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Where did the new film releases go?

Where Did They All Go?

By HENRY P. RALEIGH
ART TIMES Jan/ Feb 2010

Did you know that over the summer of 2009 one hundred fifty-four films were released for American theater distribution? Boy, that should have kept you busy for a few months. Well, at least nicely air-conditioned. May was the most bountiful month, disgorging 53 new films, Junes nearly as generous, turning out 40. May’s big offerings were aimed straight at the adolescent market: “Star Trek”, “Terminator Salvation”, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, and “Night at the Museum”.  Now that still left 47 others for you older, less action oriented folks. These included nine documentaries, two romantic comedies, a couple of Japanese films, one from Turkey, and a gaggle of turkeys—look, its the youth market that pays the bills, you know. June permitted the teens little rest hitting them “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and, given they were a month older, some more mature fare as “Hurt Locker”, “The Hangover”, and “Taking of Pelham 1-2-3”.
            The gift of film slowed down a bit in July and August— 28 and 29 respectively, perhaps in preparation for a fresh load of box-office heavies” “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, “Public Enemies”, “Humpday”, and “Funny People” in July; “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra”, “Inglorious Bastards”, and  H2 (Halloween 2) in August. But, other than the films mentioned above how many out of the one hundred and fifty-four films that made up last summer’s movie total can you actually remember? How many of the remaining 133 did you ever hear of? Oh, you didn’t really need to see the big ones to recall nonetheless the blanketing of advertising, the breathless reviews, reports of weekly earnings, the star interviews, the bloggers chatter. And chances are most of those forgotten films never got to within a thousand miles of your local theater. The most fanatic movie buff couldn’t watch twelve films a week for four months even if he could locate a theater that showed them. What Cineplex manager would book along with “Humpday”, “Still Walking” a Japanese story of death and mourning, or “Seraphine”, a film about a poor housekeeper who made beautiful paintings, or “The Window”, the reminiscing of an eighty year old Patagonian man?  Isn’t it risky business enough box-office wise, to book “Taking Woodstock” and then “Julie and Julia”? “Alien in the Attack” is OK but what the hell is Ken Jacob’s “Anaglyph Tom”? Who knows what an anaglyph is, anyway? The franchise epics are sure to swell box-office receipts and those B movies aren’t losers either so long as they are comfortably predictable, near clones of familiar genres—“Pandorum” (Dennis Quaid, a space ship, and evil aliens), “The Perfect Getaway” (couples on an Hawaiian island/ psycho killer), “I Love You, Beth Cooper” (socially inept boys loves prettiest girl in class) –summer is supposed to be a fun time, right?
            Those top and second drawer films were generally all that was available to 2009’s summer film audience. So what happened to the rest? Some will be found, to your puzzlement, in DVD stores under ‘New Releases’. The slash and gash and lo-tech horror may enjoy longer and perhaps profitable runs in small, back-country theaters. Another few, like “Anaglyph Tom” will make the rounds of city art houses along with the better foreign imports. More may be working their way to the cable film channels. Many odd, ignored, lonely movies have a kind of life on cable, usually in the morning and afternoon schedules when viewing numbers are small. Cable movie channels serve as a last stop mortuary for the leftovers. There is a sadness in all this, if you think about it –the dreams and hopes of those filmmakers that fade away with the coming of Labor Day. The persistent and courageous ones will try their luck at the numerous film fair venues around the country. And maybe its possible there is somewhere a sizable colony of Patagonians who will happily pay to watch “The Window”. As an elderly gentleman myself, I hope so.

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