It's going to be a little funky
That title -- "It's going to be a little funky" -- is a quote from Hayley Sampson, one half of the Indywood team. She and her business partner and brother, Will, seek to give independent cinema a new venue, both online and on the big screen. The result is the new Indywood Cinema on Elysian Fields, near Washington Square in the Marigny.
My initial impression of the theater, from its opening weekend of Court 13 shorts and a recent Zack Godshall documentary, is fixated on the intimate DIY feel. Once you open the door to the building, which still has the old laundromat name above, you walk right into the single-screen room. Folding chairs are arranged under Christmas lights, in front of a Macintosh desktop projection. At showtime, the trailers and movies are played on a video playlist, which is something readily available to anyone.
Because films can be transferred through cloud drives and a presentation can be programmed on a basic computer program, almost anyone can show a movie now. And why not? Netflix may be convenient, but people will always crave the communal aspect of attending a theatrical presentation. But, for many years, there were few choices within the city itself (though, a trip to Metairie or Elmwood isn’t THAT bad). The Hollywood South movement has slowly changed that -- with independent and obscure screenings popping up all over a town that has caught movie fever.
In the Indywood blog, Will posted an entry about some of these film group programmers coming together for a meeting of the minds. There they were, pictured in a circle, talking to one another. Shouldn’t they be seeing each other as competitors? After all, some events are bound to step on the feet of alternate ones across town ...
The most immediate competition has to be Shotgun Cinema -- having started presentations almost at the same time as Indywood. With events at the Old Marigny Opera House, Shotgun looks to build an audience for a future art house through a memorable atmosphere and by using word-of-mouth garnering programming. Unfortunately, I have yet to attend a screening, but from what I gather, the technical specs -- movie screen, sound system, projector -- are quite impressive and boastful. They kicked things off with a flick from a well-known filmmaker (Wong Kar Wai) and got off to quite the running start.
But no battle lines have been drawn as of yet and probably never will be. Why? Well, guess who you might see before one of Shotgun’s monthly showings, helping to set things up? Will Sampson.
There’s a genuine spirit of helping out one another among these groups -- whether it’s with cross-promotional efforts or lending a hand to hoist up a screen. And it’s not without precedent in New Orleans. For years, Rene Broussard of Zeitgeist and Ellis Fortinberry of Chalmette Movies have not only shared tips on scheduling movies and getting the word out on each other's theaters, but have been good friends as well. It’s rare that a day goes by without viewing friendly comments the two write to each other on Facebook.
Cinema Reset, L’Entrepot NOLA, Timecode: NOLA, New Orleans Film Society, Green Screen by The Green Project and The Burgundy Picture House -- along with the two newest organizations -- all vie for local moviegoer attention. They may differ in funding, venue and equipment, but all share one wonderful goal: to improve moviegoing in New Orleans.
Hopefully, the inspiring actions of a few cinema presenters will foster a continuing atmosphere of collaboration and friendship among exhibitors. No need to shake the olive branch.
In other words, “It’s going to be a little funky.” I’m glad.
Bill Arceneaux is a local freelance film critic, writing reviews and producing podcasts for PROPAGANDA New Orleans. If you like his work, please visit patreon.com/neauxreelidea and feel free to follow him on Twitter @neauxreelidea.