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Why Brooklyn Is Suddenly New York's Best Moviegoing Borough

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire November 12, 2012 at 8:00AM

Move over, Manhattan -- Brooklyn is steadily turning into the best place to watch movies in New York City.
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A scene from "First Winter," which will have its theatrical premiere at Videology this week.
A scene from "First Winter," which will have its theatrical premiere at Videology this week.

"I'm hoping more than anything that we're going to complement each other," said Videology co-owner Wendy Chamberlain when asked about the competition. "Nitehawk gets a lot of mainstream movies. We can do more creative, experimental programming that they may not be able to do because they have to make sure what they do fills the seats. With only 35 seats, we don't have the same pressure to do things that appeal to a broad audience."

READ MORE: Self-Distributing Indie Filmmakers Get a Shot at a Theatrical Run Courtesy of IFP and Brooklyn's ReRun Theater

Chamberlain hopes the combination of ticketed screenings for new films and free screenings will instigate interest in the roughly 30,000 DVDs the store still maintains in its inventory. As business for rentals has waned, Chamberlain hasn't been able to significantly grow her collection in two years, but with a basement space that can hold at least twice as many DVDs, she hopes to change that. "This is a great way to introduce people to things they may not have even heard of," she said. "If something they see here sparks some interest, we can help them watch more."

For example, at the venue's first screening of "Holy Motors," which is currently screening at Videology for a weeklong run, audiences were treated to an advertisement for director Leos Carax's other films available in the Videology library. Chamberlain plans to relaunch the website in the coming weeks to further instigate rental interest. With much of the rental store staff now working as bartenders, the venue has already successfully transitioned into a more promising business model. "We're still excited about renting DVDs," Chamberlain said. "Part of doing this was the knowledge that it would help us continue to rent them."

"Videology's programmers have assembled an eccentric lineup of events to ensure the crowds keep coming."

Meanwhile, Videology's programmers have already worked out a programming calendar that extends into February 2013. This month, the venue will host two theatrical premieres for weeklong runs: "First Winter," the scrappy tale of cynical Brooklyn hipsters stuck on a yoga retreat during an apocalyptic disaster, and "New Jerusalem," the first feature from "The Comedy" director Rick Alverson, starring Will Oldham.

In addition to these releases, Videology's programmers have assembled an eccentric lineup of events to ensure the crowds keep coming, including "Twin Peaks Bingo" and a midnight retrospective of the bizarre genre films produced by '80s production house Full Moon Entertainment. "Right now, the agenda is doing a little bit of everything to see what stands out," said co-programmer Clark, pointing out that while they hope to show between two and three new releases each month, they remain flexible.

"We don't want to be restricted to just finding something to fill the space," he said. "If we have a free week, we'll just come up with other kinds of programming." Filmmakers, however, should take note: Whenever the venue deals directly with them, the revenue share comes down to a 50-50 split, meaning that a couple of sold-out shows can lead to several hundred dollars in profit.

IFP's arrangement with reRun is somewhat more complicated. The organization acts as a middleman by setting aside part of its revenue share with reBar for filmmakers. However, a reRun slot offers filmmakers other benefits. As with Videology, the week-long run ensures a review in The New York Times and other major outlets. It also enables IFP to practice what they preach by helping filmmakers figure out distribution strategies that put them in control. "We've been teaching people for years now to think about how they want to present their films to the world," said Milton Tabbot, IFP's Senior Director of Programming. "They're not necessarily going to be getting all-rights deals. The fact that reRun was downstairs just seemed like a logical opportunity."

indieWIRE's Online Video of the Day: Dance Along to Kickstarter Success "Girl Walk // All Day"
An image from Jacob Krupnick's "Girl Walk // All Day."

For the time being, IFP has agreed to program three out of every four weeks of each month during a six-month trial period. They have already begun to consolidate their resources with a series showcasing the names singled out for IFP publication Filmmaker magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film" set for the second week of December. reRun's programming began earlier this month with a weeklong run for the dance movie "Girl Walk // All Day" and continues with the South African drama "Otelo Burning." Jonathan Lisecki's New York comedy "Gayby" comes to the venue later this month.

"A lot of the relationships we have with our community of IFP members and the larger independent community is related to young, talented filmmakers who would really benefit from having a screen in New York and the audience to make a theatrical run viable," said Dan Schoenbrun, IFP's communications and programming coordinator, one of the venue's key programmers along with Filmmaker managing editor Nick Dawson. "We already have those relationships with people and know how to talk to the wider community about these films."

IFP is also considering submissions for reRun. IFP's website contains a form for filmmakers to send their films for consideration, with the only qualifications being a feature-length running time and a completion date within the last 18 months. Like the programming team at Videology, IFP's staff isn't concerned about other screening opportunities for filmmakers at the variety of venues now available to them. "We don't see it as competition at all," Tabbot said. "I think it's great for filmmakers to have more than one opportunity."

Brooklyn audiences may now feel the same way.

This article is related to: Features, Distribution, Brooklyn, reRun Gastropub Theater, IFP, Videology, First Winter, New Jerusalem, Gayby






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