Claremont Insider: Claremont Laemmle Disappoints Art Film Crowd

Monday, August 18, 2008

Claremont Laemmle Disappoints Art Film Crowd

Fans of foreign and art films have been disappointed by the Laemmle Claremont 5 theatres in the Claremont Village Expansion.

Prior to the Laemmle's opening last summer, cinemaphiles had thought that the new theatre would save them a trip into Los Angeles or Pasadena to see the latest indie film. Most people seemed to understand that a mix of mainstream Hollywood movies and art films would be needed for the Laemmle to attract enough crowds to be successful, and that's pretty much how things went at first.

However, lately the Claremont 5's menu has been much more run-of-the-mill, as Claremont Courier reader Jeanne Audrey Powers complained in a letter last Wednesday:

What is this with the Laemmle Theatre Company these days? This week, as I read the names of each of the films being shown, I realized that every single one of them is ALSO being shown in the nearby megatheatres, and one doesn't even need to go to Pasadena to see them!

Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen wrote about the films the Claremont 5 has screened, and he also interviewed the theatre chain's president Greg Laemmle, who explained the market forces behind the lack of arty fare at the theatres:
Programming art films isn't as simple as people think, Laemmle said.

For one thing, without a breakout hit like "The Queen" or "Brokeback Mountain," the art-film market has been suffering of late. Low-budget movies come and go, not gaining much traction.

Without money or momentum, studios aren't releasing many prints.

That's hurting the Claremont 5 because distributors want their films at Laemmle's main Pasadena location, the Playhouse 7, an art-film hotspot, and aren't making prints available for the Claremont 5, Laemmle said.

To fill the gap, he's booking Hollywood product. He didn't sound thrilled to have played "Mamma Mia!" but defended the Batman sequel as one of the best-reviewed movies of the year. Ditto with "Tropic Thunder."

"We try to play the better Hollywood films. A lot of people want to see those films," Laemmle said.

Another problem with the Claremont 5 is that demand for art films is not as high as in other venues. For example, Laemmle noted that the French movie "Tell No One," which has been one of the best-reviewed films of 2008, only lasted three weeks in Claremont but in other locations drew enough to last more then twice as long.

If you've been to the Claremont 5, you may have noticed the same thing as the moviegoers David Allen interviewed for his column: Unless you go on opening day for some of these films, the theatres aren't very crowded at all. Without an audience to support the art films, you're likely to end up with more mundane choices.