Guerilla Drive-In Update: No @#$@# Disney films outdoors!


I’m now the proud owner of a gently-used Eiki 16MM film projector, which I intend to use to actually have some Guerilla Drive-In showings this spring and summer. I’ve gotten inspired again after looking at the images thrown by 16MM projectors, and how incredibly cool and summer-y they are. I plan on cobbling together a low-power FM transmitter to connect to the projector’s audio-out jacks, then seeing if I can get enough power to drive the projector from a portable generator. If so, then we’re in business!

I’ve also been learning about the world of non-theatrical motion picture distribution, which is… complicated. there are two major distributors, each of which seem to have exclusive rights to particular studios. The rules are copious and exacting, the fees are stiff, and the whole thing generally seems to be a big pain in the ass. (For one thing, you have to figure out what customer stream you fit in: “scholastic”, “hospital”, “motorcoach”, “correctional/prison”, “other”. That’s some distinguished company.

No wonder my buddy Wes Modes in Santa Cruz shows digital movies on an LCD projector, and doesn’t even mention rights in his Do-it-yourself page. But I want to be 110% legit and above-board, even though that means — get this — NO DISNEY MOVIES. Apparently, no Disney movies can be shown outdoors, for reasons known only to them. Okay, so I can’t show “The Incredibles”, no problem. But that also means I can’t show “Herbie: The Love Bug”, either. F#$@ing mouse.

Anyhow, I found out the deal for getting a 16MM print from Lois at Swank, who is very helpful and returns dumb email questions in, like, ninety seconds (the industry seems to be a funny mix of totally unwired and really wired — maybe it’s all the college activities groups.) Here’s the deal:

  • The movie has a “catalog price”, which is about the same as an iPod Shuffle, or up to an iPod Mini for a first-run movie.
  • UPS shipping is about thirty bucks on top of that.
  • That price includes a license so you can charge admission. You can collect up to double the catalog price and keep it all. Once you make more than double the catalog price, you must give fifty percent of the proceeds to the studio.

On the whole, that seems pretty fair, if expensive. Also, the movie comes in four or five reels, which gives the opportunity for intermissions. Also, 16MM has a square aspect ratio, unlike the letterboxed “anamorphic” wide format of 35mm films. Which means you’re looking at the “cropped for TV” version, unless you can get something in 16MM “scope” format, which has been squoze down, and you re-inflate back to widescreen using an anamorphic lens which you purchase on eBay for sacks of rubies.

Phew! If you’ve read this far, you now know as much about showing 16mm films outdoors as I do. I’ve been making plans with Swank to rent Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and show it to friends and neigbors in West Chester as a test of the projector and the FM transmitter. If that works out, I’m gonna start planning films in earnest, with reference to the 2005 phases of the moon. Smokey and the Bandit is a sure thing, as is Red Dawn. The Bad News Bears go to Japan is out, as it’s a Disney film. F#$@ing mouse.

Film suggestions are welcome! Next, I’ve got to make some progress on getting a sidecar to carry the projector and the generator, and the film cans. And the popcorn maker.

Guerilla Drive-In Update: No @#$@# Disney films outdoors!

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