I'm going to go out on a limb--a dangerous but familiar place for me, I know--and say that at the halfway point of the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival, No. 13 has been among the most problem-plagued.
The first sign there was trouble in paradise came Friday night, as folks stood in line atop the Fashion Island parking structure for a half hour after the scheduled start time in Island Cinemas of a movie from the director of a quirky indie that opened the '09 NBFF.
Then, festival volunteers informed the screening of Hick, from Lymelife director Derick Martini, was canceled. One volunteer may have misinformed when she said filmmakers decided Hick was "not ready." The same film premiered at Toronto last September and is scheduled for theatrical release May 11. In any event, it didn't show Friday. We'll see if it rolls at its second scheduled showing at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lido, or if we'll experience another Hick-up.
Broken Kingdom did screen at Island Cinemas Saturday night, after its audience had to wait a half hour beyond its scheduled start time. Two rows were reserved for cast and crew, so the crowd could anticipate a lively post-screening Q&A, which had been promised. But as only a smattering of unenthusiastic claps followed the end credits, the audience was told there would be no Q&A. Hmm . . .
Like Vinyl, another film that screened at Island Cinemas that night, Broken Kingdom repeatedly froze and skipped ahead on screen.
Sunday night, Jake Schreier's Robot and Frank was a no-show at the same theater, although the film that won star Frank Langella's performance raves at the last Sundance Film Festival was said to be keeping its scheduled 8 p.m. Thursday date at Big Newport. Keep your titanium fingers crossed.
Festival officials tell me it's not unusual for film distributors to get protective of movies headed for theatrical release and yank or postpone them at the last minute, which can't be good for brand loyalty.
With Robot and Frank off, I headed into the comedy Servitude, which I'll rave about in a later post. Unfortunately, a crisp Blu-Ray version of the Canadian restaurant service comedy would not play on the equipment in the Island Cinemas projection room. So, the festival relied on a screener screenwriter Michael Sparaga had on him, with the result being a tad grainy, a bit tinny and with periodic "For screening purposes only" disclaimers flashed on the screen. The audience didn't seem to mind, much to Sparaga's delight.
Films freezing is blamed on the various disc formats they arrive in when they come to Newport. Some can't be played at all by movie theater equipment in an individual projection room, but the festival does not find this out until just before show times because schedules and access to the equipment in theaters that are also showing mainstream Hollywood fare is so tight.
I'm told the festival also had to deal with a foreign-language film that arrived from Europe with no subtitles. Problems like these have caused a flood of online complaints about NBFF 2012.
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Then there was the trophy mom in bedazzled jeans who bitched out loud about having to walk all the way to the parking lot tent to buy tickets at Island Cinemas. "They should have an escalator," she fumed as her pilates-tightened frame stomped off in that direction.
One assumes a portable escalator just for her will be factored into future NBFF budgets.