Film Festivals Feed a Discerning Audiences' Desires
Tribune-Review, The, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The prevalence of DVDs, on-demand movies and sophisticated home- theater systems might get the blame for a shrinking audience for movie theaters.
But the explosion of movies available for home viewing just might be part of the reason that there is a more discerning audience for film festivals.
The Three Rivers Film Festival runs Nov. 2 through 15, bringing about three dozen films and shorts to the Harris Theater, Downtown; Regent Square Theater, Edgewood; and the Melwood Screening Room, Oakland.
It's a safe bet the audience that turns up for the festival's screening of a Polish drama, an Australian documentary or a selection of avant-garde films, for a few examples, has a very good idea what to expect. DVDs of niche or obscure films, coupled with the explosion of information available on specialty film Web sites, has helped to create a film audience of increasing sophistication.
It's an audience that has read about an upcoming film from a promising young director and has tracked down his previous one or two films to watch. It's an audience that has followed the career of a well-established but not-famous-in-America actor. And it's an audience that appreciates what it means to see a film as it was intended -- on the big screen.
And their research has whet their appetite for the experience.
DVD companies such as Criterion and Kino dedicate themselves to creating editions of classic, contemporary and foreign films that include volumes of material that further explains the film and enlightens the viewer. Director commentaries, historical interviews, making-of featurettes and other extras are instructive, as well as entertaining.
A collection of these DVDs is a virtual equivalent of a film - history course, and exposes the viewer to not only the film itself, but its context and meaning in a historic and artistic sense.
Criterion and Kino are not alone -- there are other companies that painstakingly collect seldom-seen films and get them out to a niche market that otherwise would never get the opportunity to view them in any form.
Take, for example, the avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger, who will accompany a selection of his older films and new videos at the Three Rivers Film Festival's closing night session
His challenging work isn't the type of thing that ordinarily would be shown in a movie theater. …