State of the Art House 2024 [Sponsored by Spotlight Cinema Networks]

AFI Silver, courtesy of the cinema

Today’s moviegoers require variety, not just in what they see, but in the cinemas they choose to patronize. In partnership with Spotlight Cinema Networks, Boxoffice Pro is proud to present Indie Focus, in which we explore the wealth of experiences that cinemas—from the high-end luxury multiplex to the beloved community art house—offer their audiences.


Tori Baker
CEO, Salt Lake Film Society
Vice President, The Cinema Foundation
Salt Lake City, Utah

Todd Hitchcock
Director of Programming, American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center
Silver Spring, Maryland

Rebecca Kearey
Head of International and Business Operations, Searchlight Pictures

Kate Markham
Managing Director, Art House Convergence

Ryan Oestreich
General Manager, Music Box Theatre
Chicago, Illinois

Between the pandemic, the post-pandemic recovery, and last year’s strikes, it’s been a hectic few years for cinema. We’re not going to dive into those in too much detail, as we’d rather look towards the future. However, so we have a baseline to start with: Kate, as managing director of Art House Convergence, you talk to a lot of art house cinema owners and have a macro view of the ecosystem. Where are we now compared to, maybe not 2019 specifically, but let’s say the mid- to late-teens or so?

Kate Markham: It feels like everyone’s [operating] in a different manner than they were before getting back to business. It’s not the same as it was in 2016, 2017, 2018—but audiences are returning. And that’s due to great efforts on behalf of our theaters.

Todd, I know 2023 was a pretty good year for you at the AFI Silver Theatre—particularly in terms of repertory programming, but with newer films as well.

Todd Hitchcock: Yes, I’m happy to say it has been. [I’m] hopeful that will continue over the coming months. We reopened the theater in the spring of 2021. Over the next couple of years, we had very reduced attendance. Not everybody came back all at once, and it’s been a very slow grind month to month to month. Nonetheless, we have seen improvement. Where we are now in ‘23, turning into ‘24, I’m happy to say—fingers crossed—over the next few months, we will have had a fiscal year comparable to a pre-pandemic year. So that feels like another rung up the ladder of coming back to where we wanted to get to.

Tori and Ryan, are things also looking up for your cinemas? Hopefully 2023 was better than 2022 for you both.

Tori Baker: Our 2023 was better by 100 percent than 2022. I do think that a slow crawl back is the right articulation here, Todd. Everybody had to reinvent themselves in some manner. Certainly, we didn’t reinvent the cinema world: That still exists and is still perpetuating forward. I think there are actually some really great things happening with regard to where motion pictures are going. But the slowdowns, whether from [the] Omicron [Covid variant] or the strike, are things that we learned to adapt to and determine how our underlying business model can be supported. Whether that’s an increase in event and repertory programming, whether that’s choosing other programs to lean into the donors’ support, or whether that’s shrinking or choosing not to grow, those kinds of things are coming into play when we make decisions.

Ryan Oestreich: I’m happy to say that we are growing, and we have exceeded 2019. In 2019, we had 219,000 admissions; in 2023, we had 250,000 admissions. Our membership is growing. We leaned into a younger audience. When we came back, we leaned more heavily on repertory programming than we normally did in the past, and we have grown because of it. [In turn, attendance at repertory screenings] has grown first run [attendance], and so on and so forth. I really thought we would see a slowdown in January of 2024, but nope. Our audience is not slowing down; it is growing. And we are happy to be expanding with them and to see that the hunger and the appetite for cinema is stronger than ever.

We’ll talk more about repertory programming in a bit, but Rebecca, I want to get your perspective. As someone on the distribution side, how do you feel things are compared to the last few years?

Rebecca Kearey: In 2022, [Searchlight Pictures] had The Banshees Of Inisherin, and that did well, but it may not have reached the potential it would have if it had released [in 2023]. This year, we all feel a lot better about what’s been going on, particularly in the last nine to 12 months. We’ve seen some of our old audiences coming back, between [Universal’s] Oppenheimer and [Amazon MGM Studios’] The Boys in the Boat and [Focus Features’] The Holdovers. We’ve seen younger audiences come [back]. [Our own] Poor Things had a very young-skewing audience in its first couple of weeks. The same thing for [A24’s] The Zone of Interest and The Iron Claw. There have been multiple films that have hit [demographics] that were more challenging in terms of bringing people back to cinema. We’ve partnered a lot, just as many of our distribution colleagues have, with [social media platform] Letterboxd and [online publication] Film Updates. There seems to be so much more happening on the social side of media [with] the way that people devour advertising. Publicity really helped us propel these younger audiences back [into cinemas]—and encouraged our older audiences to come back as well. The consistency of the product has helped a lot. It’s been a really great cinemagoing environment, particularly for the last six or seven months. And that lifted all boats, really.

Having consistency on the release calendar is so important. It’s not something that we’ve always had these past few years, requiring cinemas to get creative in terms of programming. Art houses are typically really good about programming regular series that patrons know and expect. Tori, are there any new series—or other programming avenues—that have helped you get audiences back?

TB: Definitely. In those earlier years, there was a pipeline that was pretty healthy and robust, and it was feeding forward into the cinema. That allowed for a little relaxation, if you will, on the audience-building side, because they were just showing up. There was certainly potential to grow, but how you were doing that kind of depended on your own bandwidth within the institution that you were running.

We also reopened in 2021—a little later than Todd. We reopened in the fall. After [we reopened], it was more structurally about the audience funnels and where you find them. How do you habituate them to a moviegoing process? We’ve done that with a lot of different cult programs. We have a program called Summer Showdown, where we pit films against each other. “If a vampire and an alien were to fight, who would win?” So you would put the two big films up against each other and see who “wins.” That creates a great social media environment for people to participate in and vote for their favorite films and to donate and support the art house. We also have a very robust horror repertory program, and we are [screening] all of the 4K releases that are coming out and piping them through the regular season programming that we’re doing. We didn’t really have a lot of room to do that before. But one thing about the pace of cinema coming out right now is that it’s allowing a little room, and that’s building a whole new generation of film fans that we will see through their 50s and 60s.

That’s the exciting thing that’s happening in film right now: new stories instead of sequels to sequels to sequels. New stories are it. People are looking for something nostalgic in addition to that, and that’s where repertory comes in. We’re building a new cinephile generation, [which] we weren’t doing before we entered into this era.

Compared to more mainstream cinema operators, art houses can be a lot more nimble and flexible in terms of how they operate. There’s definitely been a need for that over this past year in terms of marketing films; there was the SAG-AFTRA strike, which is behind us, but we’re also seeing a lot of layoffs across marketing teams and entertainment journalism. People just don’t have the resources they used to, in terms of P&A. Rebecca, how do you feel marketing for more indie films has shifted in the last few years? Is this shift towards Letterboxd and social media enough to counteract the loss of more traditional avenues of marketing?

RK: I definitely feel there are more film fan aggregators out there on social [media]. Letterboxd is one of them, but there are multiple others. It used to be that people would just rely on sites like Rotten Tomatoes for their reviews. [A film would have a] thumbs up or thumbs down on opening weekend. But there’s a more discriminating younger audience—and even [among] our older audience, who are looking at other user-generated reviews—who are the voices on social media to help [people] determine what movie they want to see, and why they should see it.

What we’re seeing as well—and I’m sure you’ve all seen it too—is these great holds that we’ve been having [with some films. There’s been a change in] audience behavior in terms of when they’ll go and see a movie. Perhaps they’re catching up with social [media] recommendations of the movies that come out. Maybe [they don’t go to the cinema on a movie’s] first weekend. It may be the second weekend. We’re seeing really great midweeks. Obviously, everybody now has got their loyalty programs kicking in. I’m sure that’s helping midweek [attendance]. We’re seeing this slightly different cadence of how the audience is coming in week-to-week.

We’ve definitely seen a lot of examples over the past year of films not having an exceptional opening weekend, but then having really good holds in the chase weeks. Ryan, are you seeing the benefit of the art house side? An art house cinema isn’t going to have 10, 12, or 14 screens like a multiplex will, so you’re not necessarily able to keep films for longer.

RO: We’re unable to let the long tails happen on the films, even though we really want them to. A lot of times, we let go of a film that’s still grossing because we have to make room for the next. [The film-fan community on] TikTok is wildly important. Letterboxd is too. The youth found their community in the absence of general marketing that the studios have been using forever. They’ve really embraced it, like they have the Music Box. They’ve embraced a version of what Tori puts together and what Todd puts together. They have found a sliver of programming that they feel connected to. Then they talk about it on their social media apps, which really built their community. And they are looking for different films. I remember in 2021 when the restoration of this 1981 horror movie called Possession came out [from Metrograph Films]. There was a lack of product, so we actually had room to run that movie for eight weeks, which is an incredibly long time for any two-screen art house theater to run a movie. [Audiences] kept coming. They kept selling out our small, 70-seat theater. I would see them on Letterboxd talking about this movie, like “Holy cow! Have you seen this?,” and really creating a community in the absence of [a robust studio marketing campaign].

We all relied on that 1980s, college-educated art-house goer who loved foreign language films and kept coming in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Now they’re old. And, as Tori said, we built the next generation—but, honestly, the next generation has built themselves, too, and they found each other, and they find cinemas, and they find movies to support and talk about. Look at Skinamarink, right? The distributor did nothing other than let people lean into that one and make it an organic thing to be talked about. [The trailer for horror film Skinamarink, distributed by IFC Midnight, went viral on TikTok prior to a theatrical run that grossed exponentially more than its budget.]

And Skinamarink was a day-and-date movie too. People could have watched it on Shudder.

RO: But they didn’t. They went to the theaters. I can clearly remember opening night: 500 people watching Skinamarink at the Music Box, and the divisive conversation as they walked out screaming, “I loved it!” or “I hated it!” It was amazing. It was like a film festival environment, even though it was a theatrical film that they could have stayed at home and watched.

I think there are a lot of things at play. But also: Are we listening? Are we paying attention? The most important thing that I think I’ve done is, I talk to my young staff about what they’re excited about and where they’re finding news on these movies and I’ll push them on, “Why should I screen that repertory thing?” For example, [staff suggested a Wes Anderson repertory series in advance of the release of Focus Features’ Asteroid City in June 2023]. I’m like, “Yeah, but I did that five years ago.” [And their response is], “That’s five years ago! I didn’t come here five years ago. Let’s see it now.” And then we opened Asteroid City, and it was our second-highest grossing movie of 2023. We had a huge gross for Asteroid City.

Resources can be limited for art house cinemas, and inevitably you’re not going to have the bandwidth to do everything you want to do. Kate, in terms of marketing, do you see collaborating with social media platforms and influencers as part of a growing trend for art house cinemas? Is that where people should put their time and energy?

KM: Most art houses really have to do their own in-house marketing. It’s been a very DIY ethos for many, many years now. As Ryan and Tori pointed out, word of mouth has always been critical to getting audiences into our theaters, but it’s changed its form. [Instead of] your mom going to a movie and telling her bestie about it, it’s now younger folks talking about [a movie] on TikTok and getting their followers into the theater.

And that’s something that’s being leaned into on the distribution end as well, Rebecca?

RK: Yes, absolutely. We’re still running traditional media campaigns. We have to—that’s where some of our audience still lives. It’s a shame that newspaper advertising is very limited these days, and all of that other stuff that we used to love seeing has [begun to disappear]. We’re still running traditional media campaigns, it’s just that we’ve shifted the weight of how much we spend on those campaigns. Obviously, digital is huge for us. And supporting social [media] and adding media behind certain social is key. Of course, if you have a film where you have either a subject matter or a cast member or any kind of hook that’s going viral—I’m sure all of you saw the Anyone But You socials over the holidays and into January. It was insane how much content was coming out of that film. We had a great cast on All of Us Strangers who were willing to do a lot of social and digital interviews that really helped us push [the film] out.

It’s an incredibly important ecosphere. People are devouring so much of this material on mobile that it’s changing the weight of these campaigns. And it’s also changing the timing, as I mentioned. [Social buzz can] really pick up steam once the film is in release.

Tori, are you seeing younger audiences find the Salt Lake Film Society?

TB: The younger audiences are certainly where the growth opportunity is, so that’s the strategy [our] organization is leaning into. What’s exciting about what’s happening in cinema right now is that it feels like we’re on the edge of a golden age. It probably kicked off with Oppenheimer and Barbie. [We’re in] that moment where cinema is changing, not only to original stories—we’re going to see Francis Ford Coppola’s new film Megalopolis come out soon; new stories are in and back—and also [in terms of] the repertory stuff. People need a [base in older films] to know what kind of viewer they are and to become the cinephiles of the future. And that starts on a scale. You don’t eat the raw sushi first. Eat the California roll first, right? Your art house gives you both, and it gives you a trusted curatorial experience. It gives you that community experience that allows people to come to a safe space and explore and discover through cinema. That’s probably the same in Salt Lake as it is in any other place right now. For the art houses, I think they’ve all branched out—or the majority of them have branched out—in some way, whether that’s an education program, a film festival, or some sort of artist services project. We’ve created [the media accelerator] MAST, [which works with young filmmakers to help keep talent and jobs in Utah]. That’s about staying attuned to your community’s needs and having relevancy. If you’re anchored in relevancy, then your sustainability is bound to be better, because the individuals who you’re talking to and engaging with are coming to the movies more frequently.

Todd, Noir City is one of the AFI Silver Theatre’s popular series. I feel like noir is one of those genres that hits across generations.

TH: It’s rewarding to see as many younger fans embracing that as there are. Proportionally, I think we still skew older [with Noir City]. But for that annual event—and, really, a variety of things we do—one thing has been notable since reopening: We’ve had noticeably more of a younger component than we’ve had in the past. It is really encouraging. I love the way Tori characterizes it, as well. I hope it’s laying a foundation for a new era of cinephilia. It’s been wonderful to see more of a young component than we have seen in the past. And it’s not just for [recently rereleased] vintage films or new releases. They are, in fact, embracing things like Noir City, silent films, and our various annual film festivals, [like] our Latin American Film Festival.

Aside from Barbenheimer, one of the biggest stories in exhibition last year was AMC distributing the Taylor Swift concert film. Todd, you mentioned when we were speaking earlier about how The Eras Tour didn’t move the needle so much for art houses as it did for mainstream cinemas, because people wanted the big screen, the big sound, the big audience. But is there an equivalent to The Eras Tour in the art house space, in terms of an exhibitor finding a hit by doing an end run around traditional distributors to get content more directly?

RO: We had an equivalent to Taylor Swift for art houses, called Stop Making Sense. [A24 rereleased the Jonathan Demme-directed Talking Heads concert film in honor of its 40th anniversary.] It was massive, and A24 is now making it a midnight sensation like it was in the ‘80s. I just did 400 people at midnight last week for it. For the Music Box, it did fantastic. It was like the ‘80s all over again.

TB: And I don’t see it as a delineation between the larger format or premium screens and the sound and concert experience. Art houses have been doing concert films forever. Whether it’s a small Avett Brothers movie [2017’s May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers, distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories] or Stop Making Sense, which was a little more popular, I think it’s really about the demographics and interest in the storytelling and the art form. If you look at Taylor Swift, she’s an all-encompassing superstar [who’s] going to be the equivalent of a Marvel movie, in a sense. Stop Making Sense and the Avett Brothers film—those kinds of concert moments and/or a punk story or something like that is going to [appeal to] a smaller, niche audience. And anytime you’re into the niche audiences, you can leverage the art houses because they know their communities by name. That leveraging happens for the studio’s benefit, because their social media and P&A is only going to go so far. We can get right to the individuals.

RK: I know this sounds a little bit bonkers, but the art house version of PLF is a nice environment in which people can sit down on a couch, have a coffee, meet a friend, and have a chat in a curated environment [before or] after the movie. I’m thinking of the U.K.: We have the Everyman [Cinema] and Picturehouse [Cinemas], as well as Curzon [Cinema], and they’re just so much more of a pleasant environment for someone to meet somebody on a Friday night and have a coffee or a drink and then go and see a movie together. It’s the [cinema environs] that’s the special sauce in terms of what’s being offered.

TH: I’m happy to hear you say that, Rebecca, because on occasion I’ve had our patrons tell me that one of the things they like about the Silver [Theatre] is that there are actually seats in the lobby where they can sit down and have a conversation. And you stop and realize, oh yeah, that’s typically very much absent from the multiplex setup.

RK: I went to the Avon [Theatre Film Center] in Stanford, [Connecticut], recently to see The Holdovers, and they have this fantastic downstairs area with couches and old movie books and great displays. It’s a thousand times different from going to my local multiplex. I think all of our customers—old and young, everyone—are desperate for that sort of curated experience. Something that’s enjoyable and a reason to come out of the house.

And it’s an experience that each art house can curate to fit the particular communities they serve. In terms of programming, Kate, do you think we’ll see an uptick in art houses going out to festivals and finding things to program that they know will click with their specific audiences, even if it doesn’t have a distributor attached? Rebecca, I’d love to hear your thoughts on changes to the film festival landscape as well, as Searchlight is such a major player there.

KM: We talk about eventizing all the time. It’s been a key to our sustainability over the last five years. We bring in filmmakers to show their films and discuss them at the cinema, as a curated experience [to share] with audiences. We like to connect artists and audiences. If an [independent] film is not picked up by one of the bigger distributors, or even one of the smaller distributors, it’s not the end of the road. [Those films] can connect with art houses and take their films to audiences through a roadshow.

RK: Over the last 10 years, digital has changed our world in so many ways—either in terms of being able to afford to self-distribute or to work in a more cost-efficient way to distribute some of these films. Festivals have become sort of bloated in a way, in terms of programs and sidebars. In some ways, they’ve become an unmanageable beast. I think that all these festivals will probably right-size or condense programming so that it becomes more manageable for [audiences] to see some of the films and for programmed films to get more visibility and exposure. But I also think that there’ll be more opportunities for some of these smaller movies that don’t get picked up, as Kate said. [There is no longer] the cost barrier that used to be there with 35 [mm], so there’s more opportunity for more nimble distribution.

TB: When it comes to this issue, it’s really about the health of exhibition. Exhibition is the king of quality control. Festivals are not really meant to be that; they’re meant to be the exploration [stage] of filtering through [films] and finding out where the quality lives, where the artists are pushing, and where artists are finding new boundaries to tell stories. Not everything from a festival is really going to warrant theatrical exhibition. [Having] that filter is valuable in a lot of ways.

I think, if anything, exhibition could help festivals more by being more [involved with] them on the artists’ side. Artists need to really think about what kind of film they are making and what journey they want their film to go on. If that journey is going to be toward theatrical, then that’s going to mean something very specific for their strategy on the festival circuit [compared to] if they’re just looking to be picked up by the first bidder that comes around. As we know, even at large festivals, nobody can really outbid a streaming [outfit]. But there are really competent and amazing artists who are able to work within this two-hour art form—which is becoming something that I appreciate more and more, especially with the advent of being able to tell 10- and 15-hour stories on streaming—[and take audiences] through a journey in that very limited time period and under the restrictions of a motion picture film. That is a very special talent and a very special form of art. That’s what we’re preserving in the cinematic experience through the art houses.

A lot of aspiring filmmakers don’t have much knowledge about the realities of film exhibition.

TB: It’s also not taught in schools. But I think that sort of makes sense if you look at the evolution of splitting up exhibition and distribution. Exhibition lives in the heart of your Main Street, not in the heart of Hollywood. So it’s very hard to say, “Let’s connect [the exhibition ethos] with the concepts that Hollywood is working on through the artists.” This is why I say there’s a new age that we’re moving into, not only for the artists making things, but for how the industry works and is structured, because we are having those conversations. I think it’s going to [evolve the conversation around] how the motion picture art form continues to [provide] one of the [most] rare and unique experiences that you can have.

I want to shift the conversation to that relationship between the art house cinema and community. Ryan, the Music Box is in Chicago, which has a thriving art community. Have partnerships with local businesses or artists been a help to you?

RO: We are very collaborative, internally with our own staff and externally with presenters, organizations, film festivals, [and non-film festival] organizations. There’s something here called the Chicago Humanities Festival that books talks and lectures [with us]. Since we’re an old art house that has a stage, we [work with] musicians—[for example, someone who says], “I would like to adapt a score to a [silent] movie, because I am a talented musician. Can we partner and work together?” We have a staff member who’s a musician, who created a score to an old 1925 Oscar Micheaux film. It was incredibly well attended.

The Music Box always tries to be what I like to call a patchwork quilt, not something that’s bland and just one color or one texture. [We like to be] a little bit for everybody and to allow other people in to work with us, either in a rental capacity or a partnership, where there’s equal skin in the game for both parties to get an audience and make a great event. We have a mentality where even if you’re a rental and you’re coming into our house, we’re going to work really hard to make sure your guests have a great time, because that’s a reflection of the Music Box. We would not ever want to bring somebody in and [have] the event go poorly where we could have helped in some way, even just in marketing the events. That also makes us a little picky, because we don’t want to bring just anybody in. But we definitely work with a lot more people and do a lot more different things than what most theaters do, and I think it’s to the benefit of the Music Box and Chicago.

Todd, you’re in the D.C. area with the AFI Silver. What’s been your experience with community-building and shoring up connections that perhaps weakened over the last few years?

TH: We have a not-short list of external partners, as well. And we’re actually in a run here over the next few months with several of them. Last night, we hosted a really terrific opening [event for] the Capital Irish Film Festival, which is an example of an outside film festival that we partner with. We’re more than just the venue; we are very involved with the overall production of their festival. But it is organized by an outside curator and an arts organization called Solas Nua that’s here in the D.C. area. We also have the New African Film Festival. We are now the longtime home of it, but it originated at another location and migrated over here relatively early in its tenure. We collaborated with an additional outside team of curators for that festival, which has really grown in leaps and bounds over the years. We have the [D.C. LaborFest] in March, which is also fairly long-running. [For that,] we partner with some individuals with the AFL-CIO. Being that it’s D.C., we’ve got the embassy community, which plugs in, in a variety of ways over the course of the year. I mentioned our Latin American Film Festival earlier; that’s a mainstay for us. One of our biggest annual events is our European Union Film Showcase in December. There’s also Eddie Muller’s Film Noir Foundation.

And then I want to mention one more: We have a fantastic Art Deco Society in Washington. They’re a fantastic organization to partner with. They also played a key role in saving our theater, which almost met the wrecking ball on a couple of occasions long before we became involved with the project that eventually led to it being restored and reopened as the AFI Silver Theatre. We have done a number of really fun events with them over the years and have a couple of irons in the fire right now for the spring and summer.

Speaking of building partnerships, Kate, it’s so important that people within the art house community have these conversations with each other and talk about what works and what doesn’t. Art House Convergence is putting on a trade show this summer for people to do just that. Could you tell us a bit about what to expect from it? It looks like a great event.

KM: And a necessary one! Every part of [working in] art houses and independent exhibition is a labor of love, and it relies very heavily on [people being] willing and open to sharing and coming together and putting in the work. Art House Convergence and the Film Festival Alliance are presenting the Independent Film Exhibition Conference—IndieEx for short. We are so excited to be in Chicago this year on June 25th through 28th. We are going to have four days of programming that will cover an extensive amount of topics: fundraising, operations, programming, and everything within that. Unfortunately, four days is a very short amount of time for what we would like to cover. But we’re going to get the ball rolling again and talk [about] exhibition practices and get together as a community. It’s been four and a half years since we all gathered together at [the last Art House Convergence trade show, which took place in January 2020]. There are going to be a lot of new faces and a lot of familiar faces. We’re really excited.

I’d like to finish up by asking what you’re all looking forward to on the film slate over the next year or so.

RK: It’s going to be an interesting year, because [last year’s] strikes will impact festival programming in some shape or form. I also think the reduction in content spending from some of these bigger players will have an effect. For example, Netflix usually has three or four movies at the Venice Film Festival. I don’t know whether they will this year. The festival environment is going to be interesting for us to watch out for. But in terms of exciting content coming up, I’m going to borrow from Tori. I’m keen to see [Coppola’s Megalopolis]. Wherever that lands, I will be there.

TB: I think the film that I’m most excited for, and I’ve actually had the great opportunity of seeing it, is The Bikeriders. I think it’s going to be a summer hit for art houses, if the studio can play it right. It’s very much for our audience in so many ways, and the performances are outstanding. [Focus Features] has slated that to come out in June. That’s going to be a great time for us, because we have an opposite season from most of the other exhibitors. In the art house sector, award season is really sort of our summer, if you will, and summers can be a really deep valley. I think that film’s going to bring a bit of brightness and a lot of fun.

TH: It’s funny, I was just discussing with Abbie Algar, our director of programming, earlier today the changes [to the typical art house schedule that have developed] over not that long of a time. It wasn’t that long ago that we had big summer releases in the art house sector with some reliability. Unfortunately, it feels like that’s dried up. It would be wonderful if The Bikeriders really clicked in that window.

RO: There’s going to be a steady stream of art house stuff that’s going to come through the Searchlights, Focus, the A24s, the Neons. I’m not terribly concerned. We’re definitely going to put some tentpole repertory programming together, weeklong events and retrospectives that I think are going to keep people excited and—to steal something from Tori—to stay relevant, stay sustained. We’ll put those in between the art house films.

But there are a couple of films that came out of Sundance that I think are really going to connect with the art house audiences, like Thelma and Dìdi. Both of those will be released over the summer, and I think they could draw really strong word of mouth and play really well. I’m also excited to see Bleecker Street take a big swing on something like Sasquatch Sunset. That’s not a Bleecker Street [type of] film. It’s a weird movie, and we are so excited [for it at] The Music Box. Do not underestimate the [desire] for odd and out-there cinema that Gen Z has right now. Do not. They will come out! That movie is going to surprise people. It’s not going to gross at the AMC out at the mall in, say, Schaumburg, which is a suburb of Chicago, but it will in the right markets.

My note to distributors is, “Stay weird.” Keep taking chances. There’s a reason to do it. And kudos to Searchlight for putting out All of Us Strangers. That was a great film for us, and it really connected with a young audience. I’m not worried about 2024, as long as the theaters can figure out how to fill in the gaps when the gaps do come, because we need to pay attention to that.

I’m seeing a lot more optimism about 2024 here than in the wider, mainstream exhibition landscape. It’s an exciting time.

KM: There have been so many beautiful and wonderful films that have come out and are coming out in the pipeline. One year isn’t more exceptional than any other year, but I feel like things [have been] really resonating in the last year and a half. I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up. Personally, I am in that rep mode. I will be visiting rep [screenings] for the next couple of months. It’s been really wonderful that all of [these] cinemas have embraced rep and are allowing folks like me to revisit things that they saw on VHS in the basement in fourth grade. To actually see [those classic films] with proper sound in a cinematic environment is what I’m really looking forward to.

AFI Silver, courtesy of the cinema

News Stories