Monday, November 29, 2010

Start the Revolution

When you walked into your local cineplex this past Thanksgiving holiday, which I'm sure many of you did, you probably plopped down around 10 bucks per ticket. Roughly half of those 10 dollars goes back to the studio, while the remainder goes to the theater, who uses about 95% of that half to facilitate the operation of the movie theater. So when you consider that theaters make a profit of less then 5% of the total ticket price you pay to get in, then you can start to see why they charge 7 bucks for cheap nacho cheese that barely covers the measly amount of chips that accompany it.

When you choose what movie theater to go to when watch a film, you are making a choice to support the artist who make the film and the exhibitors who pay an arm and a leg to show you that film. We've all been to a crappy movie theaters in our respective town and the only reason those theaters are still in business is because A) they exhibit films that a large percentage of audiences want to see and B) a large portion of the population surrounding that theater choose to visit that theater when they watch films. The world of cinema economics is a complex topic that I hope to share with you over the course of this blog and the e-magazine, but for now I just wanted to touch upon about the importance of being aware of how our cinema dollars are spent and who benefits. Specifically, I want to talk here about supporting your local film initiatives.

What do I mean by "local film initiatives"? Good question, reader. By local film initiatives, I'm referring to any sort of film related "event" that is put on by local companies, organizations, individuals, etc. For example, recently the Dallas Film Society put together a fundraising dinner in Dallas, where film lovers would get an opportunity to hear an intimate conversation with Robert Duvall. Proceeds from the event went into various programs that the Dallas Film Society actively produce, such as invigorating local students to follow their passion in the film arts. I volunteered to work at the event, to show support for ventures like this one and I was lucky enough to shake Robert Duvall's hand. And as I did, all I could think about was how proud I was for him to know that yes, even in the "red" state of Texas, there are intellectual film lovers who know his body of work.

A months ago, The Herculano & Elida Hernandez Foundation put on their 11th Annual Vistas Film Festival here in Dallas. Now this festival isn't as large at the DIFF, but it has survived throughout some tumultuous years and it showcases films that might not otherwise be seen in this part of the country. I caught several films at the festival and had the opportunity to chat with many of the filmmakers themselves. Being in the midst of that festival, I was once again filled with pride that a scrappy festival such as this one still exists and is unique to our city. However, I was disappointed at the low turnout at some of the screenings and at was a shame that the Q&A for some of the producers and directors was virtually empty. Marketing for the event may have something to do with it, but I was surprised that film students and enthusiasts didn't take advantage of these intimate settings to speak with some prestigious film makers. Heck, I got to talk with the director of "Angels in the Outfield" and heard candid stories from the set of that film; stories that I'm sure are not on any DVD commentary track or any book. These type of priceless moments are only discovered within the communities that events like these create.

I'll be the first to admit that there are a slew of Hollywood blockbusters that I'm looking forward to seeing this holiday season, and more than likely I will be seeing these films at a chain theater (although I always make it a point to visit the independent film theaters like the Angelika or the Inwood theater). Our society has become too familiar with the Hollywood movie experience to totally give it up, and that's okay. But, as a consumer, specifically a consumer of entertainment, it's important that we spread our dollar around to include the filmmakers and organizations around our communities that need our support much more than the big Hollywood boys do. We don't spend all of our money at chain restaurants like McDonalds, do we? No, sometimes we visit the mom-n-pop, hole-in-the-walls in our neighborhoods that serve food that you would never find at a McDonalds. We crave that variety and the quality that can only be found from local passion. The same should be said for our cinematic entertainment. And with the advent of the Internet, there is no excuse to not know what is happening within your local film community. The cinema initiatives in your area depend on the film enthusiasts of that community to forgo their consumption of mass media and partake in the communal nature of enjoying least once in a while.

Tonight I'll be going to Downtown Dallas to see an exhibition of 3D cinema being projected on a large scale. It may be gimmicky, it may be commercial, it may just plain suck. But its sharing a cinematic experience, produced by a local organization, that matters. And when I'm standing outside in the cold tonight, watching light and shadows dance on the wall of a skyscraper, I'm hoping to feel a kinship with all those people, a hundred years ago who stood in nickelodeons and in the back rooms of parlors, experiencing the magic of a new art form that, if nothing else, is bringing people together.

If you live in Dallas, hope to see you there. If you don't live in Dallas, find the nearest cinema event, put on by local people, and watch, discuss and experience.

Show them that the revolution of cinema is starting with you.