The Cinema Guild

What is The Cinema Guild?
We are a well-established (in business over 25 years) “full-service” distributor of motion pictures in all markets—theatrical, nontheatrical, television, and home video—and are thereby able to oversee the release of a film and maximize its commercial potential throughout its entire distribution career.

Who is The Cinema Guild?
Philip and Mary-Ann Hobel, chairpersons; Gary Crowdus, general manager; Michael Tuckman, feature film distribution coordinator; Marlene Graham, sales director.

Total number of employees:
We are eight basic members of a “lean and mean” distribution machine.

How, when, and why did The Cinema Guild come into being?
It was founded in 1972 by filmmakers Philip and Mary-Ann Hobel for the express purpose of distributing motion pictures produced by independent filmmakers and to provide economically efficient and conscientious exploitation of their films.

Philosophy behind The Cinema Guild:
Good working relationships with our producers is our most important consideration.

What would people be most surprised to learn about The Cinema Guild?
That we have extensive television sales experience, both in the U.S. and abroad.

How many works are in your collection?
Close to 600.

What types of works do you distribute?
Our collection is a mix of feature-length, medium-length and short films, produced by filmmakers from all over the world, in fiction, documentary, and animation formats.

Films and filmmakers you distribute:
Paul Devlin’s SlamNation, St. Clair Bourne’s John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk, John Fisher’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Lauren Malkasian’s In the Bag, Shereen Jerrett’s Kid Nerd, Nate Thomas’ East of Hope Street, Saul Landau’s The Sixth Sun: Mayan Uprising in Chiapas, Igor Vamos’ Le Petomane: Fin-de-Siecle Fartiste, Greta Schiller’s The Man Who Drove with Mandela, Gordon Eriksen and Heather Johnston’s Lena’s Dreams, and Amie Williams’ Stripped and Teased: Tales from Las Vegas Women.

Is The Cinema Guild also involved in co-production or co-financing of works?
Not at the present time.

Is there such a thing as “a Cinema Guild film”?
Not really.

Best known title in your collection:
Depends on whom you talk to. Educators might be familiar with titles like America and Lewis Hine or The Primal Mind, while theatrical bookers will be aware of SlamNation or A Tribute to Orson Welles; home video retailers will know How I Spent My Summer Vacation or The Golden Age of Salsa, and TV buyers will know series like The Fabulous Sixties or features like Kennedys Don’t Cry.

What drives you to acquire the films you do?
Our acquisition criteria are: it must be a well-made film that our staff likes; there should be an identifiable market or audience for the film, even though it may be a very small “niche” or special-interest market; and we must be convinced that the Cinema Guild is the right distributor for the film.

What’s your basic approach to releasing a title?
Identify the film’s primary and secondary audiences, whatever the market, and do our best, in as cost-effective a manner as possible, to get the film to those audiences.

Where do your titles generally show?
Our feature film releases are exhibited in North American 35mm and 16mm theaters, as well as cinematheques, art museums, and campus film societies. Our nontheatrical/educational titles are distributed to colleges, universities, schools, public libraries and, depending on the subject of the title, a range of other nontheatrical venues, such as community organizations, trade unions, etc.

Where do you find your titles and how should filmmakers approach you for consideration?
We go to the Independent Feature Film Market every year, attend film festivals and browse festival programs, scour trade publications, search the Internet, and the like. Our most important means of acquisitions, however, is recommendations or referrals from other filmmakers. We are always glad to hear from filmmakers seeking distribution. Phone us, write us, fax us, or, since we’re only on the fifth floor, holler up from the street in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater at 1697 Broadway!

Range of production budgets of titles in your collection:
We never ask our producers what their films cost.

Biggest change at The Cinema Guild in recent years:
Our re-entry, after several years hiatus, into the theatrical distribution of feature films.

Most important issue facing The Cinema Guild today:
Keeping pace, organizationally speaking, with the demand for our services.

Where will The Cinema Guild be 10 years from now?
Probably in better offices.

You knew The Cinema Guild had made it as a company when . . .
some of our films received Academy Award nominations.

Best distribution experience you’ve had lately:
Getting theatrical playdates on the one-hour video documentary Le Petomane, which profiles the little-known, French, turn-of-the-century master flatulator, Joseph Pujol. We were blown away by this!

If you weren’t distributing films, you’d be . . .
trying to figure out how to get involved in film distribution.

Other distributors you admire and why:
Miramax, for the quality of their acquisitions and their marketing savvy.

The difference between Cinema Guild and other distributors of independent films is . . .
the emphasis we place on working closely with filmmakers on the release of their films.

One bit of advice to independent filmmakers:
Please don’t approach us with formulaic genre films.

Upcoming titles to watch for:
Art Jones’ Going Nomad, a quirky, offbeat comedy about New York’s “Asphalt Nomads,” starring Damian Young; Neil Grieve’s Stuart Bliss, an end-of-the millennium paranoid conspiracy comedy/ drama starring Michael Zelniker; Nate Thomas’ East of Hope Street, starring Jade Herrera as a young Latina caught up in L.A.’s juvenile welfare system; Gordon Eriksen and Heather Johnston’s Lena’s Dreams, starring Marlene Forte as a Latina actress struggling against type-casting.

The future of independent film distribution in this country is one which . . .
given the increasing homogenization of our film culture, will be even more responsible for fulfilling the needs of an increasing number of viewers seeking films from truly innovative and provocative filmmakers.

About :

Lissa Gibbs was a contributing editor to The Independent and former Film Arts Foundation Fest director.