Introduction

Hello and thanks for subscribing. I’m very excited to introduce Rep Cinema International and really encouraged by the response to announcing this project yesterday. I feel heartened by many of you expressing your interest and hope you’ll bear with me as I figure it all out!

The first news post will arrive in your inbox tomorrow, but I wanted to start with some words of introduction. Basic info is already posted on the About page but this will be a longer explanation with some considerations and acknowledgements.

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What is this?

Rep Cinema International is a newsletter about repertory and archival cinema programming around the world. It’s a mix of news, opinions and interviews with programmers, archivists and others invested in curating and exhibiting cinema both historical and contemporary in surprising and exciting ways.

I’d like to create an online publication through which people can learn about what’s showing on repertory screens around the world. As a programmer myself, I know how difficult it can be to exhibit even films that seem quite straightforward, so I’m very inspired by those who seek out the rarely-screened, the obscure, small films or forgotten pockets of cinema. Or perhaps screenings focusing on something with a local relevance that isn’t so known across the world. Or finding new frames through which to view things more familiar, or bring classics into orbit with things lesser acknowledged. Whatever it is, it’s about sharing it with an audience in a cinema or cinema-like space. And that has been—and remains—quite special.

What do you mean by repertory cinema?

In contrast to new release screenings, which are abundant, repertory screenings focus on older films, retrospectives, thematic screenings or series and much more. The vast majority of cinemas—especially chains—show exclusively new release titles and this isn’t the purview of this newsletter. Rep Cinema International will focus on the repertory, archival, classic, non-theatrical or curated film screenings and series happening in cinemas, museums, archives, film festivals and other sundry venues where people are inclined to stick a projector, a screen and gather some bodies.

That said, this newsletter will be a highly subjective guide to repertory cinema programming that I’ll be highlighting based on what I observe as exciting, bold and original among the field. Classics are classics, and I certainly don’t fault anyone for highlighting master films and filmmakers, or certainly for giving their audiences what they want and will show up for.

For example, this year marks the centenary of Federico Fellini’s birth, and thus there will be complete Fellini retrospectives around the world—from BFI Southbank’s which began on January 1 to a promised MoMA Film retrospective in December, and dozens in between. These are wholly deserved and a give audiences a chance to revisit major films, or come to them for the first time, while seeing lesser-known films alongside them.

While acknowledging the need repertory cinemas for audiences, ticket sales and support, I’m aiming to mainly highlight screenings and series which goes beyond the established canon. Successful programming doesn’t always mean huge audiences. But there are ways to develop audiences for little-known films, and the sweet spot of doing some truly remarkable programming and getting people there to participate in it is exhilarating. One of my favorite film people on Twitter, Courtney Duckworth, summarized it so succinctly, and I think about this post often.

Inspirations

I’m certainly not the first person to work on highlighting repertory cinema listings. I’ve long followed the work of David Hudson, currently editor of Criterion Daily. The Daily at Criterion is a continuation of the column he’s done previously at sites like Mubi Notebook, Fandor, even all the way back to GreenCine Daily in 2003. David’s coverage is wide-ranging, taking in new and upcoming releases, festival coverage, film criticism, journalism, academia and publishing, as well as programming and exhibition. But he focuses on repertory programming regularly, even this year including standalone posts on MoMA’s To Save and Project and the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s American Neorealism, one an annual festival and the other a quite meaty series.

As well, there are a number of initiatives that attempt to get a handle on repertory cinema listings in a local sense. Many of you will be familiar with Screen Slate—founded at the beginning of the previous decade in 2010—the ultimate cinemagoing resource for New Yorkers, gathering daily listings of cinemas and galleries, as well as a daily editorial essay/film recommendation. The site has been inspirational to many and its DIY, collectively-run spirit is a testament to what teamwork can make possible. (As such, it’s been rightly designated as “Film Thing of the Decade” in Film Comment.) There are other local listings, like Chicago’s venerable Cine-File list, LUX’s weekly newswire and Alt-Kino in London and surely many more.

While reading The Wire, an editor’s note referred to Todd L. Burns’ newsletter Music Journalism Insider, and as a music fan I find this recent initiative (launched November 2019) fascinating. This newsletter showed me how Substack can work really well, and that self-publishing on a “niche” topic could attract an engaged audience. And it’s simply a good read.

I’m certainly forgetting others I wanted to mention, and will do so when they come to me in future newsletters. 🤘

What to expect…

Each week I’ll send a newsletter in the following categories:

  • News (once or twice weekly): Short takes on the week’s significant repertory screenings around the world, distribution notes, relevant articles or writings, pertinent job listings and many other bits that will become clear to me as I put these together. These should come early each week, and the first one will be published tomorrow (Wednesday January 15).

  • Interviews (once weekly): An interview with a film programmer, archivist/restorationist or others involved in the field of repertory cinema exhibition and distribution. These should come on Fridays, the first one will arrive this Friday with Tom Grimshaw and Jenna Roberts, two of the programmers of the in-progress London Short Film Festival.

  • Highlights (once weekly): A more in-depth post on one particular film series happening at a repertory cinema around the world. These will start next week.

Endnotes

  • The GIF above was put together out of cameraphone pics from a screening I did of Gary Beydler’s Hand Held Day (1974, US) in 2013 at Lightbox Film Center. The 16mm film was beautifully restored by the Academy Film Archive and is available to rent from Canyon Cinema.

  • The header image of this newsletter and the avatar for our socials thus far is a blurry image of Agnès Varda from a screening of The Beaches of Agnès (2008, France) at Lightbox Film Center (International House Philadelphia) in April 2013.

Thanks very much for reading. This is all new and I’m just figuring it out. Subscribe if you’re coming to this on the website and please share with friends or colleagues if you find this useful. While the main channel is this Substack page, you can find Rep Cinema International on Twitter @RepCinemaIntl and on Instagram @RepCinemas. Questions, comments or other inquiries: RepCinemaInternational@gmail.com.

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