Since 2008, just before the Sundance Film Festival begins in mid-January, art house cinema operators from around North America (and beyond) have been gathering for Art House Convergence. The conference is held over four days in Midway, Utah, not far from Park City where Sundance takes place.
A record 500 attendees showed up for this year’s event, representing independent theatre operators, non-profit cultural centers, distributors, and the many companies that support and work with art houses (think Vista Entertainment Solutions, NEC, Ymagis, Sonic Equipment, etc.). There was more information and news coming out of Art House Convergence this week than we can possibly cover here in the digest, so we’ll be following up on many of the leads gathered there over the coming weeks. Instead, we’d like to focus on two corporate announcements that got those at the confab buzzing.
First up was Tugg, the on-demand-movie service that allows audiences to request screenings of titles at a given movie theatre on a specific date. If enough audience members sign-up ahead of time, the film is booked and played. The three year old start-up is now partnering with New Balloon, which is being described in the media as a cross-platform media venture whose purpose is “advancing innovative storytelling technologies”. If that sounds rather subjective, or confusing, then you’ll likely be thrown by how Anne Thompson of Indiewire describes the initiative the two companies are teaming up on:
They will form a multi-million dollar Event Cinema Fund. Through the fund, both companies will provide high-impact investment capital, expertise, and other resources toward marketing and distributing culturally significant films.
Our suggestion is to read Thompson’s piece on the announcement. It’s filled with the usual buzz phrases found in such announcements like “enhance traditional release strategies”. This is no fault of Thompson, as companies often struggle to convey these types of hybrid, experimental efforts when talking to the media and thus often fall into the trap of using such language.
Thompson, who was one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Art House Convergence (and deservedly so), also reported on a more straightforward bit of news about content distributor Emerging Pictures, which was acquired by 20 Years Media Corp., a digital media company based in Vancouver.
I ran into Ira Deutchman, co-founder of Emerging Pictures as well as chairman of the film program at Columbia University School of the Arts, on the first day of Sundance. He explained the deal was meant to give Emerging Pictures the deep pockets required to take the company to its logical next level. Having helped overcome the many digital distribution hurdles alternative content and niche films often face, the next obstacle Deutchman believes will be marketing.