Let's face it: with gas prices, ticket prices, inflation, and in general the economy being what it is, attendance at the movie theater is going down and will continue to go down. As such, movie studios will only bring to the multiplex the big blockbusters that they think will bring the large crowds of money-wasting teenagers.
Smaller, more adult, more intimate, and more controversial films, they won't. At first, it used to bother me, but not so much anymore. Thanks to cable TV, audiences have now become comfortable with the fact that entertainment can and should be tailor-made for them.
If they're NASCAR fans, then they have a cable channel geared specifically for them. If they love golf, then they have a wired network for that. If they're like me and love independent films, there are ton of channels tuned to their own specific pleasures.
With Video-on-Demand, audiences are even further fractured, now able to get those specific pleasures any time they want, on their tailor-made schedules, via the boob tube or a iPod, or whatever.
As a result, people think, "Why go out to a theater when I can get specific material that I like on demand?" Some entities, mostly large corporate ones, used to fight this idea. Luring people out to the theater was still paramount, but now many companies have stopped fighting and are now merely embracing, and in fact, using this sentiment to an advantage.
This Friday, Here!, a premium cable channel that one has to pay a little extra to subscribe, like HBO, will premiere on television a movie called Shelter. Now, unlike the new Indiana Jones movie, you won't see its actors on the cover of magazines. You won't see huge billboards for it, or TV ads on multiple channels, this week, leading up to its launch.
Here! will go a different route, one that is very similar to another premium cable network. Last year, HBO premiered on its channel a film called Life Support, which won a lot of acclaim after first showing up at film festivals. I first saw it at the Philadelphia Film Festival.
Here! doesn't exactly have the same prestige as HBO. However, Here! produced a new movie on a very limited, shoe-string budget, but produced it very well and with a lot of talent.
HBO only played its film at a few festivals before exploding it on cable and on demand in early 2007. It was only a 2-month window in fact, but Here! needed a little bit more time than that.
In the end, its window turned out to be nearly a year. It basically puts its movie on tour. Much in the same way a music artist or rock group will go on tour from city to city, promoting their newest album or songs, Here! put its movie on tour at various film festivals in over a dozen cities nationwide, including Rehoboth Beach.
Those tours target film buffs, people like me who are intense about movies already, but they are also a good way of building buzz and spreading word-of-mouth. Unlike the HBO film, which was exclusively for television. Shelter was released in several, select theaters last month, giving the movie even more buzz. So far, the reviews have been phenomenal.
In the movie, Zach, played by acting newcomer Trevor Wright, lives in San Pedro in southern California, and is a totally adorable skateboarder. He works as a fry cook and has a passion for art. He enjoys drawing but his hobby is surfing.
Zach has a girlfriend named Tori whom Zach calls monkey. She's a gorgeous blonde who's very sexy, but his friends tease him over the fact that Zach apparently hasn't gotten horizontal with Tori yet. Not from a lack of trying! Tori's attempts to get past first-base with Zach haven't gone well. She wonders why and so does the audience.
That is until the brother of Zach's best friend comes to town. His name is Shaun and he's played by Brad Rowe, the Brad Pitt lookalike from Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss. Shaun is a bit older, but he shares Zach's love of surfing. Shaun is a writer trying to pen another book and is surprised to learn that Zach has read his first book and liked it.
Zach would love to be with Shaun and spend time with him but Zach's sister tells him that she needs his help taking care of her son named Cody. Cody's father is absent and his mother has to work full-time and even more so. Zach, of course, feels obligated to Cody, his young nephew. Cody has no other male figure in his life, or any figure, period. Zach wants to be there for him.
But, Zach also feels this pull toward Shaun. Will he choose family over his own personal happiness?
Director Jonah Markowitz, a production designer for Quinceanera, crafts a heartfelt story that doesn't break any new grounds and more or less is a gay version of 2002's Blue Crush, for which Markowitz was an assistant art director. But the actors here give genuine performances that take you along with them, that deliver a sincere message and actually entertain.
Five Stars Out of Five
Premieres Friday, April 18, 2008 on Here! TV
Video-on-Demand and for download on most cable and satellite providers
Available on DVD on May 27, 2008
Rated R for language, sexuality and drug use
Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 mins.