Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tenth Annual Maryland Film Festival

The Tenth Annual Maryland Film Festival is just around the corner (May 1st through the 4th), and I planned to post a list of the fllms I wanted to see, based on their write-ups and a preview night I attended. I am gratified to see that Eric Allan Hatch's list is very close to mine, so I direct you there to get a "head's up" on some of the more interesting offerings (with Youtube clips).

It is often a bit of a problem to get a handle in advance on what is playing at the fest, and I feel that efforts this year to get information out have been much stronger. Attendees will walk into the merry melee of that block with a much clearer idea this year of what they would like to see, and that is a good thing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Schedule Changes at the Charles

As of this Monday, the Charles has cut its first matinée screenings (the two o'clock round) from its weekday schedule. Weekend screenings should remain the same. The website currently implies that the two o'clock round will be cut from Saturdays and Sundays as well, but this is incorrect.

I know from experience that those were the least attended screenings of the week, and also that the theater has considered cutting them out before. It is certainly sad news for employees who worked those AM weekday shifts. I would say it is sad news for theater patrons, but outside of that handful of confused pensioners who will be staring into the lobby this week, waiting for a screening that no longer occurs, I don't foresee too much turmoil or lost business.

Still, I worked many a bustling weekday matinée in the summer there, and I am assuming the Charles has accepted the reality that there is no March of the Penguins surprise summer box office on the horizon.

It is hard not to let out a wistful sigh and wonder what's next for film exhibition in Baltimore. I do know what's up next for this blog: some thoughts on the Maryland Film Festival, which is a scant two weeks away.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Tale of Two Pettigrews


Do my eyes deceive me, or is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day playing at both the Rotunda and the Charles?

I have been watching this since Friday, online and in the paper, and it does not seem to be a mistake.

If one were to peruse the Senator's website, the friendly link to the Charles is intact, as well as a mention of the current Dial M for Murder 3-D revival screenings (is this the third or the fourth time the Charles has shown the film in this way? I have lost count).

Could the war be over? Or does this simply reflect that when the Landmark does not show a film, the Charles is allowed to do so? I would appreciate insight from anyone who can explain in more depth this vagary of the recent film exhibition landscape.

In any case, let us all pray for peace in this ongoing conflict.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Film Exbition in Baltimore in General- March 2008

I found myself this month trying to adjust to the disorienting new rhythm of film exhibiton in Baltimore. There is a much more frenzied aspect to it, with hair-pin turns and sudden stops and starts now the norm. There is also a new screening hierarchy emerging that must be noted.

Certainly I have seen this time of year look something like this before. Having been through more than one "film drought" between Oscar season and the Maryland Film Festival, I know the signs and portents. Strange things have been showing on local screens, films that at other times of the year would not have had a shot at playing Baltimore. It is also true that these days we are drawing more water from the well, and some of what we are drawing is getting pretty shallow.

Extended metaphors aside, there is a new counter-phenomenon hitting area screens: the film that will not die. I cite the case of Atonement, a film I rushed out to see before the end of 2007, assuming that the area run would be brief. Boy, was I wrong. Atonement, a flim that won no major Oscars (apologies to all you "original score" lovers), managed to play at every film house in the city between December and March, even playing past the "DVD barrier," or very close to it. I enjoyed the film, had read the book, but dearly wished for the film to make way for some fresh experience.

Of course, I speak of the "DVD barrier" as if it still exists. For a time, Baltimore movie houses (especially the Charles) seemed to follow this system, not showing a film if the release date for the theater fell past DVD. I cannot count the number of times I saw the clever trailer for Another Gay Movie, a film that did not play at the Charles, perhaps due to a rushed-forward DVD release date. The old "rules" seem to be eroding, however.

Upon contemplation, the situation is a bit paradoxical, with some films playing for what seems like six months (see No Country for Old Men), while others play for six days. Typically, a big film is out on DVD the week it closes locally. Others are already available to rent when they play. The old window has collapsed, and this adds a new complication to Friday night's film choice.

If one were to describe the new heirachy that is emerging, it might be this: Landmark does what it wants, the Senator does what it wants, and the Charles takes what it can get. If the Senator does not have the number one movie in the country and wants it, it just adds it. The Landmark looks at the entire broad world of film, and cherry picks the ones that fit the program. The Charles waits and gets a few scraps from the table. The Charles has recently exhibited films that are castoffs from the other two at a point when the revenue potential/ interest has decreased greatly. Still, from a filmgoer's perspective, this means that if one just waits, maybe it can be seen down the street. Patience is a virtue, right?