AFI Fest Tries Something Novel: Free Movies

By Katey Rich 2009-10-30 08:11:50discussion comments
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So you think movie theater tickets are expensive? Try going to a film festival. It's not just paying for the lodging or the airfare to get to Sundance or Cannes, but if you're just a film fan without industry connections, tickets to individual screenings can run up to $18, or even more. Movies that would never even make it to your local multiplex, that you probably wouldn't pay $5 to rent, can cost more than your dinner did just by virtue of being an unknown at an independent film festival.

At the AFI Festival in Los Angeles, though, they decided enough is enough. An LA Weekly article explains the festival's decision to go completely free this year. . “Since last year, the conversation among indie distributors and festival programmers has been, ‘Is the sky falling?” the festival's artistic director Rose Kuo explained. “It was time to turn the conversation around, to do something somewhat audacious, and to get people excited about indie film.”

It's an interesting article in general, about the decision for AFI to include half of the films that already screened at the New York Film Festival as well as mainstream stuff like the upcoming Robert De Niro movie Everybody's Fine. But the decision to make the festival free is what might have the most impact on the industry itself. If festival screenings didn't carry with them their insane price tag, wouldn't they better accomplish the spreading of film love that they claim to be aiming for? Things like discounted rush tickets and midnight screenings are all well and good for reaching out to a young audience, but when it comes to reaching out to a generation more likely to download a movie than to buy a ticket, AFI might have actually figured it out. We have no idea yet if the festival will be a success, but if this bold move pays off, we'll have a lot more to talk about.
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