Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tribeca film festival changes the rules

As best as Jane Rosenthal can describe it, the Tribeca Film Festival, which she co-founded with Robert De Niro in 2002, is "cultural whiplash."

Tribeca Film Festival, New York
The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal & Craig Hatkoff as a rejoinder to the attacks on the World Trade Center. It was initiated to promote the economic and cultural revitalization of Lower Manhattan via a yearly celebration of film, music and culture. The Festival's mission is to uphold New York City as a major filmmaking center and allow its filmmakers to reach the broadest possible audience.

44 World Premiere Feature Films & nearly 500 film screenings will be hosted at the 9th Annual Tribeca Film Festival starting Wednesday, Aprill 22.

In an effort to help films find audiences, movies won't just be screening in downtown Manhattan.

A new distribution company, Tribeca Film, founded by the festival's parent company, Tribeca Enterprises, will make a dozen movies — including Whitecross' directorial debut "sex & drugs & rock & roll" — accessible on TV via video-on-demand in some 40 million homes. A "virtual festival" will also stream eight movies and 18 short films online for viewers willing to shell out $45.

One of those films, The Birth of Big Air, was co-produced by Johnny Knoxville. It features BMX stunt biker Mat Hoffman, whom Knoxville describes as "the Evel Knievel of our time." At the same time that audiences at the festival watch it at an outdoor screening (BMX riders, including Hoffman, will be doing tricks on a half-pipe), audiences at home can watch it in their living rooms.

The Sundance Film Festival and the South By Southwest Film Festival have tried similar initiatives, though Tribeca's foray is the boldest yet. The very nature of the film festival is changing, festival organizers say.

Many of the 85 feature films at Tribeca will still arrive with the mission to look for distribution. But some producers increasingly view that possibility as quixotic, in an industry where independent film and documentary distributors are rapidly disappearing.

Seven of the ten films released by Tribeca Film will be screened day-and-date, which means that the same time moviegoers are flocking to a New York theatre, TV viewers across the country will be able to watch on VOD. Deals with Comcast, Verizon FiOS and Cablevision helped make that achievable.

Even movies that find distribution at film festivals typically aren't released for months, even years. By shrinking that window, Tribeca Film hopes to capitalize on buzz from the festival and support of festival sponsors.

Sources: AP, USA Today, NY Daily News

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