Most movie theaters across the country are closed, making it difficult to see first-run films, particularly if they are independent, so many distributors are switching to virtual cinemas.
Montage Cinemas, founded in 2018 by Mason Boudreau, are champions of art house films that might not have made it to Savannah without their pop-up screening events around the city.
“All the movies I wanted to see, all the indie movies, just weren’t playing here,” said Boudreau. “Having no theatrical run experience, the easiest way for me to dive in and open up something myself was to start with pop-ups and learn that side of the business.”
Montage Cinemas began screening classic films and eventually graduated into featuring big independent films by powerhouse studios like A24.
“Our first two events were ‘Jaws’ and ‘Easy Rider’ and that was actually a surprise—there was a big audience for that,” said Boudreau. “I think it was because people my age, I’m 27, didn’t get to see these movies in theaters, so there was a big audience wanting to see something on the big screen they weren’t able to before. Once we started showing the A24 movies, that’s exactly what I expected. We sold out most of them. There was a really big response to those.”
The transition to virtual cinema has actually benefited Montage Cinemas in some ways. Although he hasn’t seen the ticket sales numbers from his distributors yet, Boudreau says that traffic to his website has quadrupled.
“It’s actually given us the ability to do more of what we’ve wanted to do at Montage which is program a full slate of indie movies, as opposed to showing ‘Uncut Gems’ for one night only at a local restaurant,” said Boudreau.
Visitors to montagecinemas.com will be able to select from a handful of indie films and documentaries, such as “The Ghost of Peter Sellers,” “Corpus Christi,” and the hilariously bizarre French film, “Deerskin.” There are currently seven films available with more to come each week.
“I wanted to start with something a little bit smaller for our audience and not overwhelm them,” said Boudreau. “I though it would be more effective to have a small selection for us, the same way we would do if if we were a brick and mortar theater.”
With Montage Cinemas, you also often get more than just a movie. Their “Jaws” screenings in the past, for example, offered kiddie pools to sit in. When Montage Cinemas features “Stage: The Culinary Internship,” they will be partnering up with a local restaurant for a dinner-and-a-movie package where ticket purchasers can pick up a full meal from the restaurant to enjoy with their screening.
“We’re going to try to do a lot more like that as the films come out,” said Boudreau. “I want it to feel different from when you rent it on Amazon or something. I want it to feel more like an event, even if it is from home.”
In the near future, when people can venture out more freely again, Montage Cinemas hopes to continue with virtual cinema, as well as screenings at a dedicated space. The ideal scenario would allow film fans to see a new film at one of the events, or catch it later, virtually, if they miss it.
“A24 reached out to me last week because they were considering doing virtual cinema themselves, but they had not put any of their titles out virtually,” explained Boudreau. “They’re reaching out to different cinema owners to see how it’s going. The biggest independent distributor doesn’t know what’s going to happen and neither do we.”
“I don’t see how virtual cinema goes away, especially in this climate, and it was trending more and more to viewing at home anyway. I think something like this would have happened.”
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