Sunday Discussion: Michael Moore Wants More Docs and Foreign Films in Theaters
Although it's a month late to still be talking about New Year's resolutions, this article just came across my desk this week. Michael Moore is angry that movie theaters across this country aren't showing documentaries and foreign films, at least not as many as they should be. He has publicly stated this his New Year's resolution is to create a publicity campaign to get theaters to devote just one screen to docs and foreign films. Not only do I agree with what he's trying to do, but I think this could finally be the force that's necessary to get this to actually happen.
Moore kicks off this campaign with a statement from Park City about the situation.
"My New Year's resolution is to sit down with the heads of exhibition chains and have them devote one screen in their multiplexes to nonfiction and foreign films," Moore said. He said he's spoken with fellow documentary directors to join him in the initiative, including board members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' documentary branch, though it is unclear if AMPAS would be officially involved.
The question that his idea brings up, at least in my mind, is how movie theaters haven't been accommodating these movies to begin with. Thankfully I have personal experience to reference when it comes to the mainstream movie theater system.
In many chats with a local general manager, they always prefers to dedicate as many screens to a movie that brings in big business as possible. In terms of making money, the theater makes more money with more time, so if two months down the road, something like Shrek is still playing and still selling out screens, they are making a lot of money. However, making money is a discussion for another day. Also part of the equation is the fact that if the demand for a movie is high, it's more of a benefit to accommodate as many interested customers as possible then turn them away and tell them to come back tomorrow because the theater is sold out.
However, this is only the theater I'm referencing, and it's a popular theater that usually sells everything out. Moore goes on to make a good point about how it wouldn't hurt the movie theaters at all to dedicate one screen to docs and foreign films.
"People want to see documentaries, but there's a disconnect between that desire and the exhibitors out there," added Moore, who has been planning the initiative for several months. "We're not asking for charity," he said.
"This could be on the 15th screen of a multiplex that would otherwise have the sixth showing of the new "Harry Potter" movie. Some of these films make $200 or $300 per screen."
While he is right that it wouldn't necessarily hurt the movie theaters, in some ways theaters do make more off of running that sixth Harry Potter movie than putting something else in there, as I just said above. But case in point, I'm still on Moore's side and still want to support this initiative.
I've always been supportive of great documentaries and foreign films and even indie films that don't get enough play time. Too many great movies get buried and it's all because studios and movie theaters don't care enough. The theater owners and managers don't understand that there is a demand and instead are probably concerned that no one would see these movies if they played. But I am certain that if a lot of movie theaters actually started running docs and foreign films, then in turn more people would naturally get interest. It would almost work itself out, where since those kind of movies are playing, people who would never otherwise care about them would start to take interest in them.
While there is much to still question and discuss on this matter, such as what movies would actually get the slot, how studios would better promote those films, and whether there would realistically be a benefit on both sides (the theaters and the consumers), I think Moore's idea is still a good one. Disregard any hatred you may have for Moore as a filmmaker, because his idea here would benefit the film medium in so many ways. Let's just hope he gets everything he needs together to get this off of the ground.