Friday, December 5, 2008

Pioneer Spirit

In June, we had a week-long run at The Pioneer Theater in NYC. The people who worked there were great. They loved the movie, the balloons, and each other - making it a happy place.

We'd spent hours, days, months of our lives trying to book a theatrical run without a distributor and with virtually no budget. No one in NY wanted to take a risk on us. Without a distributor, they knew it would be difficult for us to advertise and properly promote the film, and theaters couldn't afford to lose money. Even small "indie" theaters, seemed to book films with distributors. Several theaters gave us the option to 4-wall - a process by which the filmmaker fronts the money to rent the theater for a week (in ny - this can costs tens of thousands of dollars) and keeps 100% of the profit. This was not a realistic option for us and it was starting to look like a NY run might not be in the cards - a big disappointment.

The first place in the country to book us was The Tivoli, a beautiful Landmark Theater in St. Louis (by the way, we were the number one movie at the theater that weekend). But, it was still hard to gain traction. Finally, Lee, the manager at The Pioneer agreed to watch TWISTED. He called to say he loved it and wanted to screen it... for one night... preferably a week night. We made a strong case (read: plea) for a week-long run. He, too, was concerned that we might not be able to get an audience in. But he finally conceded, offering us one showing a night.

We covered the theater (and much of the East Village) in balloons to promote the film and it seemed to be working (even though we did get our very first ticket for putting balloons where they don't belong). By the day of the first screening, our first few shows were sold out and Lee called to tell us they were adding screenings every day. That night, they ran out of bottled water because there were too many people buying concessions.

Suddenly, we were able to book more cities. The Tivoli is a great, well-respected theater. But, the knowledge that a theater in NY was willing to give us a week gave other theaters the confidence to book us. Before we knew it (just kidding - after a lot more hard work) we had 10 cities booked. That is probably twice as many as we'd have gotten with one of the small distributors we'd longed for. In fact, some of the smaller distributors we'd hoped, months earlier, would take us on, booked films at the Pioneer. But we'd somehow managed to get it on our own - and between that and The Tivoli, the wheels were set in motion.

Now, the Pioneer has closed. Money problems. The only place in NYC that would seriously consider our self-distributed movie is gone. If we'd finished TWISTED one year later, it probably wouldn't have ever screened in NYC.

So, if you live in an area with independent theaters, remember to support them and appreciate the unique entertainment they bring to you community.

Dear Pioneer Friends, Filmmakers, & Film Lovers,
Ten years ago, when we began construction on The Pioneer, we were told we were crazy - that no single screen, indie-oriented, 99 seat theater, east of Avenue A, could possible survive. But for nine years, we did - showcasing the best of truly independent cinema, presenting restored classics (from The Last Picture Show to Ace in the Hole), curating special programs (from Luis Guzman Night to the 42nd Street Smut Show), hosting guest filmmakers (from Robert Altman and Robert Downey to Steve Buscemi and Richard Kelly) and partnering with local film organizations including the IFP, Filmmaker’s Co-op, Cinema Tropical, Fangoria, Women in Film and Television, Cinewomen, Third I, Slamdance, Docfest, and many more...

We’ve been blessed that The Earth Mother, Mel Cooley, The Dude, and the other Two Boots pizzas have been able to support our labor of love all these years, but now, with our lease ending and a rent hike looming, it’s no longer economically feasible to keep the theater going. Friday, October 31st at midnight, will be our last regular screening, appropriately: Night of the Living Dead.
We want to thank our amazing staff, past and present, and we want to thank you, our loyal audience, for your patronage over the years. Please, PLEASE, keep supporting independent films and independent theaters.

Finally, on Friday, November 7th, we’ll be having a goodbye party starting at 6pm - free movies, popcorn, and reminiscences. Please come by!