NPR’s story on the film details the way Godard playfully expands the use of 3D with never before seen effects. That’s why there’s so much interest in seeing it.
Exhibitors are shying away from Jean-Luc Godard and the challenging nature of the film, despite its Cannes pedigree and critical acclaim. It’s just not a conventional film, it’s different from what is normally booked.
Despite the mainstream acceptance of 3D on screens, the core art market, much of it independent, has had little reason to go to the expense of outfitting theaters (on top of expensive digital makeovers) for 3D. As a result, theaters in key cities like New York (Lincoln Plaza), Los Angeles (all the Laemmle-owned screens, Landmark’s calendar Nuart), Chicago (Music Box) can’t play the film.
The biggest 3D specialized film in recent years, Wim Wenders’ “Pina” managed to gross $3.5 million. But distributor IFC had Oscar and other awards activity to boost its access, as well as a much larger footprint and precedent for playing top-end crossover theaters that often play the most commercial screens. And significantly, much of that gross came from 2D prints (which the older core specialized audience often prefers), while Godard insists (justifiably) that his film only be presented in theaters in 3D.
It is understandable that Landmark and other key players have taken a wait and see position so far. Their top screens are under elevated demand as the fall upscale season is in full swing. They are not equipped on more than limited situations in 3D. Godard has become a rarefied, limited taste for first-run. But the lack of bookings in many cities so far shows that top exhibitors and their reliance on wider appeal, bigger campaign films can block the showing of more esoteric but still essential films, particularly when technology further limits their access.