Small films can have a long life
by Birgit Heidsiek
- Titles such as Shirley – Visions of Reality and Sagrada demonstrate new trends in European arthouse cinema
The Austrian feature film Shirley – Visions of Reality [+see also:
film profile] by Gustav Deutsch, for which 13 famous paintings by Edward Hopper were built as sets in a film studio and the characters brought to life, has become a minor arthouse hit in the Netherlands, as the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam has been showing the title for seven weeks now. “We are playing this film twice a day,” says René Wolf, head of acquisitions and programmer. “We are the only cinema in Amsterdam that is showing this movie.”
Shirley, which opened across five screens in the Netherlands, is screening exclusively in other cities, too. Meanwhile, the film has taken 7,500 admissions, making almost €60,000 at the box office and giving an average of 1,500 admissions per print. “Compared to other small arthouse titles, that is above average,” states Wolf. Sold by Vienna-based EastWest Filmdistribution, Shirley will be released by KMBO Films in France and Rendezvous Filmverleih in Germany in mid-September.
Due to digitisation, there is an ongoing trend in arthouse cinema for more and more films to be released with a higher number of prints. “The failures are bigger and the successes are bigger,” explains Wolf. “The arthouse theatres can take more titles than they used to do in the era of 35mm. Because of this, there is more trial and error.” Since the films are already considered a success or a failure after the first weekend, the titles have a shorter lifespan than they did in the analogue age.
But films such as Shirley and the Swiss documentary Sagrada by Stefan Haupt prove that some particular small arthouse titles can enjoy a longer life in cinemas. The one-and-a-half-year-old Sagrada was released successfully in France and also opened in other countries while his subsequent movie, The Circle [+see also:
interview: Stefan Haupt
film profile], was already premiering at the Berlinale this year. “For smaller films, there is no need to open everywhere at the same time,” emphasises Wolf. “A day-and-date release is not necessarily the best solution, because smaller films can have a second life in other countries.”