Photography By Chi Chi Ubina
An interview with John Farr, independent film advocate and curator, founder of Best Movies by Farr and Chairman of Friends of the Bedford Playhouse
Philanthropy first, tell us about Saving the Bedford Playhouse.
Friends of Bedford Playhouse is a grassroots organization committed to transforming the village’s historic theater into a vibrant cultural destination dedicated to screening films for adults and families. Built in 1947, the Playhouse will also serve as a community hub for local gatherings, special events, and educational programs relating to film and the arts. With the money we raise, we are hoping to breathe new life into this community treasure.
Our goal is to raise funds to renovate and transform the Bedford Playhouse into a state-of-the-art cinema, housing a large-screen theater; a smaller, more intimate second-screen theater; flexible space for small gatherings and screenings; and a lobby café serving high-end coffee, wine, beer, and snacks. Friends of Bedford Playhouse believe that consistently high-quality film and concession offerings will attract viewers and visitors, as well as contribute to the vitality of the village.
How’s the fundraising going?
Since its formation in October 2014, the group has raised over $900,000 in pledges. The Thompson Family Foundation has pledged $200,000 towards the goal of $2.5 million, with an additional $300,000 gift that has been matched.
Here’s the link for donations: http://www.friendsofbedfordplayhouse.org.
We recently subscribed to www.bestmoviesbyfarr.com and it is fantastic. We are watching movies that we hadn’t seen in years and new ones that came and went in the movie theatre. Your suggestions are spot on for every member of our family. Please tell our audience about www.bestmoviesbyfarr.com and what your inspiration was for it:
People are overwhelmed by choice when trying to find a great movie and the reality is that only about 10% of what’s out there is really outstanding.
It’s very hard to make a great movie. Our aim was to provide a shortcut to the good stuff. The algorithms and recommendation engines touted by Netflix and Amazon really don’t work that well; at best they’re hit-or-miss. We think some level of personal attention- what we term “human curation” can make a big difference.
How many visitors do you get on the site each month?
Over the past year, we’ve averaged about 200K unique visits a month. It’s now less because we have stopped our marketing support pending angel funding. It’s the web’s best-kept secret but we want to change that. Movie lovers who find it love it and use it.
How many movies do you watch a week?
I watch about ten movies a week…all researched in advance, so that I know each title is supposed to be strong. I love all genres. I only cover full length features and tend to shy away from comic book movies aimed at teens and at the other end of the spectrum, wildly avant-garde films. I look for outstanding human-scale features, strong on story and script – old or new, domestic or foreign, narrative or documentary.
How do you prefer to watch movies? Big screen? Laptop?
I care about watching a movie in a theater, when it’s an epic, or animated, or where choreography is particularly rich. Otherwise, I’m OK watching it on my large flat screen and there are even films I watch on my MAC. For me, if a movie’s terrific, it’s going to shine through regardless.
Are people still going to the movies at the theatre? Do you know what the stats are compared to before Netflix, Hulu, etc.?
The growth in the industry is not exhibition, but streaming. At-home viewing is on the rise due to the convenience of streaming films. That said theaters aren’t going to be extinct by any means. People still want to get out and see certain movies on the big screen; they still want date nights. But exhibitors are realizing they have to offer more than just programming. Many are upgrading seats, equipment, and concessions, realizing that the whole in-theater experience matters.
What is your favorite movie?
Notorious, with Cary Grant. Favorite recent movie: Birdman.
Who are your favorite directors?
William Wyler, Billy Wilder, and Hitchcock.
Oscars for 2015. The envelope please…
First- I don’t think this was a great year for domestic films overall….but here goes:
Best Picture: Birdman
Actor: Michael Keaton
Actress: Julianne Moore (though I disliked the film – a weak field this year)
Director: Richard Linklater or Wes Anderson (too close to call)
I could be wrong – and often am…