In an L.A. Weekly piece about the just-opened Landmark plex in West L.A., which is committed to showing mostly indie-level fare, critic Scott Foundas talks to San Francisco exhibitor and Telluride Film Festival co-director Gary Meyer about the future of upscale exhibition.
“It’s my feeling that within the next 10 years, the screen count in the U.S. will go from the current 37,000 to under 10,000 screens,” Meyer predicts. “Films will come out theatrically, on DVD and through on-demand cable simultaneously. There will be the occasional event film that may only be available in theaters, but for everyone else, the economics are going to dictate that things move in this direction.
“There will be centralized megaplexes; you won’t have one in your neighborhood anymore. It will be like back in the old days — you’ll be driving to the `event’ theater. Most of the small neighborhood art houses will go away, and you’ll have art complexes like the Landmark that will survive because they’ll be the only ones showing those films.”
Foundas also speaks to theatrical booker Dick Morris, who sounds a more pessimistic note. “You can’t play 12 screens of art — it’s out of the question,” he proclaims. “Most of the audience for these films is now at Forest Lawn or some other cemetery. For the under-50 crowd, it’s just not the thing to do.”
Wells note: what is Morris saying here? That art film lovers might want to think about throwing in the towel and putting a plastic bag over their heads because the game is basically over? What a fucking cynic!
And yet Landmark COO Ted Mundorff feels that the Landmark is the very theater that could bring a new generation of moviegoers to art films. “People go to a megaplex theater without necessarily having a particular film in mind,” he says. “As we play a wide array of product in the theater, I think it will introduce the theater and introduce the concept and make people want to explore films.
“If they really like going to the theater, they may take a chance on a movie they wouldn’t ordinarily go to see. There becomes a trust factor; I think people will trust what we play.