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Closing of Magno Screening Room Will Create Fierce Competition for Indie Film Bookings in NYC

When the screening room closes later this week, its absence will only add to a tough environment for indies hoping to be seen by the press.



When the Magno Screening Room closes its doors on Wednesday, the New York City film community will lose yet another independent screening venue in an increasingly tough marketplace. While the big studios — including Fox, Warner Bros., Sony, and Paramount — all boast their own screening rooms (plus the ability to pack a multiplex theater for all-media screenings that accommodate hundreds of members of the press), smaller distributors and independent publicists have long relied on smaller rooms to screen their films to press and other industry types.

Magno, which has been located at the same Seventh Ave. space for nearly 70 years, is one of a handful of smaller rooms that cater mostly to indie films. It’s those films that will suffer as the screening room crunch continues. The news that the two-screening venue (at one point, Magno had seven screens) would be closing came suddenly just last week, sending publicists scrambling to reschedule already-booked screenings at comparable venues, including the Dolby Screening Room (also a two-screen affair) and the Park Avenue Screening Room.

While Showbiz411 has confirmed that Magno will move to a smaller space and continue with its production and post-production arm, the rooms will go dark later this week.

“The loss of any screening venue, especially one with such a seasoned history in the industry, is upsetting,” independent publicist Emma Griffiths told IndieWire. “As a publicist working mainly on indie film, Magno was often a vital, affordable choice during awards season, for press screenings and for pre-festival screenings.”

Another independent publicist (who requested anonymity, citing internal company issues) reiterated that Magno had long been the “most cost-effective screening room” for indie films. For features with smaller publicity and marketing budgets, Magno was a reliable, well-run option, and the difference between it and another screening room could often make or break a bottom line. As a result, the firm would be doing “a deep dive to find other screening room options,” in the hopes that other venues that don’t typically do private screenings should consider being amenable to hosting them.

“It is just sad that there are less and less spots for professionals to see a film,” veteran publicist Gary Springer said. “And professionals should see a film on screen.”

It’s hardly the first time the closing of a screening room has impacted the indie film community. In recent years, other spaces, including the Broadway Screening Room, the Preview Screening Rooms, and the Varick Room at Tribeca Cinemas have also closed.

“I remember when Preview 4 and 9 shut down, and then Broadway Screening Room, and the competition for time and space tightened,” Falco partner Shannon Treusch told IndieWire. “This leaves only a few key rooms to book. The competition for space will get more intense.”

Competition among publicists and sales agents for screening room spaces, already fierce, will only increase in the wake of Magno’s closure. It’s already top of mind for many film professionals. “I’m concerned about getting things scheduled with less screening rooms,” Cinetic publicist Emilie Spiegel said. “There’s a lot of screenings that need to happen in any given week. It obviously complicates things if you’re losing two screens.”

With the fall festival season and awards already on the horizon, publicists aren’t looking forward to what Treusch terms an “already crowded marketplace” for their screenings. And they absolutely still want those in-theater screenings.

“For a sales title at a festival like TIFF, the hope is always that key critics can see the film on the big screen either in New York in advance or at the first screening at the festival itself,” Griffiths said. “I personally think, for a theatrical release, having a NYC press screening is still crucial, to at least give the press an opportunity to see the film on the big screen if they can.”

One change that studios, publicists, and sales agents expect to take immediate effect is the need to plan and book screenings far earlier than they’re used to doing. Similar screening rooms, including both Dolby rooms, the Tribeca Screening Room, and the Park Avenue room, can expect to see more business. For budgets able to accommodate a higher price point, there are a growing number of hotel screening rooms available, including at the Crosby Street Hotel, the Bryant Park Hotel, and the Whitby Hotel.

While secure online screening links have become more commonplace in recent years, industry professionals hastened to add that they don’t expect to see a sudden explosion in their use. “I do not think that this is going to result in links being more widely used,” Spiegel said, noting that using an online link for critics screenings typically happens only in “certain circumstances.”

And, of course, there’s still the belief that movies are meant to be seen on the big screen (or, at least, something larger than a computer monitor). While that may lead to more crammed calendars, it hopefully will not deplete the concept of moviegoing as in-person activity.

“I will still set screenings in whatever rooms are available. I believe in seeing a film on screen,” Springer said. “And, I believe in sending out screening notices to critics, writers, and editors letting them know about them, even if the reply will be, ‘send a link’!”

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