Wanna see that hot new film from Sundance or Cannes? Miami cinephiles often wait for months, even up to a full year, for buzzworthy movies to hit our indie screens. Oftentimes, U.S. theatrical premieres come and go in New York and L.A., while the wait continues in South Florida, as Miami film buffs keep their fingers crossed.
Enter the Gathr Preview Series, which tonight will host a preview screening of the Michael Shannon and Winona Ryder drama The Iceman. Working with major independent film distributors, including Kino-Lorber Films, Music Box Films, and Focus Features, the series will bring premiere films to the Miami area ahead of many major cities.
From his LA office, Gathr Films Distribution Consultant Richard Matson explained why a program such as this matters in today's age.
"Our perception of movies has changed in the Internet age," he writes via email. "Social media, blogs and the like give an outsized voice to the NYC and LA audiences and critics that get to see the movies first. We want audiences around the country to be able to participate in the discussion that shapes how we collectively perceive movies and defines how they make their way into the world."
Distributors have begun to notice Miami as one of the key cities with important voices, following the city's recent renaissance of art house theaters competing for important independent films. The 2-year-old O Cinema, which opened a second theater in Miami Shores only last year, will be the venue for this series of exclusive films.
"Miami is such a uniquely diverse community - it's a perfect fit for our mission of adding new voices to the movie discussion," notes Matson. "Miami is actually one of the bigger cities in the program. We're extending the series to much smaller communities like Mobile, Little Rock, Tallahassee and Bellingham, WA."
He adds that O Cinema was a no-brainer for the series. "We want to create a really unique cultural opportunity in these communities," Matson states, "and that's what O Cinema has been doing in Miami for the last several years. It's one of the best art houses in the country. When we were designing the Preview Series, we looked for theater partners that know how to communicate with and introduce new ideas to their audiences that are willing to take risks with their programming, and elevate the movie-going experience."
Those interested in getting these first-looks have to pay a monthly fee of $19 for guaranteed seating at this one-night only series of films. For the devoted cinephile, it winds up being a savings for one film a week, as well as a chance to enter into an early discussion on the current state of indie film.
"For $19, members can go see four new movies a month, which works out to less than $5 per movie," Matson explains. "A limited number of tickets will be available to non-Members, but those are first-come first served. Members will also see a number of other perks: secret Members-only screenings, giveaways and special offers from our partners, etc. We want this to be a movie club for audiences to be able to go to the theater every week, see faces they know, and engage in discussions about the pictures."
Film buffs who follow the buzz out of premiere festivals like Sundance and Cannes will be happy to hear that this program means many films will find a quicker route to Miami. "In a few instances, we're plucking films straight off the festival pipeline," Matson remarks.
In some cases, these screenings will offer exclusive looks at films that will not necessarily make the art house circuit in Miami. "Most of the films will play later on in Miami, but there will certainly be some in the program where the distributors decide on a limited release," states Matson. For those, the Preview Series will be the only chance for Miami audiences to see them on the big screen.
In some ways, the program is similar to the free preview screenings you might see popping up at the multiplexes once in a while, where many have to call in to radio stations for tickets and then show up an hour before screening time for a seat. However, Gathr takes a more civilized approach, with advance notice of what films will be screening and the opportunity to invite friends along. Non-members can still stand in line for free seats available on a first-come-first-served basis, but Gathr members are guaranteed seats.
Matson explains: "The Series is a structured program - a new film every week. The audience can see the upcoming slate, add screenings to their calendar and invite their friends. The slate is also more varied. We have tried to curate a diverse mix of bigger films with popular actors/directors, documentaries, and an international selection every now and then."
For information on joining Gathr, visit their website: http://gathr.us/series/miami-previews. The first screening in this series is tonight at 7:30 p.m. Millennium Entertainment brings The Iceman, starring Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, James Franco, and Ray Liotta to O Cinema Wynwood, 90 NW 29th Street, Miami. 305-571-9970. Watch the trailer:
The upcoming schedule for Gathr Preview Film Series in May and June at the O Cinema includes:
The Deep -- An Icelandic documentary/thriller directed by Baltasar Kormakur
Ain't In It For My Health -- A film about Levon Helm
What Maisie Knew -- Starring Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan
100 Bloody Acres -- A horror-comedy
Stuck in Love -- Starring Kristen Bell and Jennifer Connelly
More Than Honey -- A documentary about bee colonies
The Good Son -- A documentary about Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini
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Broken -- Starring Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @indieethos.