folks at Fresno Filmworks held a community forum about independent cinema in Fresno. I wasn’t able to attend, but I asked FF board member Bryan Harley to share a little from the forum. His recap:

We had a good sized group stay afterward to talk. Here are some thoughts from myself and FFW president Jefferson Beavers and three main points we walked away with:

1. The group unanimously agreed that they don’t care about the format — 35mm or digital — they just want to see good independent films in the theater on a consistent basis. One participant, in fact, said that most contemporary films on 35mm even feel a little disingenuous, that exhibiting in 35mm as a format should be reserved for classic films or for very specific art films that have a reason to be using it. That surprised us. Most people also indicated that they couldn’t even tell the difference between 35mm and digital projection.

2. Many agreed that the business model of the Toronto Underground Cinema (the focus of the doc), a full-time cinema that only screened classic films, was not viable for Fresno. Rather they would like to see a mix of classic films with new, first-run independent films and special forums or themed parties. They thought “the experience” of going to the movies would be enhanced by a special event every now and then.

3. Lastly, the group said they’d like to see more independent films at The Tower Theatre on a consistent basis, maybe including other similar organizations who could share the programming duties with Fresno Filmworks on rotating nights. Consistency was their biggest suggestion: maybe every Friday night a film at the theater. They felt that would be best for building a more stable audience. That was an intriguing idea. Also, many in the group said the weekend screenings we’ve done in the past (especially the Sunday afternoon Classics series) didn’t work well for them. They’d rather see more weeknight screenings.

Interesting. I’m surprised about the feedback about Sunday screenings. I’d always thought of classic films in a theater as sort of a lazy Sunday afternoon type of thing to do. But perhaps people’s weekends are so jam-packed these days that an old film doesn’t make the list.

Responses to "Forum discusses Fresno independent cinema"

Stephen says:

This seems to be a church group committee meeting. A dedicated group of like-minded individuals trying to discover how to reach people outside their group, all while coming up solely with ideas and agenda items specifically designed to please just this collection of people.

Which, unfortunately, never really works. Ever.

Which, fortunately, isn’t a horrible thing – this feedback discussion will certainly help FFW cater to their dedicated audience and fans. The goal, of course, is to have 750 of these dedicated fans. That’s all they need to fill the Tower for each and every film. Just 750 people for each screening! In a demographic area of 1.2 million!

The challenge, of course, is getting the word out to everyone outside this little group, something difficult to do without a huge campaign, one organized by people decidedly NOT of the close-knit committee.

Here’s hoping the committee makes that decision someday – to gather up all of their limited and precious funds and to hire someone completely outside the box, someone who could give a care about movies, but is a specialist in reaching people no matter what the subject matter.

Will that ever happen? Who knows?

And really, does it matter if it happens? I don’t believe so. FFW has a dedicated wonderful group of volunteers, film lovers, and filmmakers. They put on a delightful little festival aimed at their core crowd. They show select films within a limited thematic range, which also delights their crowd.

It’s really just a matter of cost at this point, no?

So here’s hoping a miracle happens and they get that smaller-sized movie house someday, one that will brim with their little group of cinephiles. They certainly deserve it, because what they do, they do very very well.

Semper Fi, Filmworks. Long may you reign.

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