- Observations on film art - http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog -

Sundancing in Mad City

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DB here:

Though we’re in Auckland and missed the opening of Sundance 608 [1] in Madison, we’re happy to read about it. The company played the local press like a violin, slowly building the news and letting local bigwigs get the VIP tour before opening. Redford hinted that he’d show up, then had to stay home to finish cutting Lions for Lambs.

The Capital Times gave robust coverage [2] to the opening night (screening of Paris, je t’aime) and the benefit followup (La vie en rose). Rob Thomas analyzes the impact on local film culture here [3], with comments from Lionsgate and other distributors. In Dean Robbins’ Isthmus interview [4], Redford suggests that Madison was selected because of its progressive politics rather than its movie mania (which I blogged about [5] last year). He also intimates that the new chain may be showing films that didn’t make the cut for his festival. Does this make Sundance a film distributor as well as an exhibitor?

Put aside the amenities [6]–cafe, bar, rooftop restaurant, padded armchairs, free WiFi in the lounges. This is about movies, remember? The first week’s lineup is strong: Waitress, Black Book, Air Guitar Nation, The TV Set, Away from Her, and After the Wedding. If the city’s other art theatres, Westgate and the Orpheum/Stage Door can stay competitive, Madison will have twelve screens devoted to indie and foreign-language fare–pretty good for a city of a couple hundred thousand people.

PS 14 May (New Zealand time): In the blog, Dane101 [7], Sean Weitner provides a vivid and detailed account of going to Sundance 608, including the “convenience fee,” which I’ve never encountered but which makes great sense. One more reason to get homesick for Mad City.

PPS 16 May (NZT): Go here [8] for Ann Althouse’s skeptical take on Sundance 608, including pix. Thanks to Michael Newman for the link.

PPPS 20 May (NZT): Go to this story [9] in The Capital Times and this forum [10] to find out how confusing the “convenience fee” can be, and why it may alienate customers. I hadn’t realized that it doesn’t add that much convenience, becomes obligatory at prime times, and operates even when the theatre is nearly empty.