Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Last word (hopefully, for a while) on Cuban/Sex Addict trouble

There are more important & more interesting DIY film matters for me to blog about here, but let me just get these hopefully final words out about the disturbing indiewood drama that just occurred, since theaters deciding not to live up to their booking agreements hurts all filmmakers, audience members, distributors & related businesses.

When Mark Cuban canceled the Landmark Theater bookings of the Caveh Zahedi film I Am A Sex Addict (in Comcast markets only, as Cuban likes to point out in his recent blogging) earlier this week, with about 5 days to go before an advertised opening in Berkeley, he made it very difficult for a lot of people in the indie filmmaking & distribution & consumer arenas to look at him & Landmark Theaters as a potential friend & ally.

While I appreciate the physical high-quality of Landmark theaters & Cuban's focus on the bottom line (which indies need a little more of, so things like AIVF coming up $60K short can be avoided, perhaps) & experimentation (day and date, etc.), Cuban's approach to indie film as a pure commodity, a strategic piece in his financial empire, is alienating.

On a personal level, just a few weeks ago I was looking forward to the relative ease of working w/ Landmark on some DIY distro events/rentals/four-walled screenings for my new feature Date Number One (since Landmark is throughout the US & I could deal pretty much w/ one office in LA for accessing those screens it would have meant fewer phone calls & e-mails, probably), but now I am definitely very weary of that option 'cause the strengths of Landmark: its size, reach & simple command structure (Cuban decides all, apparently), can also make it incompatible w/ small indie film entrepreneurs like myself, here is why: if I worked a few weeks on promoting a booking w/ a small indie theater & for some reason they decide to pull the booking at the last minute, I may be better able to fight that decision because the theater is most likely not controlled by a multi-millionaire (or is it billionaire?) who really couldn't care less, has almost nothing to lose if I decide not to do business with them/him again & to spread the word that the theater engages in questionable business practices. Cuban's wealth & the size of Landmark makes it possible for him to mess even w/ IFC Films (probably one of the largest & most active indie film distributors in the country) w/ very little to no regard for the consequences.

Luckily more people are becoming aware of Landmark & Mark Cuban's alienating tendencies at a time when Landmark not yet owns every single indie film theater in this country.

Let's keep track of non-Landmark theaters & support them so that they may: 1) continue to serve the indie film fan & filmmaker community, 2) continue to bring interesting movies, alternatives to Hollywood, to the greater audience, and 3) perhaps keep Landmark in check to some degree.

I am making a list of non-Landmark theaters at this blog entry:
http://diyfilmmaker.blogspot.com/2006/04/lets-make-list-of-non-landmark-indie.html

Add some names & locations to it when u get a chance, if u know of some non-Landmark indie theaters. I am going to keep adding names & URLs & links to that entry all year long. Let's see what the non-Landmark indie film exhibition options in the US look like.

While a greater part of the US indie film audience probably has no idea & couldn't care less about the hard core indie film fan & indie filmmaker community, its history, its future, there is a significant minority of participants who do care, the type who invented the genre, the type who will re-invent it in the future & keep it alive. They, we, should try to keep this Cuban/Sex Addict/Berkeley episode in mind for a long, long time.

Mark Cuban may have just crossed outside of the "friends of indie film" line. We'll see what happens in the future. Cuban is wealthy enough, he does not need US indie film. Perhaps US indie film can do just fine w/ out Cuban too.

We'll see how it goes.

Good luck to all of us in surviving the Landmark Theaters/Mark Cuban combination.

- Sujewa

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