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Why Didn't the Andrew Garfield Film 'Under the Silver Lake' Get a Proper Theatrical Release

Updated on April 27, 2019

It was one of my most anticipated films of 2018.

I remember watching the trailer for Under the Silver Lake around this time last year, maybe even earlier. I was in love. I was in Heaven for every second of that gorgeous trailer. Everything appealed to me about this upcoming movie.

It was the third film from the enormously talented David Robert Mitchell, who directed my favorite horror film of 2015 — It Follows. It stars Andrew Garfield, one of the best actors of his generation working in film today. It comes from the production company A24, my absolute favorite in the industry. I loved the photography in the trailer. I loved the offbeat nature of the story.

The use of setting and color and style… ahh, I was just so excited. This movie was my jam!

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 2018, and then its theatrical release date was set for June 22. I waited. Patiently.

But that time came and went, of course. And then for months I heard nothing about this film. It premiered at Fantastic Fest and the AFI Film Festival later in the year. Some other festivals, too.

2018 came and went, and there was no Under the Silver Lake.

I sort of forgot about it for weeks at a time, but then it would hit me that the film never came out. It was still on my radar as something I desperately wanted to see, but there was no release date in sight.

What had happened to it? Why was a film that looked this amazing, with this incredible director-star combo, staying so quiet?

And why in the world after all this time is this film getting a quiet video-on-demand release?

I was so pumped to see this on the big screen. Even though I live in Reno, we have an arthouse theater downtown, and I was sure that this particular film would make its way here eventually.

Now that’s definitely not going to happen.

It’s basically the call of death for a movie to go almost immediately direct to VOD.

It’s sad to say but true. It shows the studio or production company has little faith in the film. That it’s not necessarily good enough to make the rounds in movie theaters for a few weeks until it eventually premieres in people’s homes.

This is the case with a lot of independent films lately. It makes more financial sense for the movie to premiere on VOD than it does to premiere in theaters and let word-of-mouth grow. If the studio doesn’t believe the film has word-of-mouth potential, then pretty much always VOD it goes.

Under the Silver Lake still to me looks too damn good to be essentially a straight-to-VOD film! Sure, the reviews aren’t all stellar. It’s currently at 52% on rottentomatoes, for example.

But I feel like if the also L.A.-centric independent films The Neon Demon from 2016 and Ingrid Goes West from 2017 can receive fairly wide theatrical releases, why can’t Under the Silver Lake?

Film distribution remains kind of a mystery to me. Why some independent films receive small theatrical releases, some receive wider theatrical releases, and some just go straight to VOD even if it’s a solid, original film.

I’m looking forward to watching Under the Silver Lake soon, but I really, really wish I could be seeing it on the big screen, like I’m sure its director David Robert Mitchell intended.


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