Los Angeles has been taking a public beating recently over its ability to launch art-house movies. THINKFilm’s head of theatrical distribution Mark Urman, talking with my colleague Brian Brooks back in April (for indieWIRE), took a swipe at the City of Angels when his release of “The Agronomist” did well in New York but failed to make a dent in L.A.
“NY is a fine market for specialized films and we had some very strong shows, even sell-outs [but] L.A. is another matter,” Urman told indieWIRE by email. “We were in first place in Santa Monica, where all the liberals live, but at a fairly uninteresting gross. Sometimes I wonder how the theaters out there can afford to even turn on the electricity. In any event, we no longer think of L.A. as a top art market. It’s just another regional town, like Detroit, with palm trees.”
The beating continued Friday in USA Today in an article by Thomas K. Arnold titled, “Art-house scene passing L.A. by.” In the piece, Urman’s former colleague at Lions Gate was equally critical of the city.
“Los Angeles has never really been a great art-house town, and that’s unfortunate,” says Tom Ortenberg, president of Lions Gate Films, which distributes about 10 art films a year. “Both Landmark Theaters and Laemmle Theaters are terrific exhibitors that work hard to promote art films, but L.A. does not deliver the box office one would hope for and expect from the entertainment capital of the world.”
But perhaps all hope is not lost in my other favorite city. While Los Angeles may not be drawing films to commercial art-house theaters, Steve Rosen recently explored the city’s booming alternative cinema scene in a piece for indieWIRE that highlighted such venues as the new REDCAT downtown.