Independent Cinemas Association honors digital cinema allies

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The Independent Cinemas Association of Australasia (ICAA) just ended its annual conference, which this year was held at the Dendy Cinemas in Sydney. Longtime independent exhibitor and distributor Robert Ward was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. Ward is currently head of Filmways Film Distribution, a company he started in 1969. Honorees Ross Entwistle and Barry Peak spent a lot of time and effort negotiating a virtual print fee for digital projection, which has helped many independent exhibitors switch to digital. As a result of their efforts, Entwistle and Peak were honored this year by ICAA as the inaugural recipients of the Mark Sarfaty Award for outstanding contribution to independent theatres.

Independent cinemas have had a strong lineup of films this year and have been performing well. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which has done especially well in independent venues, is poised to pass A$20 million locally, an incredible result for a film that is not aimed at the normal 16 to 25-year-old audience. This has led to a boost in cinema building. Dendy has just added six screens to their Newtown cinema in Sydney, turning it into a 10-plex. Palace has plans to turn their Leichardt, Sydney complex from a four-plex to an eight-plex. They will close the cinema in the first half of 2013 to complete the work. Meanwhile, U.S.-based chain Reading Cinemas is refurbishing their Townsville cinema.

Australian short film festival Tropfest started out in a café in Sydney 20 years ago when director John Polson (Tenderness) showed a six-minute film he had made for less than $100. The annual free festival soon outgrew its beginnings and is now held annually in a large Sydney park. This year it also takes place at Bryant Park in New York on June 21-23. All films entered must be produced specifically for the event and have their premiere at Tropfest New York. Movies cannot exceed seven minutes, including titles and credits, and each must contain the Tropfest Signature Item (TSI), which this year is “bagel,” a true staple of New York culinary culture. Australian film and Broadway star Hugh Jackman will host the event.

"Knowing that Tropfest has opened doors for brilliant filmmakers, actors and others for the past 20 years, I'm proud to be a part of the festival as it expands its reach to the U.S. and brings its competition to New York,” said Jackman. “As a mecca of the arts, New York is a perfect host for a festival that empowers creative minds to try their hand at filmmaking." In August, Jackman will be returning to Australia to film the latest Wolverine feature.

Contact David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.