I had the opportunity to see Lance Hammer’s Ballast on Sunday night at the Laemmle Sunset 5. It is a wonderful film and as you probably know – Lance eschewed the standard distribution deals he was offered and decided to self distribute. I had a chance to talk with him after the screening to compare war stories and we both agreed that there needs to be a paradigm shift on the definition of ”theatrical”. “Theatrical” is the industry term for the first “window” of a release normally in movie theaters where they are screened for at least a week starting on a Friday night. This is a very limiting notion of what a theatrical experience should be and has the potential to constrain our own imagination of what constitutes a theatrical experience. I feel that any screening in front of a live audience in which the film is projected in the dark with good sound – approximating the way in which the filmmaker originally intended (so long as they intended to screen it for such a live audience) should be considered a theatrical screening. This should include not only Hollywood’s definition of a typical theatrical run – but should also include festivals, museums, clubs, colleges, film societies or anyone else who will set up a screening of your film in front of a live audience in a manner acceptable to you. This should include Brave New Films network of Living Room Theaters (which are often much bigger than a living room – many of the screenings are in community centers).
Lance and I both agreed that some of our best screenings were in non-theatrical venues. Usually the film is screened for one or two nights and is promoted as a special event – which helps to pack the house.
We also agreed that we as filmmakers need to create a database of such venues similar to the Workbook Projects Theatrical Mapping Project. Eventually we should combine theatrical and non theatrical lists – but currently they need to be approached in slightly different ways – so I feel it is best to keep the lists separate for a little while.
Lance and I have agreed to cull our own information but we could use your help.
If you know of any non traditional venue that has screened films on a regular basis – such as museum, film society, college student or screening association, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add them to the list.
We will post the list here for a start within the next couple of months.