"Synthetic Pleasures" Cut From City Cinemas Before Opening
by Mark L. Feinsod
Iara Lee's directorial debut, "Synthetic Pleasures", was bumped from the playbill at the City Cinemas on 3rd Avenue and 60th Street in Manhattan a
few hours before it was scheduled to show on its opening night. The film,
which would have premiered commercially in New York at two cinemas this past
Friday, instead only opened at Cinema Village.
According to Ms. Lee, who self distributed and promoted "Synthetic Pleasures"
through her Caipirinha Productions, Nick Gadano and Robert Smerling, the
booker and president of City Cinemas respectively, removed her film from
their theater for two reasons. She said that she was told that the
advertisement she placed in The New York Times was too small, and that
another distributor needed the screen space.
Ms. Lee- who also placed ads in Time Out New York, Wired, New York Newsday,
The Village Voice, The New York Observer, The Free Press, and the New York
Post- was only able to change the ad to reflect that her film would not be at
City Cinemas in the second edition of the Friday Times.
"At 3:30pm, they [City Cinemas] call and tell me," Ms. Lee said via telephone
on Friday. "We spent $20,000 on advertising. They only gave me a few hours'
notice. Unethical behavior is becoming the norm in the film biz. Big
distributors threaten the theaters, who say 'who can we screw?' They screw
the little guy. They said 'who am I gonna screw, you or [a big distibutor]?
They have thirty films, you only have one." When Lee threatened to tell her
story to the press, she claims she was told "'People have short attention
spans. They won't remember this by tomorrow'. Little filmmakers have to
swallow abuse, because if they rebel, their films don't get shown. They've
done this to other small distributors too. Nothing happens, so they [theater
bookers] keep doing it."
Jon Garrans, the Co-President of Strand Releasing, confirmed that this is a
common occurrence for small distributors. "I understand it's business" he
said, "but it makes it more difficult for second-tier distributors like us.
We had GRIEF at the Angelika, which was doing well, but it was bumped off for
two weaker films not doing so well. They took us off instead of Miramax films
that were doing less business than ours."
City Cinema's Robert Smerling was out of town when indieWIRE called him for a
comment, and Nick Gadano said "I'm not at liberty to say what happened. I
have to speak with Mr. Smerling before I can tell you anything." But an
anonymous source at City Cinemas attributed the canceled run of "Synthetic
Pleasures" to a holdover of films, and said that Ms. Lee was offered a regular
run beginning a week later than originally scheduled, with one showing per
evening in the meantime, but that she declined. "Who's a booker gonna mess
with" the source said, "someone with fifty big films in distribution or
someone with one small one?"