This year Madison Film Forum organized outings to see 43 films with an average Rotten Tomatoes critical rating of 86%
Our ongoing mission to see one good film every week in Madison theaters completed its second year in 2015. James Kreul looks back at what we saw, and looks ahead to what we hope to achieve when the Madfilm Meetups are relaunched in late January.
Despite complaints about the Madison film market (including our own complaints in the recent past, and our upcoming Missed Madison Film Festival), it is possible to go to see one good film every week in a local commercial theater, if you’re disciplined about it. The only question now is whether we can convince more people to join us in our Madfilm Meetup experiment in 2016, which we hope to reboot in late January with the return of Sundance’s Screening Room Calendar.
As we complete our second full year of Madfilm Meetups, I was surprised to look back at our first year numbers and discover our consistency. In 2014, we saw 44 films with an average Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating of 85%. This year, we saw 43 films with an average RT rating of 86%. Man, if we hadn’t cancelled the Crimson Peak meetup, or if we could have squeezed in Carol this week, my OCD would have been satisfied.
Once again, the 2015 RT average went down because of our catholic tastes and curiosity. Removing the three lowest RT rated films, Blackhat, Magic Mike XXL, and Spectre, the average jumps up to nearly 89%. Magic Mike XXL was one of my favorite theatrical experiences of the year (Jake Smith and I were the only males in the auditorium), and as Jake will tell you (likely soon in the Madison Film Forum), Spectre is woefully underrated. But, yeah, we could have skipped Blackhat; we were victims of our own auteurist hopes and expectations on that one.
Our theater breakdown was proportionately similar in 2015, but the narrow programming range at Marcus Palace (compared to the old Marcus Eastgate) sent us to Sundance and Point more frequently. The $5 Tuesday deal at Marcus tended to draw us away from AMC Fitchburg 18 for mainstream fare, but AMC’s Tuesday Stubs member discount, if continued, will likely help us achieve more balance at those chains in 2016.
Sundance Cinemas: 18 (up 4)
Marcus Point: 12 (up 4)
Marcus Palace: 3 (down 3 from Eastgate)
AMC Star 18: 4 (down 2)
HWY 18 Outdoor Theater: 3 (skipped second features)
MMoCA Spotlight Cinema 3 (up 1)
For an explanation of why we focus on the commercial theaters on Tuesdays rather than campus venues like UW Cinematheque and WUD Film’s Marquee Theater on the weekends, see my 2014 Madfilm Meetup summary. We can’t complain about the local film market if we are not supporting it at the box office. But we simply had to vary our schedule to accommodate some crucial Wednesday screenings at Spotlight Cinema at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. We did our best to help pack the auditorium for Madison’s only screening of Hou Hsiao Hsien’s The Assassin (we tagged #PackTheAssassin on as many things and as often as we could). In retrospect, we probably should have done one more at Spotlight, Cemetery of Splendor, and pushed back Spectre which was around for much longer.
As we prepare to reboot the Madfilm Meetups in January, we will try to find new ways to get more people involved. The staff at Sundance Cinemas has been very helpful, especially with their support on social media (Facebook and Twitter). Whenever possible, we will continue to support Rob Thomas’s post-screening chats at Sundance (this year, the Phoenix discussion was a highlight).
In general, however, the Madfilm Meetup endeavor has become more challenging as new movie times are posted later and later in the week, making it hard to post Facebook event pages before people have made plans. And it is nearly impossible to secure announcements in local newspapers with much tighter deadlines. Securing some local newspaper listings in March had a significant impact, but to replicate that we will likely have to lock ourselves into films programmed in advance at the Sundance Screening Room. Hopefully this will work out, but we’ve found that flexibility is important since the Madison film market has become more unstable and skittish towards non-mainstream films.
We hope to introduce new ideas and features, including more direct coverage of the Meetups—perhaps capsule reviews, recorded or transcribed discussions, who knows what we’ll come up with?
Perhaps the best motivation for continuing the Madfilm Meetups is that we’ve met some great film fans in 2015. Janet Kjelland proved herself to be quite an adventurous filmgoer, and she easily won the crown for most films by a newcomer. Lisa Barnes and Leo Chato continue to be drive-in theater champs. We also met Susan Rathke and Erik Oliver through the Meetups, both of whom eventually contributed reviews to the Madison Film Forum this year.