Showing a movie print, as many in the movie business know, can be downright Dear, with the cost of the prints themselves being only part of the equation. “Paying fees or a salary to a projectionist, paying for the shipping of film copies (often internationally), paying archive rental fees: these are more or less invisible expenses for the average theater patron. , and those expenses are not easily amortized by ticket sales,” says Max Carpenter, film programmer and founder of the Film Exhibition Fund.
Enter the Film Exhibition Fund’s Celluloid Series Support Grant, which awards grants of a few thousand dollars each to help theaters mount a celluloid series they might not otherwise have been able to afford. This summer, the first two series funded in part by the Film Exhibition Fund reached the public: an Andy Warhol series from Anthology Film Archives and a collection of short films from New York art space Microscope Gallery.
“These days, a commitment to film screening is easier said than done thanks to the dearth of functioning film labs, the categorization of so many prints as archives, and the cost of renting and shipping the movies,” says Anthology programmer Jed Rapfogel. . “In this context, the creation of the Film Exhibition Fund – and the support (financial but also moral) that it provides – is a real godsend! This is a much-needed positive development for venues that are determined to keep film screening alive.
“There’s a feeling of, ‘Only movie snobs care,'” when it comes to preserving celluloid as a film medium, Carpenter says. But for the Film Exhibition Fund, the preservation of film as a medium is less about the film versus digital debate and more about mere availability.
“There’s been a ton of movies that aren’t on DCP,” says Carpenter. “It boils down to, are you interested in cultural history or not? There are people who legitimately say, “No, I want to see the new Tom Cruise movie, and I don’t care about anything from 1980 or earlier.” projection on film “is really the only way to see 90% of things at this point. That’s a much bigger issue than whether you’re a cinematic or a digital person. It’s a much bigger question than I think people don’t realize it.
The Film Exhibition Fund is a “restricted operation,” says Carpenter, which relies on donations to raise enough money to eventually award another grant; its board of directors includes archivist Laura Major, nonprofit film director Jake Perlin and curator David Schwartz. “These small injections of funds are vital [to theaters]“, explains Charpentier. “They seem small and silly to the outsider, but they really are what these [series] sink or swim on it. I’ve personally presented sold-out film screenings that were still in the red, budget-wise.
It may be more expensive in the short term, but – in a macro sense – celluloid is a vital part of the cinematic ecosystem. Although somewhat difficult to archive, requiring specific light, humidity and temperature conditions, once a celluloid print is responsibly archived, it will be playable much longer than digitally stored film. (Hard drives are lucky to last five years without breaking or becoming obsolete, let alone decades.)
From a theater owner’s perspective, showing film on celluloid can be a powerful branding tool. Over the past decade, Carpenter argues, repertoire theaters have realized that if you “show one movie out of 35[mm], you can put that on the marquee, and people will come. Even if these people don’t know the difference between 35mm, 16mm, and 8mm, there’s a realization that seeing a film in print is rare, and rare is special, so if a favorite film pops up in your local theater… well, maybe you’ve seen it dozens of times, but you haven’t seen it At the movie theater. The lure of new experiences is even stronger now, after years of lockdown, with premium formats a major factor in bringing moviegoers back to the cinema. But the urge to get out of the house and see something interesting in a communal setting doesn’t just apply to gigantic screens or movable seats. “I’ve heard anecdotally from many of my colleagues in the film world that a very strange thing has started happening since theaters reopened after the pandemic,” Carpenter says. The normally “fickle” New York audience flocked to the lineup of reps beyond the usual suspects, like your Kubricks and Hitchcocks. “They just go out in droves for things…. It’s a moment now. You have to pick some branding issues, and focusing on celluloid seems like a no-brainer to me.
In the future, Carpenter hopes to expand the Film Exhibition Fund so it can support celluloid in other ways, whether it’s educating future projectionists on the technology required or renting equipment to non-cinema theaters. equipped to broadcast films. Until then, the Fund will continue to fund celluloid screening series with the opening to be determined of the second round of celluloid series support grants. When, exactly, that will happen will depend on donations. Carpenter says, “Nobody’s making any money out of this. It’s literally just a money bank. Once past [a certain] no more subsidies.