Bright Lights Film Journal

Gone in 60 Seconds

Is it just me, or are movies given less time than ever to prove themselves at the box office? I live in Los Angeles – supposedly the movie capitol of the nation – but even here, a movie that doesn’t bring in average-or-better box office returns on its initial release will quickly disappear from local screens to make way for some blockbuster.

Some examples. I wanted to see Kenneth Branagh’s Sleuth (because of its Harold Pinter screenplay), but it disappeared from local screens before I got a chance. Likewise, as a Brian De Palma enthusiast, I really wanted to see Redacted (above), but it too disappeared in less than a fortnight. Southland Tales was released here just a couple weeks ago, but presently can be found on only one screen in the L.A. area. I was only mildly interested in seeing Robert Redford’s Lions for Lambs, but even so I was shocked, given the film’s cast (Redford, Streep, Cruise), to see how quickly it disappeared from L.A. screens.

Perhaps I shouldn’t complain, knowing that all of the above films will eventually be available on DVD. And maybe I shouldn’t blame exhibitors for not screening pictures critical of the Iraq War, if audiences won’t show up to see them. Regardless, I miss the days when pictures with only mild cult support would play at one or two small theaters for weeks – or even months! – waiting to find an audience.