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Actress Julianne Moore and Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard took aim at day-and-date video-on-demand (VOD) releases on Thursday, saying they degrade the important bond between independent film and the theatrical experience.
Many independent distributors are increasingly relying on VOD and a limited release in cinemas, a practice Bernard and SPC co-president Michael Barker have never employed.
Addressing the state of the independent business on the final day of CinemaCon, Bernard said that if a movie is worthy of playing in a theater, a cinema owner will select it, and that to do a day-and-date release in several theaters and on VOD sends a dangerous message.
“The exhibitors are the gatekeepers and they choose the movies that are worthy of playing in theaters,” said Bernard. If a film doesn’t deliver, moviegoers have been “sort of fooled into thinking it will be a pleasurable experience” by virtue of the fact that it is playing in a theater.
Moore, who has spent most of her career starring in specialty films and won the Oscar earlier this year for SPC’s Still Alice, said that a feature film should be seen in a theater. “We’re always so disappointed when you hear the words ‘day-and-date.’ I think, ‘Oh, really?’ We work very hard as creators in creating a theatrical experience. I’m married to a director [Bart Freundlich]… and a movie never looks the same on television,” she said.
Moore also had a message for the major studios: “Hollywood isn’t in the business of creating parts for actors. They’re in the business of creating product. It’s about making a package,” she said. And in terms of her own moviegoing habits, Moore said she would go to see more films if women were better represented.
Bernard and Moore appeared on the independent film panel alongside AMC Theatres president of programming Robert Lenihan and director Jay Roach, who is next in theaters with Trumbo, based on the life of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Andrew Karpen‘s new film company, Bleecker Street, will open Trumbo on Nov. 6 in select theaters.
“This is my first indie film,” Roach said. “Getting to work with a new company that is just jumping into the game, and giving filmmakers the chance to tell the story they want to tell and make a film about a Hollywood communist, is creatively fantastic.”
Later in the conversation, Roach said that Borat, which he produced, probably should have been an indie film. “Fox didn’t really know what to do with it. They were going to release it on 2,000-some screens and then cut it to 800,” he said.
Of course, Borat quickly took off at the box office in early November 2006, after Sacha Baron Cohen did a guerilla-style marketing campaign, and expanded into more than 2,500 theaters in its second weekend.
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