Nitesh — thanks so much for that detailed and informative rundown about distribution in India. I gather it would be difficult for a label such as Benten to make inroads in that market, and I wonder how much of a demand there is for the types of films we're releasing anyway. It was interesting to learn that Three Monkeys has already had both a theatrical run and a DVD release, when we're still months away from being able to see it.
Reading Kevin's Shibuya experience reminded me of something apropos of the subject of local cinephilia. Like Paris, New York City has no shortage of options for the ravenous cinephile, but I find myself hardly taking advantage of it as I once did, for all the reasons Harry and Kevin cite (and more.) Yet I realize that whenever I travel, finding the local cinephile scene becomes a huge priority. I was in Paris this summer, and on my first night I went to see a beautiful Cinemascope print of Sirk's The Tarnished Angels. I was dead tired, but being amongst the sold out crowd filled me with a sense of elation I sadly rarely feel at home anymore. (Something about familiarity breeding contempt, I gather.)
Had the Sirk been playing here in NYC, I would have easily found a hundred reasons not to go. More than likely I probably wouldn't even know about it, as I no longer have the time to keep up with what's on. That said, at least twenty times a year I'm kicking myself for having missed a particular film or retrospective.
Besides the usual problems (time, stress, etc.) I find that many of NYC's arthouse theaters are small, cramped, and often with less than stellar projection and/or sound. (I know — it's horrible of me to complain.) The advent of the home theater has made it harder for me to find the motivation to drag myself to the cinema, even if it is to see something special like an old Philippe Garrel or Peter Watkins film. As for new foreign films, it's extremely rare to ever see them being shown at one of the city's many multiplexes. They are almost always relegated to smaller theaters. This is in contrast to Paris, where I saw Gomorra on a giant screen right next door to The Dark Knight.
Like Kevin, I find myself much busier during festivals, particularly the New York, Tribeca, and NY Asian film festivals. Held in the fall, The New York Film Festival is our chance to see the best of the fests, and for the most part the lineup is solid, though I'd rather see more undistributed foreign titles than, say, Changling. Given its sheer size, Tribeca is naturally more of a mixed bag, though their 2008 lineup included Profit Motives and the Whispering Wind, The Secret of the Grain and Shane Meadows' wonderful Somers Town. The New York Asian Film festival has also become a key annual event, and its blending of art high (Sparrow, United Red Army) and low (Tokyo Gore Police, Sasori) makes it one of the most consistently enjoyable festivals in the city.
Where New York City (and the entire American market) is lacking is in theatrical releases of new foreign films. The festival-approved titles arrive (though, as in the case of Three Monkeys, often a year or two late) but it seems that each passing finds fewer interesting titles picked up for acquisition. How many Korean, Japanese, or even German films (for example) found US distribution in 2008? This leads me to the topic of distribution as a whole, but I think I'll save for the next post.