Watched a Film in a Virtual Theater: Helping Independent Theaters Survive

This piece was originally posted on Cinema 4 Culture, a blog run by Eden Sapir, PicMo's Impact Distribution Coordinator.

With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the art house film industry becoming evident worldwide, theatrical and educational distributor Kino Lorber immediately thought about how they could help independent theaters across the country. The results: they launched Kino Marquee, the virtual theatrical exhibition initiative that lets theaters engage audiences and make money while their doors are closed. Powered by Kino Lorber’s on demand streaming platform (Kino Now), this new initiative creates virtual theaters for temporarily closed art house cinemas so they can offer their audiences the opportunity to see at home the films that would otherwise be playing on the big screen.

This was the perfect opportunity for me to catch the Cannes Jury award-winning film from Brazil: Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho’s BACURAU, which takes place in a near future Brazil where a succession of sinister events mobilizes all of its residents. This film has been on my must watch list since May 2019, so I bought a “virtual ticket” on Saturday through one of my local theaters’ screening rooms, which you can find here, and then there I was…inside the virtual screening room of the Film at Lincoln Center. Did I just do something to help sustain the film industry?

Kino Marquee
Powered by Kino Now

Independent theaters need our support now more than ever. By buying a virtual “ticket” to watch BACURAU on Kino Marquee, I am directly supporting my local art-house theater. All revenue is being shared between distributor and exhibitor just as if I bought your ticket at the theater box office. So yes, I contributed in some part to keeping art house theaters alive, and so can you! Also, at just $12 (which is cheaper than a ticket at the theater AND the $20 Universal digital release specials), I received a 5-day screening room access pass to watch this vital and thrilling film for nearly a week. Film at Lincoln Center also provided resources in their screening room, such as interviews and podcasts, that I could explore and digest after watching. The videos and articles they provided are ones that I would actually go searching for online after seeing a politically rich and cinematically inspired film like this one. So to have all these resources all in one space was the icing on the cake for me.

The film? Unpredictable and gorgeous; a serious social-political parable disguised as a 70’s-genre throwback. Considering this is a film about a community banding together in the face of a mysterious and malevolent threat…there couldn’t have been a better film to watch during these times.

Sônia Braga in BACURAU

Now other independent distributors are getting on the theater train, ensuring their theatrical partners don’t go under by offering virtual screening rooms on their company’s on demand streaming platforms, like Film Movement Plus’s Virtual Cinema release of the 2020 Oscar nominee for Best International Feature, CORPUS CRISTI. If one thing is true, it’s that the independent film industry has always had to adapt – whether it’s competitors like TV or evolving modes of communication, the independent film industry is resilient, and theaters will not disappear without a fight. That’s for certain.

Go watch BACURAU in a virtual screening room to support your local arthouse theater AND one of the best releases of 2020. Go here to find your theater, then make a free account on Kino Now and buy your “virtual ticket.” Happy watching, and thank you for helping save independent theaters!


Published by Cinema 4 Culture

Cinema 4 Culture's mission is to amplify vital independent films across emerging and traditional media platforms. We want to create a platform for filmmakers to provide a voice to stories and faces of marginalized communities rarely seen in theaters. All audiences can engage with cinema in their own unique way — it's a tool for everyone!