Arthouse Movies On Demand: 5 US Platforms Offering Alternative Cinema at Home
On February 9, 2020, the day of the 92nd Academy Awards, it seemed like anything was possible. Brad Pitt had just won his first acting Oscar for his role as loyal stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, who had already won Best Director, did the unthinkable when Parasite, his critically-adored black comedy about a poor family who infiltrate the lives of a wealthy couple, became the first international-language film to win Best Picture. It felt like Hollywood was on the cusp of something new and exciting.
Six weeks later, nearly every movie theater in the country was closed to the coronavirus pandemic. And six months into the crisis, there are no clear guidelines as to when they’ll reopen, since the spread of the virus has been linked to exactly the kind of environment that movie theaters operate under; patrons gathering together in indoor spaces for prolonged periods of time. In the meantime, theaters have gotten creative, opening virtual cinemas to allow audiences to watch first-run movies and more from the comfort of their own home.
We’ve rounded up five US-based arthouse virtual cinemas that will help you (safely) stay on top of what’s new in theaters. So take a trip to the concession stand, er, kitchen, and make it a night in at the movies.
1. Kino Lorber Kino Marquee
A critical player in the arthouse DVD/Blu-ray distribution scene since 2009, NYC-based Kino Lorber has taken their knowledge and know-how in a direction during this pandemic with Kino Marquee, a virtual theater that allows patrons to “buy” tickets to a movie from participating independent theaters. Miss the rumbling of the F train while watching a movie at Angelika? Itching for a matinee at Coolidge Corner? Kino Marquee lets you search hundreds of independent theaters around the country (Canada too!) so you can help support these vital institutions while their doors remain closed.
2. Film Society at Lincoln Center
The trailblazing Film Society of Lincoln Center has been a central figure in the New York City film landscape for over 50 years and, even with its doors closed, continues to program a thoughtful and exciting mix of new classics, old favorites, and up-to-the minute selections. Once you navigate the site’s simple interface, 50% of the rental fee goes directly to the theater (current Film Society members still receive their member discount but sorry—rentals are U.S. only for now.) Watching a movie in the comfort of your home doesn’t replace a trip to W 65th and Broadway but right now, it’s the next best thing.
3. Alamo Drafthouse Alamo-at-Home
Terror Tuesday. Weird Wednesday. If these signature Alamo Drafthouse nights (and their soft pretzels with queso) were a big part of your life before the pandemic, then Alamo-at-Home is for you. The cult favorite Texas theater chain has gone virtual, allowing viewers to program their own wild double features and more with access to a wide-ranging mix of festival hits, new releases, eclectic staff picks, and more. You can search by genre, director and even through partner sites like Neon, Severin, and Vinegar Syndrome (who all receive a portion of the rental fee).
4. Oscilloscope On Demand
Oscilloscope Laboratories, co-founded in 2008 by Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, is your go-to destination for recreating a trip to your favorite independent theater. The Brooklyn-based distributor and production company behind such recent indie hits as The Love Witch, Kedi and Madeline’s Madeline has compiled its streaming library into an easy-to-browse virtual VHS catalog that provides a fun, tactile way to find old favorites and discover new ones. Most titles are available to rent or buy on the major streaming platforms or can be purchased directly through the Oscilloscope site. Be sure to sign up for their email list for the occasional sale and special promotion.
5. Laemmle Cinemas
This mini-chain of Southern California arthouse theaters has been open for business since 1938, though right now things look a little (okay, a lot) different. With all eight of its locations closed due to the coronavirus, Laemmle has taken things online by streaming dozens of independent dramas, documentaries, and revivals through their easy-to-navigate site. The selections are always changing, so sign up for the email list to be notified of new releases and special updates. A portion of every rental goes directly to the theater, which has long been a favorite of Academy voters and insiders.