Saturday, June 4, 2011

FAQ - Why Café Roxy?

I am probably asked one question more than all others. Even if new customers don't ask it, they may well be wondering, because they find my website by making a google search on "public domain films." They already know what public domain means, so the question is some variation on:

"If all these films are in public domain, why can't I show what I got from a dollar store?" Here is an exact quote from a small theater owner last week: "Why can't I just use my private copy of the Movie? If it's public domain? You have an excellent selection and was just wondering about this!"

When I started making Café Roxy "Programs" in early 2009, I asked myself exactly the same question -- Why Café Roxy?  What could I offer special that no one else provided?  The answers are on the website, but here is a chance to spell them out again. I explained it in an email to the above theater manager. The same answers apply to TV stations adding public domain films and TV shows. If you are starting to yawn about now, jump to the bottom of this post to see his reply to my reply. Yawn....

Each Café Roxy Program starts with a brief "Café Roxy Presents" opening fanfare.  You do not need to run this if you don't want to.  The Matinee, Horror, Turkey, etc., Roxy series contain trailers, live shorts, serial chapters, cartoons and Intermission breaks so every presentation runs close to two hours.  A Roxy logo with music concludes each show.  The "Just Classics" section contains longer films and classics that have at least one cartoon added, like the Cat O' Nine Tails poster.  The Classics have 3 minutes of exit music after a voice over says: "Thank you for coming.  Have a safe trip home."

I make my own posters that list both features and shorts and have a blank area to add your show date info if you print out the posters.  You can also take the poster Jpeg off my website and put it on yours.  If the poster design appeals to you, then chances are it will work the same magic on your customers.

Quality of some of those dollar bin discs is all over the place.  My standard is acceptable (to excellent) viewing when projected in a 400+ seat movie theater.  I constantly seek to upgrade each show.  There are no annoying company logos or bullets in the corner of the picture like constantly show up on broadcast TV.  There is also a quality guarantee that if you get a show you don't like, then no charge.

I also screen the films before putting them into a program with an eye toward what audiences will enjoy today.  I am liberal about including westerns, B-pictures and golden turkeys, but I once discouraged a customer who wanted to buy and run "Sin Takes a Holiday" based on the title alone.  This 1930 drama with Constance Bennett and Basil Rathbone is fine viewing for Cinephiles on TV, but no one would sit through it in a theater.

Are you really sure that DVD you picked up for a dollar is in the public domain?  It says on the box and on the DVD that the FBI will pursue you for copyright infringement.  The only thing really copyrighted is the art work on the box.  I take the opposite and honest approach to inform exactly why a film or TV show is in the public domain.  You CAN run them on TV or show the films in your movie theater.  Won't you feel safer knowing why the films are public domain in case anyone asks, like the station owner?

I do put my own copyright notice -- © -- on each Café Roxy release to cover my openings and closings. This protection of new matter insures that no one can simply copy and resell the programs.  (This is the furthest thing from my users minds!)  At the same time I grant permission for theaters and TV stations to run the entire shows.

The Café Roxy pricing section had been saying $50 per program for movie theaters, with discounts for volume sales.  Most theaters who try the shows will take at least 5, which qualifies for the discount to $25 per program.  I don't want to scare you off with "$50."  I want you to try showing vintage films to audiences.  So the pricing page now reads: "For movie theaters and film societies where admission is charged -- $35 per DVD-R. Discount Price for all 12 programs of any series such as Golden Turkeys or 12 Nights of Horror: $25 per program."

I almost forgot about this bonus.  Just ask and I will send a free Café Roxy program with shorts, serial trailers, feature excerpts, the first episode of "Beverly Hillbillies," a silent Buster Keaton short and the 1934 "Buck Rogers" film.  Run it in your theater to see how the films project.  Prepare samples for Internet streaming or TV broadcast.  Examine the range of quality.

So I told that theater owner: "Programs have cartoons, shorts and serial chapters added.  I get the best quality films, and ones without any company logos over the picture, and you can use my posters to promote your showings, and I include copyright info in case it is needed.  That is particularly useful to TV stations. Yes, you could put your own programs together if you prefer."

And he replied: "Oh, okay, now I understand that will be well worth the price then. I will defiantly keep you guys in mind when the time comes. Your set up sounds fantastic and will pass your site onto others."

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  1. What do you consiter "Acceptable" viewing quality when projected - equivolent to a 16mm print,or close to it?

  2. Acceptable video would be sharp focus, good contrast and sound. Such can be obtained from good 16mm originals. Great quality could be obtained from 35mm with few scratches, splices or dirt. The transfer system would also play a role in the final product, as in Hi-Def transfers that can be made today.

    16mm prints vary as much in quality as videos, from poor dupe to good dupe to original print from a worn negative to sparkling lab original, etc.