Tuesday, March 9, 2010

History of IFC


The IFC Center is an art house movie theater in Greenwich,

NYC. The historical building was originally built as a church in the early 1800’s had now been

changed into a three theater facility. Rainbow Media Holdings LLC., which is an American cable company established in 1980 that owns AMC, IFC, WE TV, Sundance channel, Wedding Central, Voom HD Networks, and News 12, bought the movie theater as an extension of its cable channel.

Theater doors were opened to the public for the first time on June 17, 2005, and the first film screened was Me and You and Everyone We Know. Interestingly enough, the opening was met with a protest from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, as the IFC Center had hired non-union workers.

Currently, it is equipped to screen 35 mm and High Definition digital video., screening regularly scheduled films, premieres, educational programs, and television broadcasts. The theater also has digital editing suites, a meeting area, and a restaurant called The Waverly.

Promotional Strategies of IFC Center:

The IFC center employs various techniques in promoting the theater, events, screenings, and membership programs, which offers discounts and benefits to patrons of the theater. The benefits include admission discounts, free preview screenings, free popcorn, discounts on merchandise, and free admission (depending on which level of membership you get). The different membership levels are Student, Cineaste, Auteur, and Mogul. The names that they use to market the membership programs are all names that appeal to art/independent film fans, with the exception of Student, which is merely a discounted Cineaste membership. It is one way in which the IFC center tries to draw in potential members, by using terms familiar to them. Our group found this system a bit corny, and one of our members was actually rather annoyed with how they used these titles. It shows that the IFC Center is, despite its billing as an art theater, prone to some of the same advertising techniques as the rest of the world.

There are other ways in which the IFC Center differs from a purely independent theater. It not only shows art and independent films, but also documentaries, cult classics, and Oscar Nominated Films. On weekends they focus on cult classic movies, which are often “B” movies that might not necessarily be critically acclaimed, but draw a cult following. For instance, one of their upcoming films I saw on their schedule is Starship Troopers, a visual effects-heavy blockbuster from 1997 which is rather far from art cinema.

The center definitely takes advantage of all opportunities to promote the IFC brand. When we first sat down in the theater to watch the films they had a promotional slide show rolling that had all different events, film screenings, even meet and greets with actual directors. All of the information was for the IFC center itself and intended to keep people informed so that they might come back agai. Once the lights dimmed and the film began, the previews and trailers before the movie where all films that were being shown at the center.

Other promotional tools they used were pamphlets and calendars, most of them involving the IFC center, but some were relating to B.A.M (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Outside of the theaters they had posters promoting films that were being shown at the center, many of which had critical acclaims printed on them, as well as film festival stamps of approval (Sundance Film Festival, Cannes, etc.)

One interesting thing I noticed was that the IFC center has a Queer Art/Film series on the last Monday of every month. Being in the village, they have obviously tried to bring in some business by promoting art from the influential culture that surrounds the IFC centers home in Greenwich Village. It is a smart marketing and promotional idea to appeal to those within close vicinity of the theater.

Finally is the fact that, like any business trying to be successful in today’s technological world, the IFC Center uses its website

and other internet outlets to help promote the brand to the masses. All of the information about scheduling, location, upcoming films, and merchandise can be found on their website. This brings out another point. The IFC Center sells T-shirts, posters, and DVDs marketed towards patrons who wish to take a half-hearted swipe at individuality without losing their right to follow where many have gone before. They also use Facebook and Twitter to tap into the social networking buzz that is so big right now. It’s clear that the profitability of the IFC Center depends on it watering down the underground film experience, making it less exclusive and keeping it supplied with a fan base.

Experience at IFC Center:

Our group had no trouble finding the IFC Center, as it is located directly behind the nearest subway entrance.

The theater had a somewhat unassuming exterior, with an overhang above the doorway which advertised a few of the films. Top billing went to the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts, which would probably have the most draw. Overall, it looked like a theater, nothing more and nothing less.

To the left of the door were two easels featuring blowups of articles from Time Out New York and The New York Times about two of the films on display in the theater. This was, at least, a sign that the theater did mean to attract views more thoughtful than the average movie-goer. Instead of calling a film “SEXY!” or “FUNNIEST COMEDY IN AMERICA!” these ads were meant to be read carefully, not just to categorize the films, show a famous face, and get a mindless viewer to point and say, “I want.” For instance, The New York Times’ article about the Oscar Nominated Shorts called them “short in time, long on wit and daring,” and opened the article with a quote from an Elizabethan poet.

After we purchased our tickets at the window to the right of the door, we were admitted to what was a cozy reception area which was, apart from its small size, very similar to the average theater interior. There was a small snack counter, a few ads, and a stairway leading up to the screening room in which the Oscar Nominated Shorts could be seen.

Along the way, the movie posters on display were a bit atypical for your average theater, distancing the theater just a bit from the huge chain theaters we’re used to. We stopped to spend a moment with the poster from Rififi, a French crime film from 1955.

To those who are not particularly versed in old French films, this is just decoration, but a cinephile would likely recognize the film and feel as if they have come to the correct theater.

Once in the screening room, we found the seats to be quite comfortable and roomy and the screen closer than a normal theater’s screen. The pre-feature ads were similar to those we all grew up on, but were centered around the IFC specifically. The feature itself showed each Oscar Nominated Short Films, as well as a few Honorable Mentions, in their entirety, including the credits. Overall, we thought the experience was better than our average movie experience, as the medium of animated short film allows for easy maintenance of interest and both moments of thoughtful interpretation and childish entertainment.

A few standouts were Pixar’s Partly Cloudy, the Wallace and Gromit short A Matter of Loaf and Death, The Lady and the Reaper, and Logorama. The Pixar short and the Wallace and Gromit short were entertaining, funny, and perhaps better suited to children, but we found them loveable. The Lady and the Reaper, however, maintained the good humor of the others while providing an experience more fit for thought. It even ended with the often elusive shock that many films try for, which in this case meant that the sweet old lady committed suicide after a vain doctor successfully resuscitated her too many times. Logorama, on the other hand, was by no means suitable for children, but featured in interesting use of popular logos to create all of the scenery and characters in the film. The story line was a mash-up of bad Hollywood blockbuster ideas and essentially revolved around a maniacal Ronald McDonald and an earthquake which removes California from the rest of the United States.

These films seemed to be right at home in the IFC Center. None were totally mainstream, but most were still meant to have some appeal to the average person. They were possibly closer to art film than Transformers was, but none would be too out of place in your average theater.

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