Lecture titled "The Work of An Art-House Theater and Independent Film Distributors" was Held

Update: February 1, 2021

On Friday, January 15, ICU President Shoichiro Iwakiri hosted a lecture inviting Ms. Rico Yamoto of Iwanami Hall (Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo), a pioneer art-house theater. The lecture, held in a hybrid format combining face-to-face and online participation in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection, was attended by about 70 people.

The lecture hosted by the ICU president is part of the lecture series titled "Liberal Arts and Contemporary Society," inviting leading thinkers in various fields who would speak about how people are connected with the world through their work. This is the second lecture in the series.

Ms. Yamoto, after briefly talking about significant moments from the history of cinema, explained to the students in an easy-to-understand manner the path taken by Iwanami Hall, teamwork involved in completing a movie poster, and the relation with distribution agents, using websites and pictures.

Regarding the history of cinema, she talked about the motion picture devices - kinetoscope and cinematograph - invented respectively by Edison and the Lumiere brothers in 1890s, the release by Georges Melies of A Trip to the Moon, the first movie with a storyline, and about Takada Sekaikan, one of the oldest movie theater in Japan which is still operating. She also mentioned the movement called Help! The Movie Distribution Company Project, which began against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.



She also talked about Iwanami Hall, which opened with a female general manager, Etsuko Takano, in 1968, a rarity in those days, and how it went ahead with revolutionary moves not constrained by the conventions till then. For example, in an era when most movie halls could hold 500 to 1,000 people, Iwanami Hall limited the number of seats to 232; it set the screening time and changed the ticketing system to full replacement type for each screening; and it screened Satyajit Ray's "The World of Apu" at the instance of Ms. Kashiko Kawakita and uncovered hidden movies from around the world and screened them, launching the Equipe de Cinema movement. Moreover, Ms. Yamoto highlighted that, in choosing movies, the hall places emphasis on whether the movie has a theme that shows how humans should live.

Ms. Yamoto also introduced the work at Iwanami Hall, which included booking the movies bought by distributors, checking the subtitles, making necessary corrections with the distributor and those in charge of subtitles, creating advertisement visuals with the chosen designer, sending the trailer and disclosure information to the writers in various movie-related websites and newspaper reporters to publicize the movie, and cooperating with the work of very small distributors. The lecture concluded with the screening of a soon-to-be released trailer.
President Iwakiri, in wrapping up the lecture, said that though a person can go alone to watch a movie, he learned how a team worked in the back to bring that movie to the screen.


In the Q&A session after the lecture, to the question as to what should be done to make the movie halls more exciting, she replied frankly that it would be desirable to appreciate entertainment movies in a movie theater run by a theater chain operator, and watch them at independent art-house theaters when you want to learn something. About how to find a job at a movie theater, she spoke of the importance of building a network by working part-time at movie halls and then talking to the staff there.

We received the following comments from the students who listened to the lecture: "it was quite meaningful as I learned about the people working behind the movies that I see," "the lecture introduced a few movies and it made you want to see movies," and "it was surprising to learn that film distribution companies not only import movies but also are involved in other details such as subtitles."

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