Romance in Durango

Just when you (and I) thought Fatherland was done on the festival circuit, I've learned it may have a few screenings left. One will be in March at the Durango Film Festival in Colorado. I believe this is the 22nd festival to screen the film.

For those who haven't been able to attend a festival screening, we will hopefully have some other distribution channels open soon. Whether it be DVD, downloads, whatever - I will post details here.

And seriously, "Romance in Durango" as the title for this post? Put a lot of thought into that one, didn't I? If I were still working at a newspaper, I'd slap myself for that.

Fatherland Distribution / O' Canada

Canadian short film distributor Ouat! Media has acquired the rights to Fatherland, and will be seeking outlets for the film. Ouat! specializes in broadcast and Internet distribution.

You can check back to Fatherland's page at Ouat! Media for details in the future. I'll update here as well, particularly if and when the film is available for purchase or download.

Farewell to the Varsity Theater

Last night was the final screening at the Varsity Theater in Ames. Coupled with the closing of the Ames Theater more than 10 years back, this leaves Campustown with no theater and the City of My Birth with only two multiplexes.

The Varsity was built in 1938 by local theater owner Joe Gerbracht, and had been remodeled into two smaller screens in the mid '90s.

Even when the theater was bought by Cinemark, management of the Varsity fought to bring art house fare to the screen. When "family-friendly" Cinemark refused to show American Beauty (of all films) on their major corporate screens, it was the Varsity that convinced their overlords to let them show the film, resulting in the theater's best-ever box office returns.

I moved away from Ames in 2002, and hadn't been back to the Varsity since. But I developed a special bond with the theater while I was film critic at the Ames Trib, and did what I could to promote the joint.

The Varsity was by no means the perfect cinematic experience. The 1990s renovation gave the historic interior a generic feel, and the theaters were split into long and narrow, short and wide, respectively. Many nights the operation was a one-man show, leaving nobody to sell you a ticket or popcorn while the reels were being changed.

But whatever the flaws of the theater, it's where I saw some of the films that I still think about today. L.A. Confidential, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Monster's Ball, Gosford Park, a packed midnight screening of the MST3K movie - these just off the top of my head.

More importantly, the theater was in Campustown - a part of the community. I could walk there, maybe stop for a beer or a cup of coffee along the way. That kind of experience was already rare when I was growing up. For my son, it may well be non-existent.

Back in the day, I would have railed against the corporate swine who shut the theater down. Don't they understand that art can't be reduced simply to commerce? Where is their sense of duty to the community? But I've worked enough in the industry to understand the thin margins at all levels, including exhibition. And we true believers can't close our eyes clap our hands enough to bring the local theater back to life.

So it's more in mourning than anger that I raise a glass to The Varsity Theater - a noble venture whose time has sadly passed.

Audience Approval

While Fatherland has likely wrapped its festival run, we learned this week that it was the third-highest rated film by the audience at the Port Townsend Film Festival in September.

Audience awards are notorious for Chicago Machine style ballot stuffing, so this is especially encouraging as nobody affiliated with Fatherland was able to attend this festival. They liked us. They really, really, etc.

There has also been a major development on the distribution front, which I hope to post sometime this weekend.