Of all the questions I've been asked about movies since beginning this gig in 1991, this is No. 1. I write about it once a year.
This year, the question is courtesy of Judie Decker, who posted this comment on my Paul Blart review.
Here's what she said: "We moved to the Tri-Cities last year and I am curious to know why movies such as Milk, Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, etc., take so long (if ever) to reach the Tri-Cities? There seems to be a market for My Bloody Valentine, but no room for a film with a good story to tell. What's up with that? I understand this is a smaller market than Spokane or other larger cities, but it would seem to me there is an audience for these movies in the Tri-Cities. Rather than every multiplex playing the same movies for weeks at a time (i.e, Four Christmases at the Carmike for 2 months) it would be great if one of them would be willing to devote a spot within their theater to showing these and other critically acclaimed movies.
Thanks, Judie Decker."
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Judie, your question is excellent. I recommend you keep your eye on Carmike. Of the three theater companies in Tri-Cities, Carmike is most likely to book the films you ask about. You also should keep an eye on this column for reviews of films showing at Carmike and from the Battelle Film Club. They bring a lot of art films into Tri-Cities.
Let me address your list. Movie prints are very expensive. Turning them to digital from film so they can be seen on digital systems is very expensive, too. They don't make as many prints for non-main stream movies as they do for commercial flicks. Fewer prints means fewer screens. So we have to wait to get them until they've finished in major markets.
Movie producers also do not know much about markets such as the Tri-Cities. To them, an area under 500,000 in population won't draw enough to warrant trying to book the movie. I lobbied Cineplex Odeon -- which turned into Act III and then to Regal -- for years to bring art movies to Tri-Cities. You are correct, there is a market for them here. When Carmike showed up in the late 90s, I worked their booking department, too. Finally, I got the right person at Carmike, and they gave art films a try.
It worked. Carmike's success with art films and energetic efforts to book them has drawn some attention from producers, and they can now regularly book that type of film. But they have a limited number of screens, so it is not as regular as you would like or I would like. But it's better than it has ever been.
Often, I will tell the booking department at Carmike when I catch an art film that I really like. Since it's likely to get a good review, they will try to get it here.
It's safe to say that the films you mention will be in the Tri-Cities. When? I can't say. What I can say is your list has four excellent films and one pretty good one.
My question for you all: Which movie did the Tri-Cities miss in 2008 that you wanted to see?