Thursday, January 8, 2009
Apparently film distributors don't think central Illinois folk are sophisticated enough to watch anything worth viewing.
For years I've wondered why none of the critic-lauded fare ever makes it to the local multiplexes. I always assumed the theater owners had at least some say, and plenty of poor taste. Thursday's Cue section of the Journal Star interviewed local theater owners and industry insiders about why "Milk," "The Wrestler," "Rachael Getting Married," "Revolutionary Road," "Frost/Nixon," and other Oscar fare have not yet run through Peoria's projectors. As it turns out, owners of the Rave and Willow Knowles really don't have a say in bringing decent cinema. It's common practice for distributors to slowly roll out the critic darlings in big cities, to garner buzz without spending money on advertising. One would expect that when the film goes into wide release, it would end up here. Not so. I eagerly anticipated "Synecdoche, New York," but as far as I know it never made it, even after going into wide release. According to Danielle Hatch's article, "It's up to when the distributors want to make a given film available to a given market."
It's not like these are esoteric and abstract noise-art projects. "Synecdoche" was written and directed by Andy Kaufman, writer of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Being John Malcovitch," and "Adaptation," some of the best films and inventive writing of the last 20 years, and all three have a pretty wide following.
The distributors are probably right not to waste the celluloid on unappreciative eyes. I attended one night of Peoria's annual Film Noir festival at the historic Apollo Theater. The ornately refurbished theater plays host to a week of classic noir from the genre's golden era of the '40s, to revisionist works from modern decades. My friend and I were two of only 10 people in the audience, despite the fact that the showing was free (with a suggested donation), and gourmet appetizers were provided by a local caterer free-of-charge. Notable speakers provided insight into the period and film before and after each double bill that week. The event was widely publicized in the arts section of the Journal, and columnist Steve Tarter puts the whole thing together. It's not like nobody knew about the damn thing, people just don't care about good film in small-sized cities. Maybe it's a result of years of conditioning provided by the culture barons living on the coasts. At least Peoria has an "art house" cinema, even if it does only show films sparingly, and rarely shows any new foreign or indie cinema.
What is showing in Peoria defines crass. Nine of the 17 movies currently in theaters locally received a 1.5 star-or-less rating from the AP film reviewer printed in the Journal. Five of the 17 received 2 stars. Only THREE of the 17 movies received a three star rating or better. Enjoy your night at the movies, fuckers.