"Just because a movie is nominated for an Academy Award doesn't mean it's universally popular," said Stephen Colson, president and CEO of AmStar Cinema.
"Popularity is not necessarily a criteria, and often can even work against a film.Members of the Academy may feel a movie has already gotten sufficient recognition and look at something with more ‘artistic merit' instead.And just because a movie has artistic merit doesn't mean it's commercially viable."
The complaints about "artistic" movies that never make it to Anniston theaters did not start with AmStar's arrival at the Quintard Mall.
"First of all, films are leased by a theater from the film company under a lease agreement," Colson
explained."The lease requires that we pay a percentage of the box office to the film company, and that percentage declines over time." Colson
also said the percentage can be as high as 90 percent but is more typically 60 percent or 70 percent and can be as low as 30 percent or 40 percent by the time dollar theaters get them.
In theory, that would mean a low risk for theaters looking to bring in a lesser-known movie, since it would not involve out of pocket expenses.But Colson
says there is always a risk.
"The decision of which movies to bring to a theater is dictated by the number of screens available and what the lease agreements are with existing films," he
said."It may be that even if a film bombs - and we haven't had films (in Oxford) to bomb that badly - there is a penalty we pay because there may be a minimum playing time that we have to show the film.That means that's one less screen where we could be showing a film that would be bringing people."
Because of that risk, it might be difficult for a corporation such as AmStar
to commit to a regular film series, but Colson
says the company has on occasion brought in films to meet the demands of a particular market.
An example of that was the Christian-themed film Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, which was shown at AmStar last year, partly because of audience demand and partly because of the success locally of Left Behind.
"It all comes back to availability of screens," Colson
said."If you have an abundance of popular films, it might mean we're more likely to consider bringing in a film that's requested by members of the community."
While such special requests may be honored at times, not only does a return of a regular special film series seem unlikely, but the appearance of "art house" movies in the local ads doesn't appear to be in the future.
After all, AmStar Stadium 12 is no art house.It's part of a larger corporation, and Colson
says decisions made concerning the Anniston/ Oxford market are made with that in mind.
"The reason we're in the business is not to show movies but to operate as a business," Colson
said."As a consequence, we're going to make business decisions when we look at what movies to bring.
"Anniston pretty well tracks how films do nationally," Colson
said."Films that are geared toward young people tend to do better right now than films geared toward adults - like In the Bedroom."
For the immediate future, that means more Ice Age, less The Royal Tenenbaums, but some area residents would argue that better variety might prove to be more profitable than some would think.