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First-Run Home Movies

First-Run Home Movies

Articles - Distribution

What does a producer do after
finding tremendous success with more than 100 independent films
and having served
as the head of a top indie studio for more than 10 years? If you’re
Larry Meistrich, founder of the now-defunct Shooting Gallery and
producer of such Oscar-nominated films as Sling Blade and You
Can Count on Me
, you could invent a whole new kind of distribution
company and attempt to change the face of indie film exhibition.

Deciding that there are far too many films
that don’t get much
further than a festival premiere, Meistrich devised Film Movement,
a company that merges the exhibition of first-run movies in theaters
and on home DVD. Part film club, part indie distribution revolution,
for a small monthly fee, Film Movement subscribers are invited
to premiere a brand-new movie-either at their local art house theater,
or in the comfort of their very own living room.

The idea is catching on: with customers in more than 1,700 cities
nationwide, Meistrich has proven that indie film is indeed alive
and well. Here, he speaks with MM about what the future
holds for his company-and how you can join the movement!

Jennifer Wood (MM): Film Movement has been described
in a number of different ways, and with good reason: the company
is engaged in various facets of the film industry, from distribution
and acquisition to retail sales and promotion. In the simplest
terms, how do YOU define exactly what Film Movement does?

Larry Meistrich (LM): Film Movement
is the future of distribution. By combining the prestige and
awareness of a theatrical release
with the accessibility of the DVD subscription service, we are
able to satisfy the entire North American audience on a first-run
basis-not just those who live near an art-house [theater].

MM: How did the idea for Film Movement originate? What
goals did you have in mind when the company was founded?

LM: Film Movement came as a result of doing the Shooting
Gallery Film Series. We saw how large and diverse the audience
is and how under-served by mainstream Hollywood they are. Our goal
is to reach every U.S. household and create a brand that stands
for outstanding, high-quality films.

MM: Bringing first-run movies to
home DVD, it would seem that the biggest market for Film Movement
would be the smaller
cities and suburbs across the country where art house and independent
movie theaters just don’t exist. Have you found this to be the
case?

LM: Our customers are everywhere. We have customers from
Homer, Alaska to Bradenton, Florida. However, we have been doing
really well in the major cities, where there is a great appreciation
for film.

MM: As far as your demographics go, how many members
do you have at the current time? Where are they concentrated
geographically? And how would you describe the typical Film Movement
member?

FM: We do not give out our subscriber numbers, but I can
tell you that we have members in over 1,700 cities in every state,
the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands. Film Movement is launching
in Canada in February. Our subscribers tend to mirror population
density with strong pockets around college towns and cities in
which we have theatrical runs. They are age and gender neutral.
Smart, culturally-interested people live everywhere and come from
every walk of life.

MM: How would you describe the typical Film Movement
film? Are there certain requirements a film must meet in order
to be considered as your movie of the month?

LM: All of our films meet the same criteria.

1. Must be accepted to the world’s top film
festivals

2. Must win awards at festivals

3. Must have the support of our curators

MM: Though still a relatively young
company, the public-and
media-have really seemed to grab hold of this idea. You’ve been
mentioned in publications ranging from
Forbes and Crain’s to
the
New York Times, Esquire and Newsweek.
Are you surprised at how quickly the idea has caught on? Has
the positive reaction to what you’re doing changed your plans
for the future?

LM: It’s always good to be positively
recognized by the media. The attention has not changed our plans,
but affirmed them.
I am not surprised by how quickly the idea has caught on. The North
American public is a lot smarter than most people give them credit
for.

MM: In addition to the movie club
aspect of Film Movement, you also sponsor a number of screenings
and events. Can you talk
more about the various other aspects of the company-and how our
readers can become involved?

LM: Really, the best way for your readers
to become involved is to join! In addition to receiving a new
release of an award-winning
film each month, we offer additional member benefits such as the
ability to e-mail cast and crew, live Q&As with filmmakers,
film clubs and free screenings come with membership. We are trying
to build a definable community of independent film viewers, not
just sell DVDs.

MM: So far, the company seems geared more toward film
enthusiasts. Having worked in the business for a long time yourself,
do you have any plans to create more opportunities for moviemakers
within the company?

LM: We are trying to create opportunities for filmmakers
through our shorts program by highlighting new works. We ask leading
brands to underwrite the cost of short films to highlight emerging
filmmakers. There are no immediate plans to go into feature production.

MM: What are some of the films we can look forward to
in the coming months?

Upcoming films for 2004 include Mina Shum’s Long Life, Happiness
and Prosperity
starring Sandra Oh (Canada); Imanol Uribe’s Carol’s
Journey
(Spain); Jacques Doillon’s Raja (France/Morocco);
Vicente Amorim’s The Middle of the World (Brazil); and
Rolf de Heer’s Alexandra’s Project (Australia).

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