The 2015 Art House Convergence meetings were held January 19-22 in Midway Utah’s close together Homestead and Zermatt Resorts. Taking place 3 days before
the nearby Sundance Film Festival kicked off in Park City over 500 people came together for spirited discussion about what we all love most – cinema and
its place and future in America.
As we all know ‘art house cinemas’ have a special role in promoting and exhibiting the films we like best – documentaries, experimental, political works,
international films and films about gays, women, Latinos and other minorities. Among the attendees this year were dozens of reps from regional film
festivals that base their schedules in local art houses.
Under the umbrella of the Sundance Institute the Convergence began 10 years ago with 25 delegates. , The first 2 years was a gathering of 12 Art Houses
specially invited to attend Sundance FF. Eight years ago, to quote AH Convergence Conference Founder from Michigan Russ Collins, “we began the Art House
Convergence, a conference to allow every interested independent cinema the opportunity to participate” in the unique learning experiences and camaraderie
felt by all who attended the original meetings and also now today’s much larger, more inclusive schedule of talks, meetings.
Sydney Levine and I attended this year and were really energized and amazed by the range and passion of the topics. From analyzing the business model of
independent film exhibition in various theaters and locales, to analyzing audience demographics, marketing services under new technologies, building
audiences, and topics such as outreach to children, minority groups and women.
The first panel I attended was Monday morning January 19 in Salt lake City (before getting buses up to Midway) and I have to say I was amazed that they
openly spoke of their mission in the indie art houses as community organizers. This panel was about relations with local government (Salt Lake City here)
towards obtaining public funding for theaters and event programs.
The AH Convergence also maintains a cordial and supportive relations ship with the Sundance Institute which has graciously supported it since the
beginning. Keri Putnam, who oversees all programs of the Institute gave a provocative talk Tuesday evening challenging the AH Convergence to expand its
thinking and activities. Sundance Fest Head John Cooper attended as did Head programmer Trevor Groth.
We look forward to the future of this ambitious, thoughtful and expanding organization. The composition of the meetings was interesting and worth
commenting upon here. It seemed half attending were split between theater owners / operators and regional fest attendees. I liked it VERY MUCH that it was
/ is not dominated by NYC and LA movie biz types (ha ha, i.e. like ‘us’) but rather from thoughtful, experienced people from across the US. Age wise it
seemed well split between older types and younger ones. There were a lot of women there but not as many as men. Sydney raised the point powerfully at a
full meeting that it was overwhelmingly (almost all?) white / Anglo types there. Where were the Latinos, Blacks and Asians? This observation was commented
on and taken to heart so we’ll see how things develop. Also to be discussed is how to attract these minority audiences to the Art Houses and their / all
My last comment is this is good for now that we are opening a US based national discussion on these important topics. We also feel Art House Convergence
had an auspicious international outreach. There were dozens of international sales agents and US distributors in attendance and on panels. Sylvia Cibien
from Europe’s Art House organization CICAE attended.
I think this meeting showed that we in the US now are ahead of the curve in organizing this important arena but we must continue to reach out to our
colleagues worldwide to discuss all issues. And to support each other in all ways.
Russ Collins repeatedly pointed put this fascinating intriguing statement – “US theatrical distribution has been stable for the past 50 years now. So?? How
does this affect us, our businesses, actions and involvement in the new technologies as they come on line?” Thanks Russ. Worth considering.