Oscar Hopeful Memoria Will Only Screen In One Theater A Time, Never Hit Streaming Or VOD

Here's an interesting one. The film "Memoria," which co-won the Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival and has been selected as Colombia's entry for Best International Feature Film at next year's Academy Awards, is coming to theaters — exclusively and forever — as a never-ending U.S. tour. The film stars Tilda Swinton and is written and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul ("Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives"), but if you want to see it, the only way to do that will be to wait for it to come to a cinema near you.

The film's distributor, NEON, issued a press release with the announcement, which gives the following details:

"The film will only ever be available in cinemas; and in the spirit of the film itself, the rollout will be a deliberate and methodical approach: moving from city to city, theater to theater, week by week, playing in front of only one solitary audience at any given time. The launch will begin at the IFC Center in New York on December 26th where it will play for a one week exclusive theatrical run. After that, the film will 'travel' to the next city, making its rounds throughout the country over a continuous string of week-long engagements. Each engagement will be available for a predetermined, finite amount of time. Audiences are invited to take the existential plunge in to Weerasethakul's hypnotic brand of filmmaking though cinema, and cinema alone."

On one level, this obviously functions as a publicity stunt, drumming up interest for a drama that only earned $407 dollars in its first week abroad, according to Box Office Mojo. Yet the filmmakers behind "Memoria" evidently have their own artistic reasoning behind it.

"For Memoria, Cinema Experience Is Crucial"

Weerasethakul explained, "For Memoria, cinema experience is crucial or maybe the only way. Let's embrace the darkness and dream, one at a time." Swinton added, "Memoria is the perfect film for this moment ... Big cinema or bust ... Throughout the universe, in perpetuity..."

As you can see from the trailer above, the sound design looks to play a big part in the theatrical experience of "Memoria." Here's the synopsis via NEON:

The film lulls audiences in to almost a dreamlike state, as they settle in to follow Jessica, an expat in Bogota, who, after hearing a jarring sound at daybreak, begins experiencing a mysterious sensory syndrome while traversing the jungles of Colombia.

I have to admit, watching the trailer does make me want to see "Memoria." I say this as someone who just came back last night from his first theater outing in over a year. It was "No Time to Die," a movie with a title that sounds like an overt warning not to rush out to theaters yet. The film has already opened internationally and is coming to U.S. theaters this Friday, October 8, 2021.

I'm vaccinated and was double-masked the whole time, and I'm also in a city where Covid cases had just fallen to an 11-month low the day before. I specifically waited until after the opening weekend crowds had died down, and chose an assigned seat in the back corner, as far away from others as I could. The theater I was in also had a special air filtering system. Not everyone will have these conditions at their disposal, and there are also people with disabilities who are incapable of visiting a theater.

Is the release strategy for "Memoria" novel or irresponsible and profoundly ableist? You decide.