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Ed Burns: "This is the Year that Art House Cinema Died"

by
November 21, 2007
Source: MTV

Purple Violets

Actor Ed Burns has also been a fine filmmaker for years, and his latest directing and writing effort, Purple Violets, looks pretty damn good. Although it debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, Purple Violets isn't getting a theatrical release at all - instead it's going straight to iTunes where you can buy it right now for $12.99. While out promoting the film with, Burn spoke with MTV and commented saying, "this is the year that art house cinema died," referencing the box office failures of Rendition and Lions for Lambs.

As a moviegoer you may know Ed Burns by his face. He was one of the most memorable soldiers from Saving Private Ryan and has since showed up in The Holiday, the upcoming One Missed Call, and some episodes of "Will & Grace" as well. However, this may be the first time you ever learn that Burns has directed 8 films, with Purple Violets being his latest. His stories and his indie filmmaking style have never since caught on and thus his films have always been doomed to poor distribution and empty theaters.

Purple Violets is a relationship drama set in Burns' home of New York City that stars Selma Blair, Patrick Wilson, Debra Messing, and Burns himself. That choice of actors is pretty impressive already, and oh yea, the trailer is great, too. So why is Burns claiming that "this is the year that art house cinema died"? He simply says, "If they're not going to see Reese Witherspoon [in Rendition] and Tom Cruise [in Lions for Lambs] they're not coming out to see me and Patrick Wilson. The audience isn't there anymore."

It's definitely true that the audience isn't there, but where did it go? Maybe it's just changed, drastically, into something much harder to entertain. MTV and Burns pitch the possibility that the style of relationship drama isn't what people like as much as they did back in the mid-90s. Burns claims that the indie hit The Squid and the Whale only made six million dollars in 2005, but "that movie would have made fifteen million in the mid 90s!" It's certain that the general movie-going public's dislikes and likes has changed, but the question still remains: is Burns' statement about art house cinema being dead true?

I wouldn't go as far as to say that art house cinema is dead, instead I would say that studios have lost the ability to properly promote, push, and distribute good art house cinema. An example of great is what Fox Searchlight did with Little Miss Sunshine last year and Napoleon Dynamite the year before that. This year Fox Searchlight has done just as well, with Juno pending to be another big hit. It all comes down to how the studio handles particular films, and then it's up to the public to get attach to particular ones.

The problem is that without good distribution or smart studios, films that could've built an audience or even blew up into something bigger get covered up by everything else. This is what Burns' films are experiencing, except for Purple Violets which didn't even get picked up. This release on iTunes could be a step forward into the future of cinema. Or is it just a way to showcase good indie films that never got properly handled (or even bought) by the big movie studios?

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  • Nate
    Actually, iTunes says it's $12.99, so 2 bucks cheaper
  • Daniel
    'This is what Burns’ films are experiencing, except for Purple Violets which didn't even get picked up' Ed Burns did sit down with a few distribtuion companies and was offered a deal, what he called "your typical specialized film platform," but he declined apparently. It's in an interview on G4.

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