Before this year's Sundance Film Festival got started, The New York Times' Manohla Dargis raised a red flag about the issue of too many small indie films flooding the marketplace. (Our response here.) While her proposal that fewer distributors should acquire films may not be the best answer to the problem, the indie distribution question was the hot topic of the festival, as folks on all sides grappled with possible solutions. She wrote:
“I have a little favor to ask of the people cutting the checks. Stop buying so many movies. Or at least take a moment and consider whether flooding theaters with titles is good for movies and moviegoers alike.… It’s hard to see how American independent cinema can sustain itself if it continues to focus on consumption rather than curation.”
Unfortunately, the NYT does not permit comments on Dargis's stories, as she prefers not to engage directly with her readers. I would have loved to see the response to this provocative piece. Others responded elsewhere:
The New Yorker's Richard Brody here.
Tech guru Chris Dorr here.
Criticwire's Sam Adams here.
Should the New York Times review over 900 movies a year, as the paper of record? That review confers identity and status on the films that crowd into that market, as long as someone has the money to fund a week-long theater booking. Many folks use that New York berth to gain access to VOD distribution and Oscar eligibility.
Maybe it's time for the New York Times to reconsider its role and change it up, acting as a curator, reviewing movies on different platforms at different times and refusing to review films it deems unworthy of its time and attention. It would still require a back-breaking amount of work from the NYT reviewing staff, but the films they wound up reviewing would carry more impact. How many of us read all those New York Times reviews? Not many, I wager.