All Posts By

Alison Kozberg

Nikki_Trylon_1

Around the Art House: 35mm at the Trylon Cinema

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Screening films six nights a week, the formerly micro Trylon Cinema in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis, MN opened in 2009 and expanded in 2017 to its current 90 seat capacity. They host classic and repertory series regularly with themes including Reaganland: 1980s Dystopia, Robert Bresson: Transcendence and Austerity and Majesty in Monochrome: Black and White Cinemascope. The Trylon also regularly goes on location to host screenings at the city’s historic Heights and Riverview theaters including the Minneapolis Hitchcock Festival. The 1926 Beaux Arts Heights Theater can project 35mm and 70mm and the Trylon regularly presents 35mm, believing that “35mm film has a warmth and feel that should be part of the moviegoing experience, just like the real butter on our popcorn.” Most nights you can find Cinema Manager and expert film handler Nikki Weispfenning behind the projector threading, winding, and ensuring the excellent presentation of prints ranging from archival gems to faded cult classics. Here, Managing Director Alison Kozberg asks Nikki questions about life in the booth.

Nikki, you are a 35mm projectionist. How did you learn to handle film?
I learned to project when I was living in New York. I worked box office and concessions at the Sunshine Cinema (which closed in 2018) — after a couple years they promoted me to shift manager, which involved projecting. At the time, every theater had at least one union projectionist. The Sunshine’s was Joe Lynch and he taught me how to thread projectors. I followed him around for a few shifts and I ran one film – this was in 2003. But then I moved to DC for a year and didn’t work in a theater again until I moved back to Minneapolis in 2007. A couple people I knew were helping to reopen the Parkway Theater, so I started there as a part-time projectionist. And once I was at the Parkway, I learned everything I didn’t know very quickly on the job. I started working at the Trylon in 2011.

Tell me a bit about the Trylon.
The Trylon Cinema is a 501c3 nonprofit. We only have three employees including me and John Moret our programmer, as well as amazing volunteers including our Executive Director. It is a one screen theater and one of my favorite places in the world. Our programming is almost entirely repertory, with the exception of Sound Unseen (usually music documentaries). We have presented films by the Shaw Brothers on 35mm, as well as series on Kobayashi, Cocteau, Ava Gardner, and Warren Oates.

Let’s talk about prints.
In the 35mm vs. digital debate, I almost always land in favor of film. Prints can be really memorable, just because of weird little things going on with them. Film can be more challenging and is definitely more work, but it is more fun! When something goes wrong with film I am much more likely to be able to fix the problem in a timely manner. When the film breaks, you fix it and are going again in 90 seconds! When a server loses power, you are down for at least 10 minutes and it is nerve-wracking.

I like pristine prints and I like grittier ones — they both have their place. We showed a print of Bergman’s Shame that was one of the best prints I have ever seen — just amazing. It was my first time watching that movie, and the print was so gorgeous that it definitely made me appreciate that movie more than if I had seen it under less ideal circumstances. But on the other hand, the print of Wild At Heart we showed last month is the same one we showed a couple years ago and it is a bit beat up  — which seems perfect for that movie… I love that movie, but it has a trashy vibe that is enhanced by a few scratches.

What kind of projectors does the Trylon have?
For 35mm we have two Century model SAs. We only run 2000 ft reels (some booths run from platters or from 6000 ft reels). Every 15-20 minutes a projectionist is threading, watching for cue marks, and making the changeover between the two projectors.

What is your favorite film that you have projected?
My favorite film to project is Hausu. We show it every year at the Trylon, last year we only had four screenings, but some years we’ve had as many as nine. I’ve only seen it twice, but I’ve projected it more than any other film.

The Trylon used to have a series in which programmers defended films that are generally hated, is there a film that you would like to defend?
My defenders pick would either be Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights or Gleaming the Cube.

You introduced me to a game in which one selects their favorite film for every year of their life. What are your favorite films from 1984, 1996, and 2002?
1984: Streets of Fire
1996: Irma Vep
2002: Esther Kahn

A Letter to Variety

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

To the Editor: Re “Inside Indie Movie Theaters’ Battle to Survive” (Variety Feature)

Brent Lang and Matt Donnelly are right, thousands of screens in the United States are operated by independents. However, the depiction of these theaters as imperiled is incomplete and inaccurate.

Throughout the United States, independent cinemas that prioritize community engagement and ambitious programming are thriving. At Art House Convergence, a national association committed to advancing excellence in film exhibition, participation in our annual conference has increased from 27 in 2008 to over 700 in 2019, a reflection of the number of art house cinemas opening, expanding, and embracing the vitality of theatrical exhibition.

Joined by the guiding principle of “community-based, mission-driven,” these theaters, which number in the hundreds, aren’t merely trying to “out hustle the bigger circuits.” They are effectively strategizing financial growth and sustainability to support exemplary theatrical experiences, media education programs, and meaningful conversations — and their communities are growing. Since 2009, for instance, the Gateway Film Center (Columbus, OH) has doubled its attendance, while the Belcourt Theatre (Nashville, TN) has increased attendance by 55% over the past five years, and other theaters such as the Brattle Theatre (Cambridge, MA), and Pickford Film Center (Bellingham, WA) also report steady growth.

These organizations, including the Michigan Theater Foundation (Ann Arbor, MI), the parent organization of Art House Convergence and two historic theaters, are mature arts nonprofits. The Michigan Theater Foundation currently has a membership of over 7,000 individuals and since 2015 has raised $9 million dollars for a major renovation of its historic State Theatre. Likewise, Film Streams (Omaha, NE) recently completed a $9 million capital campaign to restore and renovate the historic Dundee Theater with outstanding results — in 2018 they enjoyed increased revenue, attendance, membership, and ensured that 30% of exhibited films were directed by women.

Art house theaters across the country are also expanding their programming to include robust media arts curricula. The Jacob Burns Film Center (Pleasantville, NY) has implemented education programs for over 150,000 students since 2001, while the Bryn Mawr Film Institute (Bryn Mawr, PA) educates 5,000 students each year, offering filmmaking and documentary courses as well as educational opportunities for elementary school students.

At the same time, in the face of our current social and political polarizations, independent theaters including the Nickelodeon Theatre (Columbia, SC), FilmScene (Iowa City, IA), and the Nightlight Cinema (Akron, OH) are giving audiences the opportunity to see films from countries including Palestine, Kenya, Lebanon, and Colombia. These screenings are indispensable invitations to encounter diverse perspectives while enlarging one’s understanding of the world, not just presentations of “obscure foreign language movies” as Variety describes. 

Art houses are successfully crafting community partnerships with other organizations, as the Doris Duke Theatre (Honolulu, HI) did with Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking on their “Women in Film” series, and collaborating with each other on programming initiatives like The Seventh Art Stand, championed by the Northwest Film Forum (Seattle, WA), and Science on Screen, which through a partnership between the Coolidge Corner Theatre (Brookline, MA) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has helped 82 cinemas host science related programs.

These vibrant theaters demonstrate that audiences everywhere appreciate collective viewing and the public square. Art houses are going to keep bringing people together, showing incredible films, and facilitating challenging conversations —  that’s far more than just keeping the lights on.

Alison Kozberg
Managing Director
Art House Convergence
Los Angeles, CA

Makenzie Peecook
Conference Manager
Art House Convergence
Ann Arbor, MI

AHC Conference Hosts Filmmakers Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

AlexCristina

On the eve of the world premiere of their new film The Infiltrators in the NEXT section at the Sundance Film Festival, filmmakers Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera attended the 2019 Art House Convergence annual conference for a conversation about cinema, the U.S./Mexico border, and Latino-identity.

The Infiltrators, a formally inventive hybridization of narrative and documentary that combines footage of the real-life Dreamers who go undercover in detention facilities with dramatic reenactments of their efforts, received the NEXT Audience Award and NEXT Innovator Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

This conversation took place in the final days of a prolonged partial-shutdown of the U.S. federal government (the longest in the country’s history) spurred by a political stalemate over the construction of a border wall.

Collectively, Ibarra and Rivera have been making films about the border and its cultural, economic, and technological reverberations for over twenty years. They were founding members of the artist-run Latino distribution collective SubCine, and have participated in community based cinema programming through the ITVS community cinema program and Science on Screen respectively.

Information about booking The Infiltrators is forthcoming. However, their earlier documentary and narrative films about the production of the border as a place and idea are currently available for booking.

Las Marthas (Cristina Ibarra, 2013, 69 min.) Book this film.

las-marthas-sig-1920x830

Unlike any other, the annual debutante ball in Laredo, Texas is part of a lucrative month-long festival honoring George Washington’s birthday. LAS MARTHAS follows two young women as they prepare for this elaborate rite of passage: Laurita, a 13th-generation debutante descended from Laredo’s original Spanish land grantees who questions debutante society’s class system geared toward girls like herself; and Rosario, a high-achieving, Mexican-raised and U.S.-schooled outsider struggling to understand the elite society’s unspoken rules.

Tracing the event’s origins back to 1898, the film works to unravel why a town like Laredo – with a population that is 98% Mexican – feels such affinity for America’s Founding Father. Despite history and all odds, the celebration perseveres and flourishes thanks to the Mexican American girls who wear this gilded tradition in the form of elaborate colonial gowns. LAS MARTHAS is a beautifully drawn and sometimes humorous, coming of age portrait of these two young women as they navigate this complex tradition in a time of economic uncertainty and political tension over immigration and border relations between the US and Mexico.

The Last Conquistador (Cristina Ibarra & John J. Valdez, 2008, 60 min.) Book this film.

Renowned sculptor John Houser has a dream: to build the world’s tallest bronze equestrian statue for the city of El Paso, Texas. He envisions a stunning monument to Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate that will honor the contributions Hispanic people made to building the American West. But as the project nears completion, troubles arise.

Native Americans are outraged — they remember Oñate as the man who brought genocide to their land and sold their children into slavery. As El Paso divides along lines of race and class in The Last Conquistador, the artist must face the moral implications of his work. A co-production of Independent Television Service (ITVS). A co-presentation of Latino Public Broadcasting, Native American Public Telecommunications and KERA Dallas/Fort Worth.

Sleep Dealer (Alex Rivera, 2008, 90 min.) Book this Film

Sleep Dealer is approved for Sloan Foundation-funded Science on Screen programs

SleepDealer

Sleep Dealer is a Sundance award-winning sci-fi thriller packed with stunning visuals and strong social and political themes.

Memo Cruz (Luis Fernando Peña) is a young man in near-future Mexico. When his family is victim of a misguided drone attack he finds himself with no option but to head north, towards the U.S./Mexico border. But migrant workers cannot cross this new world border – it’s been sealed off. Instead, Memo ends up in a strange digital factory in Mexico where he connects his body to a robot in America.

Memo’s search for a better future leads him to love, loss, and a confrontation with a mysterious figure from his past.

The Los Angeles Times writes “Adventurous, ambitious and ingeniously futuristic, Sleep Dealer is a welcome surprise. It combines visually arresting science fiction done on a budget with a strong sense of social commentary in a way that few films attempt, let alone achieve.“

 

Department of Justice Reviews antitrust judgement, the Paramount Consent Decrees

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

On August 2, 2018 the Department of Justice announced that it would review 1,300 legacy antitrust judgements including the Paramount Consent Decrees, a series of consent decrees that restricted certain behaviors by specific motion picture studios.

During this review the Department of Justice will determine if  the decrees should be terminated or modified The Department of Justice will review responses until October 4, 2018.

What are the Paramount Consent Decrees?

In 1938 the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit alleging that eight motion picture studios had conspired to control the motion picture industry. Following the trial the district court and Supreme Court found these studios guilty of a widespread conspiracy to illegally fix motion picture prices and monopolize film distribution and movie theatre markets. Following these rulings the defendants entered into the Paramount Consent Decrees, agreements with the Department of Justice that regulated specific behaviors related to motion picture distribution and exhibition.

Which studios are subject to the Paramount Consent Decrees?

The remaining studios that are subject to the Paramount Consent Decrees are MGM, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. as well as their subsidiaries.

What behaviors do the Paramount Consent Decrees restrict?

  1.  Vertical Integration of motion picture distribution and exhibition: The decrees separated film distribution and exhibition and divested five studios of their theaters, requiring them to receive special court permission to acquire theaters in the future.
  2. Block Booking: The decrees regulated the practice of bundling multiple films into a single license — licensing one film or group of films on the condition that an exhibitor would also license another feature or group of features. Studios could no longer force exhibitors to book their entire slate, instead the decrees gave exhibitors the right to reject 20% of feature films not previously trade shown.
  3. Circuit Dealing: Studios were required to license each film individually, theater by theater without discrimination in favor of specific theaters.
  4. Resale Price Maintenance/ Price Fixing: The decrees prohibited studios from setting minimum prices for movie theater admission.  
  5. Overbroad Clearances: The decrees prohibited studios from granting clearances (exclusive film licenses) between theaters that are not in substantial competition.

What other antitrust laws regulate the motion picture industry?

Since 1890 the Sherman Antitrust Act has made certain types of anticompetitive and monopolistic behaviors illegal.  The Act outlawed concentrations of power that restrained trade or inhibited interstate commerce.

Take Action: Protect Quality Film Exhibition

It is an important time to voice your support for the regulation of the monopolization of  the motion picture industry.

As mission-driven, community-based cinemas we purposefully program and exhibit motion pictures in service of the towns, cities, and regions where we are based. Our sustained commitment to community-service — to recognizing the needs, questions, and concerns of specific people and places — improves the quality of film exhibition, contributes to the economic wellbeing of the cities and towns where we are located, and increases consumer choice.

The regulation of anticompetitive behaviors in the motion picture industry is absolutely essential to preventing market consolidation, ensuring fair pricing, and protecting quality film exhibition. Allowing a small, powerful group of motion picture producers and distributors to own theaters risks making independent theaters dependent upon their competitors for content. While allowing large studios to set prices, control clearances, and bundle films into a single license hampers the ability of small business to innovate, collaborate with other small business (particularly small distributors), develop eclectic screening series, and initiate programs intended to invigorate their local economies — in short, it could give consolidated, large corporations excessive influence over programming, strategy, and pricing — allowing them to withhold content and obstruct efforts to work with multiple distributors/ suppliers.

While enforcement of many of the provisions of the Paramount Consent Decrees has eroded over time, with a variety of studios receiving special permission to enter into the film exhibition business in the 1980s, and disputes over licensing and clearances becoming the subject of multiple lawsuits over the course of the last decade, this does not mean that anti-monopolistic  regulation no longer serves a purpose in the motion picture industry. Instead, it is a moment to consider how enhanced regulations could ensure that small, independent exhibitors are able to continue innovating, working with multiple distributors, and providing consumers across America with access to quality film exhibition.

What You Can Do:

Tell the Department of Justice why antitrust legislation is important.

Remember the Department of Justice’s inquiry is focused on how the Paramount Decrees protect market competition and efficiency. Since much antitrust regulation focuses on protecting competition, focus your response on the ways that regulation can enhance and protect consumer choice, fair pricing, competition, and commerce.

Check out our glossary below.

The DOJ is accepting comments on the following questions until October 4, 2018.

  • Do the Paramount Decrees continue to serve important competitive purposes today? Why or why not?
  • Individually, or collectively, are the decree provisions relating to (1) movie distributors owning movie theatres; (2) block booking; (3) circuit dealing; (4) resale price maintenance; and (5) overbroad clearances necessary to protect competition? Are any of these provisions ineffective in protecting competition or inefficient? Do any of these provisions inhibit competition or cause anticompetitive effects?
  • What, if any, modifications to the Paramount Decrees would enhance competition and efficiency? What legal justifications would support such modifications, if any?
  • What effect, if any, would the termination of the Paramount Decrees have on the distribution and exhibition of motion pictures?
  • Have changes to the motion picture industry since the 1940s, including but not limited to, digital production and distribution, multiplex theatres, new distribution and movie viewing platforms render any of the Consent Decree provisions unnecessary?
  • Are existing antitrust laws, including, the precedent of United States v. Paramount, and its progeny, sufficient or insufficient to protect competition in the motion picture industry?

Organizations can submit their commits via email to atr.mep.information@usdoj.gov

Read more about the review here.

Glossary

  • Competitive/ Market Competition Conditions in which different companies or economic entities sell or provide similar products or services and rival for consumers. According to the Federal Trade Commission “Aggressive competition among sellers in an open marketplace gives consumers — both individuals and businesses — the benefits of lower prices, higher quality products and services, more choices, and greater innovation.”
  • Monopoly When a company becomes the only provider of a good or service with no reasonable or tenable substitute.
  • Monopsony When a single entity becomes the only buyer for a good or service (imagine if all food suppliers sold to a single food retailer).
  • Price Fixing an agreement among competitors that raises, lowers, or stabilizes prices or competitive terms  (since the 1980s, regulation has primarily been concerned with raising consumer prices, less attention has been paid to when competitors lower prices)
  • Trust A group of businesses or companies tied together through contracts and cross-ownership.
  • Vertical Integration When a company controls multiple stages of the supply chain.  

Questions? Contact us.

 

A Letter to The Los Angeles Times

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

As a coalition of mission-driven film exhibitors committed to using cinema to foster shared experiences and inspire collective action, we share the outrage voiced by Haifaa al-Mansour, Susanne Bier, Sara Colangelo, Nicole Holofcener, and Tamara Jenkins’ in The Los Angeles Times‘ August 30 piece “Five Female Directors, many stories: A conversation on filmmaking, Netflix and more” about the lack of funding and support for projects helmed by female-identifying and gender nonconforming filmmakers. To remain relevant and compelling the motion picture industry must dismantle its established power structures and support the careers and visions of filmmakers who have remained unrepresented and unheard for far too long. Change is imperative and long overdue.

However, in light of the roundtable’s diminishment of the importance of movie theaters, we must assert the vital part we have to play in advancing equity in the motion picture industry. Art House cinemas connect films to the public in ways that are substantive and offer tangible benefits. We teach media literacy, art appreciation, critical viewing practices, and we help audiences speak with each other — using films as the basis for conversations about race, gender, and policy. In a fragmented media landscape we remain committed to facilitating meaningful exchanges between people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Recently Art House cinemas have celebrated the trailblazing women who shaped the film industry, as the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA did with “Year of Women in Cinema,” women’s contributions to the labor movement, as the BAMcinématek in Brooklyn did with “Women at Work: Labor Activism,” devoted festivals to showcasing work by female and queer filmmakers, as Cinema Detroit does with “Shetown” and “Trans Stellar,” and reserved entire months for films directed by women, as FilmScene in Iowa City did with “Women’s March.” We have screened films by Agnès Varda,  Aurora Guerrero, Chloé Zhao, Ava DuVernay, Lucrecia Martel, and foregrounded the work of women activists, educators, and lawmakers in events to accompany documentaries like Whose Streets? and RBG.

Art House cinemas support women as leaders — we employ women executives, programmers, educators, and managers — yet there is still a long way to go.

Publicly accessible cinemas and shared experiences are essential tools in the fight for equity.  We invite inspiring filmmakers like Haifaa al-Mansour, Susanne Bier, Sara Colangelo, Nicole Holofcener, and Tamara Jenkins, and powerful corporations like Netflix, to work with us.

We want to screen your films. We want to include them in conversations, roundtables,  retrospectives, and series. We want to invite you to our theaters, and to continue to support and program the local and emerging filmmakers inspired by your achievements.

Sincerely,

Alison Kozberg
Managing Director
Art House Convergence