I think we are in a golden age for art-house cinemas.
When 70 percent of Americans have a movie screen in their pocket, adoption of VR headsets is on the rise, and content is viewed ever increasingly in isolation, the places that create community with actual interpersonal communication are all the more sacred—and there’s a very real public yearning for those places.
The traditional multiplex cinema experience has become homogenized and commoditized, so art-house theaters stand out from the pack. I have had the privilege of attending Arthouse Convergence, the annual gathering of independent art-house cinemas, for the past five years. I’m proud to report that this collective of theaters is producing the best film experiences on the planet, building strong local film communities and educating the next generation of cinephiles. In coming years I believe art-house cinemas will not only survive, but thrive.
What’s the purpose of cinema? I’ve been an exhibitor for 20-some years and my view since the beginning has been that cinema exists to support a director’s vision and bring his or her creative work to as many people as possible. So directors don’t make lightly the decision to shoot on and project from film. Those choosing to shoot on and project from film have a very specific experience in mind for their eventual audience, and that vision should be understood and respected by film fans.
Digital filmmakers say that they can get digital to look just like film by utilizing various post-production filters and effects. But the best way to make your movie look “just like film”… is to shoot on film. There is an inherent clarity, organic texture and depth of color that comes from shooting on film. I, personally, love it.
I watch plenty of content at home. I have kids, and that keeps me away from the cinema more evenings than I like. So I’ve begun to watch more content on streaming services. I love spending time with the family at home, but I also love those nights when my wife, Karrie, and I can get out of the house and go to the cinema. There is no battle between streaming and the cinema; they coexist nicely. No matter how good your streaming options are at home, every once in a while you crave an evening out of the house. Bowling is really more of a direct competitor to cinema than streaming. As long as cinema continues to be a great “out of the house” experience, this industry will be just fine. MM
Tim League is the founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
This article appeared in MovieMaker’s Summer 2016 issue. League photograph by Annie Ray.