Help me find a print of a movie for screening in a cinema
June 24, 2011 3:50 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to find a copy of a movie from 1994 in 35mm to screen at a cinema. How would I go about this?

Do I buy it or rent it? And does buying/renting the film give me the right to screen it publicly? If it makes a difference I am in Australia and know for a fact that there is not a copy of this movie in 35mm form anywhere in the country (or so I've been told). I'd like to keep the title a secret if possible but it's a cult film from 1994 that gets shown at fests all over America many times a year. Think bowling and White Russians. So I think I'm looking for a distributor or something similar. Or someone that has a copy they could lend us, possibly.
posted by bdave to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a convenient list of suppliers for purchase or rental of 35mm titles. They are based in the US or UK, but I believe some would ship internationally.

Here's a guide to licensing.
posted by troll at 4:13 AM on June 24, 2011

You want to find out who does theatrical or festival distribution for that film in Australia - it appears to be one of these companies:

Bontonfilm - Foreign Theatrical Distributor
Entertain Group - Foreign Theatrical Distributor
Polygram Filmed Entertainment - Foreign Distribution Sales

but you could sign up for a 2-week free trial at IMDBPro and then cancel after you look it up.
posted by nicwolff at 4:15 AM on June 24, 2011

FYI, the movie you're referring to is from 1998. Probably won't make any difference in its acquisition though.
posted by tomboko at 4:32 AM on June 24, 2011

Universal owns the copyright, and they probably have an Australian distribution agent.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:19 AM on June 24, 2011

Yeah, contact Universal and get their Australian distribution. I find it very hard to believe that there's no 35mm print available in Australia of such a dudely popular film. I mean, we're not talking about anything obscure here. It must get picked up for rep screenings all the time. Sadly, if you do have to ship one from the US/UK, you will probably find the print transport costs to be ridiculous. But I doubt it'll come to that.
posted by Magnakai at 6:16 AM on June 24, 2011

Oh, and to actually answer your question - your normally hire the film from a library. In the UK at least, rep films are normally charged at a flat rate, whereas new releases are profit sharing.

If Universal aren't helpful, contact an independent cinema and ask to speak to their programming department. They probably won't be programmed themselves, but hopefully they should give you the number of the company who does program them. Then they should actually have the potential to be helpful, though they may well be fairly busy.
posted by Magnakai at 6:19 AM on June 24, 2011

You could buy a film because that's a cool thing to do, but renting is probably what you want.

Renting the film (from the source that owns the rights, in this case Universal) will give you the rights to screen it publicly (at least in the US - I can't see why it would be any different elsewhere). Renting or buying the film from a source that does NOT own the rights means you'll have to pay Universal rights on top of whatever you're paying whoever you're renting the print from.

You don't need IMDBPro to find out (some) things about who distributes a film, just go to the complete company credits section. Unfortunately, it looks (based on Googling) like the company listed as their Australian theatrical distributor has been bought by another company, which makes things confusing. Maybe you can find something out about that through more extended googling.

However, calling Universal and asking to talk to whoever you need to talk to about nontheatrical booking should put you on the path you want to be on.

Magnakai's suggestion of calling up a local cinema and asking who they'd get it from is good, too (I'd particularly suggest looking around to see if it's been screened on film anywhere in Australia within the last five years or so and then calling those people!)

As for rental fees, in the US, you will probably be charged a flat rate for a "nontheatrical" film rental (here it's usually between $250 and $500, depending on your situation and who you're working with).
posted by bubukaba at 9:26 AM on June 24, 2011

Here's a lead for you: the Australian Centre for the Moving Image showed it in 35mm in 2008.

Also, I apologize for not keeping the title secret - it's just that it's next to impossible to offer any helpful advice without being specific. Film programming is not like plucking DVDs off the shelf - you don't just say "oh, I want to see THIS one!" and then take your film print home from the film print store and put it on your screen carefree.

All the rights and distribution stuff combined with the fact that you're essentially trying to locate a copy of a physical object that is very scarce (a film programmer friend who I just asked estimates that there are probably 10 prints of this film in the US, 10 prints in the rest of the world combined, and 15 in the hands of private film collectors) means that there's really no such thing as generic advice for this kind of question. It's a complicated business, and getting more and more complicated as time goes on and studios become less and less interested in distributing their films - old or new - on celluloid.

posted by bubukaba at 10:04 AM on June 24, 2011

Distribution agreements expire and change. IMDB might not have the most recent or accurate information. There are often errors on IMDB, and they make it very hard to change things.

You could try contacting the Lebowski Fest people. They will know who controls the U.S. rights, at least, and maybe give you a contact name and number. Person would be likely to know who currently controls the distribution rights for Australia.
posted by ljshapiro at 12:32 PM on June 24, 2011

Don't know about Australia, but here in the US, just getting hold of a copy of your film ('just borrow one from the library & run it!) most emphatically does NOT give you any rights to publicly show it --- DVDs, VHS tapes, 16mm or 35mm, they're all labeled something like "FBI WArning: licensed for sale or rental for private home use only". And knowing movie distributors, I'm sure they've got their Australian rights locked down, too!

Contact the distributor in Australia, the legal hassle is NOT worth risking.
posted by easily confused at 4:09 PM on June 24, 2011

Magnakai: "Yeah, contact Universal and get their Australian distribution. "

bubukaba: "Here's a lead for you: the Australian Centre for the Moving Image showed it in 35mm in 2008.

We spoke with ACMI and they said they leased/borrowed/rented it from Universal. Universal aren't really returning our phone calls at the moment. This stuff is apparently handled by Sony Pictures here and we've hit a brick wall. We'll keep trying.

ljshapiro: "You could try contacting the Lebowski Fest people. They will know who controls the U.S. rights, at least, and maybe give you a contact name and number. Person would be likely to know who currently controls the distribution rights for Australia."

Yeah... they've been strangely silent on the matter. I'll email them again as we were hoping that they would be able to answer the question as well.

We can get it shown in a 1110-seat cinema here that shows all sorts of classics but the owner hasn't seen a copy in Australia for ages.

Thanks all for your help, you guys are great. I'll keep you al posted about our little bowling/movie night...
posted by bdave at 8:45 PM on June 24, 2011

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