Park City Film’s Virtual Cinema screening of ‘Once Were Brothers’ will benefit the arthouse nonprofit amid coronavirus shutdown
Park City Film has found new ways to fulfill its mission to bring people together through cinema during the COVID-19 shutter.
The arthouse theater nonprofit recently launched its Virtual Cinema program, which allows the community to watch films programmed by Park City Film online, said Executive Director Katharine Wang.
“Since our closure, we have been trying to find out ways to engage our audience, and cultivate that love of cinema,” Wang said.
For the first week of the COVID-19 closure, Wang and her staff sent out film recommendations that were already available on various online platforms so people could watch at home.
And while they still will do that, national and international film distributors have offered to release their films in a way that will benefit organizations such as Park City Film, according to Wang.
“People can buy a ticket for a Virtual Cinema experience where, in most cases, people can log on to an online platform and watch the film,” Wang said. “A portion of the ticket sale will go back to the theater and another portion will go back to the distributor.”
Once people purchase a ticket, prices vary with each film, they have 30 days to start watching a film, but once they start watching, they have 72 hours to finish it, she said.
“This is a way for film distributors to support their partners, such as us and other arthouse theaters like Park City Film,” Wang said. “It is a way to maintain a positive relationship between each other through all of this.”
The next film available in Park City Film’s Virtual Cinema pool is Daniel Roher’s documentary “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band,” rated R.
The film was already on Park City Film’s schedule before the COVID-19 crisis, Wang said.
“We wanted to show it the first week in April, and thanks to Virtual Cinema, we can,” she said. “And who doesn’t love The Band? It’s got great music and a great story.”
The documentary’s distributor, Magnolia Pictures, decided to sweeten the pot and has announced that through April 3. 100% of the online ticket sales will go back to the theaters that are showing the film.
“Magnolia Pictures will be offering ‘Once We Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band’ as part of a virtual cinema program designed specifically to support theaters,” said Neal Block of Magnolia Pictures in a statement. “[They’ve] been, and continue to be, the foundation of our business for almost two decades (and hopefully for many more to come), and we’re glad to still be able to work together now, in new ways. It’s our hope that this program can generate some revenue for [theaters], and also provide a sense of community to … audiences.”
In addition to “Once Were Brothers,” Park City film is currently streaming Louie Schwartzberg’s documentary, “Fantastic Fungi,” which will be available through April 2.
“This was the first film we released through Virtual Cinema last week,” Wang said. “We had brought this film in earlier, and it just knocked the socks off of arthouse theater audiences.”
The documentary is about the importance of various fungi in the natural ecosystem, and examines the medicinal uses of psychedelic mushrooms, according to Wang.
“It’s a fantastic story that touches on conservation, mental health and science,” she said.
Park City Film first screened the documentary in December, and Schwartzberg conducted a question-and-answer session via Skype, Wang said.
While there is not a Q-and-A planned for “Once Were Brothers,” which is available until April 3, there will be one in connection with the upcoming stream of Levan Akin’s “And Then We Danced.”
The stream will begin Wednesday, April 1, and the Q-and-A will be held Thursday, April 2, on Instagram Live.
The feature film, which, was submitted to the Oscars for Best International Film, is a coming-of-age tale about a competitive dancer, Merab, portrayed by Levan Gelbakhiani, who, in the conservative confines of modern Tbilisi, is thrown off balance by the arrival of Irakli, a fellow male dancer, played by Bachi Valishvili.
“Foreign cinema is close to our hearts in terms of the films we bring to our screen,” Wang said. “While it shows different cultures and ways of being that makes us different, it also shows the human connection and the similarities that brings us together.”
Park City Film will send out new streaming announcements and other recommendations via emails and its newsletter, according to Wang.
“We want to replicate our usual screening schedule that we did every weekend as close as we can, and give the films the proper attention and focus they deserve,” she said.
In addition, Wang wants to hear from the public.
“We do hope people enjoy the movies we select, and we want to keep programming films they will like,” she said. “So we welcome feedback to what films we should bring in.”
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