By Mark Ehrenkranz | Indiewire April 11, 2014 at 9:58AM
A National Screening Series is a new concept where theaters across the country screen a movie before it’s released, then simulcast a Q&A with filmmakers and talent to audiences immediately following the screening. As the producer of the newly launched NY Film Critics National Series (NYFCS), I am obviously partial to the idea, but there are some real benefits to the idea of a national screening, which I outline below:
Here are 10 benefits to a national film screening series:
1. Filmmakers and audiences can connect. Filmgoers and talent from the film can see and speak to each other via in-theater simulcast. This provides a powerful word of mouth experience to share strong smaller movies with taste maker audiences.
2. Create a conversation. National economies of scale provide an effective and cost efficient way to optimize regional screening strategies where talent has not always been available to accompany all of the live events. Conversely, new technology allows the US public to interact with talent ordinarily inaccessible to them via live two-way simulcast and social networking.
3. Build community. Filmgoers have a passion to discuss the movies they’ve seen. A screening series provides a forum by which like-minded folks experience the collective energy of 50 U.S. theaters seeing an exclusive, one-time event all at once. This has great social and emotional power on many levels. A sense of community is produced, which encourages personal contact, ongoing conversations and relationships.
4. Provide exclusive content. Viewers have also become much more demanding and a natural evolution of watching has been a desire to know more about the creators and the production behind the projects. This provides a much larger, interactive "DVD extras" experience with a theater full of people. It can also create valuable insight into the storytelling and characters with insightful interviews that challenge both creators and audiences’ sensibilities.
5. Curate "What to See:" There are so many movies out there and so little time to see them all. A national screening series helps to create and simplify a curatorial experience for participants so they know what to see in an overcrowded marketplace. With so many great movies today, no one wants to waste their precious viewing time on mediocrity. Film festivals and other heroic champions of smart content are continuously recommending and listing oceans of offerings. There are so many lists and organizations, they too are becoming just as over-crowded as the works they are promoting.
6. Educate and Entertain. Our series aims to entertain, educate, and refresh the true spirit of independent story telling by promoting the continued discovery of unique voices. VOD and other subscriptions have been enormously helpful to refresh the business model of distributing movies, however those environments are also very crowded. We aren't distributors, per se, but just another platform for films to find an audience.
7. Promote Good Work. We aim to produce events in a collaborative environment and nurture the long-term success of the better, smarter movies so that more challenging films like them will continue to get made. There is no question that we all love to see our favorite actors and this is usually the largest motivator of viewing choices. Within the context of an ongoing series, members are more receptive and pleasantly surprised to discover to the lesser known projects which are integrated into the offerings.
8. Support The Theater Going Experience. A series like ours helps to maintain the vitality of the independent theater going experience and to help art houses remain relevant and exciting. Small screen viewing is great, but no one wants that to be the only choice. Although now more available, small release budgets in a crowded marketplace contribute to the ongoing limitations in getting exposure for independent and micro-budget films to be seen on all platforms. The public needs all the help it can get in sifting out what to see.
9. Marketing for Small Movies. One of our goals is to provide the best releases regardless of size with a powerful marketing tool without pre-judging audience reaction. To take risks to feature unconventional cinema without the fear of commercial success. Movies do need to make money, although each project brings a different set of budgetary expectations that can be well balanced with the importance, rewards and objectives of creating important culture that is equal to or even more important than large returns on investment. We hope our series gets the word out about smaller titles that might be lost in the clutter.
10. Create a Special Experience. We hope to provide a "behind the velvet rope" experience for everyone by democratizing what might have been perceived as an elitist activity generally only available at festivals or solely to industry insiders. We promote fun and meaningful one-time only events, with live world-class talent, in the best independent theaters throughout the US. These are theaters that are passionate about keeping the cinema alive! Importantly, the NYFCS® is never on TV or the internet. We strongly believe that sitting in the dark watching images on a big screen with a group of strangers is still an unparalleled and special experience.
The April movie will be "Locke" with Tom Hardy and then in May, the series will feature "Chef" with Jon Favreau. Find out more about the NYFCS here.
Mark Ehrenkranz has been producing The NYFCS for 18 years. He is also producing Turbulent Souls, a full length feature film based on the memoirs of Stephen J. Dubner (co-author of Freakonomics ). Ehrenkranz has been national, key account marketing and sales executive for Ingram Entertainment. Mark created VideoLine® 1-800 VIDEO-411® as a home alternative to MovieFone®.
During his 30 years in the film business, Ehrenkranz has worked in various capacities: as a producers rep, film financial and marketing consultant, festival panels, screening host, teacher, and all facets of theatrical and home entertainment distribution.