While in the past Doc Films has not charged for films that are altered or pulled at the last minute, the showing of In America last weekend marks a shift in policy. After the post-Oscar excitement, the film was re-released to first-run theaters, which would normally prevent Doc from presenting the film. Fox Searchlight Pictures decided to provide Doc with a VHS copy, and the film group therefore charged admission to the show.
Since Doc sets its 10-week schedule in advance, each screening is often subject to change as film companies re-release to first-run theaters. Oscar-winners that may not have performed well during their first runs at the box office are often given a second chance after the awards ceremony. If a film is pulled, Doc Films, which is considered a non-theatrical group, is forced to decide whether to show a VHS or DVD copy, or not show the film at all.
"If, however, a movie was never put on film or was totally unavailable on film and we knew that and wrote that on the calendar, we would charge, because we were screening it in the best format possible," said Doc Chair Daniel Reinhard.
When films such as In America are pulled, Doc Films risks losing a great deal of money. "Initially, we were hesitant to change our policy because of our commitment to providing the programming that we promise, but in recent months the costs have become exorbitant and prohibitive to our stability as an organization," said Laura Staley, former events chair of Doc Films. She said that every time a movie is screened free of charge, Doc Films is still required to obtain the rights and pay for equipment rentals.
While the costs remain high, the film group does realize that the audience is not receiving exactly what they assume they're paying for. "We have reservations about charging money for projecting a video, which is generally lower quality than film," Reinhard said.
Doc Films is hesitant, however, to claim that all future films which are pulled will be charging admission. "It might be premature to label this a policy change because we are still trying to figure it out, and weigh the financial concerns with our own concerns about video/DVD projection," Reinhard said.