Far Out East Cinema Launches New Season Tonight

Peter Sarsgaard and Cate Blanchett appear in a scene from Blue Jasmine, which screens at FarOutEast Cinemas October 15-16. SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
Peter Sarsgaard and Cate Blanchett appear in a scene from Blue Jasmine, which screens at FarOutEast Cinemas October 15-16. SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Far Out East Cinema, the local champion for independent and non-mainstream films in Metro Moncton will kick off its latest season tonight.

Far Out East was born in 1994 by local film fan Hugh Murphy who had then identified that fans of independent film and independent filmmakers did not have a wealth of viewing options available to them. While showing these films might have begun out of passion for the art, Murphy has since developed a dedicated group of fans eager to see what the film buff is bringing to the city.

The upcoming season of Far Out East Cinema features the works of directors including Woody Allen and Joss Whedon with films starring the likes of Ethan Hawke, Pierce Brosnan and Alec Baldwin.

Asked how he goes about selecting the films that are shown at Far Out East Cinema, Hugh says that a combination of buzz, movie reviews and availability ultimately dictate what films are shown. Taking in events such as the Toronto Independent Film Festival (from where Hugh recently returned) offers him the chance to feel out what might interest Metro film buffs.

“The Toronto Independent Film Festival is simply huge and in actuality, it is impossible to see as much as you’d like to see,” Hugh begins. “While I was there, I saw five films a day over the course of approximately five days. But that is only 25 films out of the 350 that were shown.

“You can’t help but get totally immersed in the atmosphere while you are there. You end up having conversations with people and hearing what people are talking about. You end up absorbing a wealth of information through osmosis, just from being there.

“The films I bring in to be screened at Far Out East represent a combination of what I have seen, what I have heard of, the reviews as well as what is available from the distributors. All of these factors ultimately tie together. It is not a precise science by any means, however.”

Once upon a time, each of the films shown at Far Out East would have been screened by Hugh before he made the decision to show them. Over the past few years as his life has gotten increasingly busier, he has had to rely on those factors listed above to help determine what is shown.

And while critical buzz doesn’t hurt the chances of Far Out East screening a specific film, Hugh says that what it all truly boils down to is whether or not the film has a compelling story. Hugh is not interested in exclusively showing films made by A-list actors and directors.

“I try my best to select movies that I think and hope will be well received. It is obviously important for the films we screen to be watchable, have good acting and a good screenplay but first and foremost, the films need to have a good story. I don’t care whether or not the films we are showing have the biggest stars or directors —it is all about the story and how it will resonate with those watching.”

Despite the proliferation of online services such as Netflix and the availability of movies on demand via cable-service providers, Hugh says Far Out East has carved out a niche for itself that keeps people coming back. He continues to be excited about bringing the films to Moncton

Although he isn’t looking too deeply to explain how or why the cinema has been able to retain its dedicated fan base, he believes a few different factors could be at play:

“While I wouldn’t necessarily say that putting on these films is getting any easier, there certainly is still a demand for it,” he says. “In one respect, we are competing against Internet services but we haven’t really seen a sharp decline in attendance or anything like that. I believe there is a lot of value to be found in getting out of the house midweek. Our films start at 8 p.m. each night so people are much more relaxed and able to plan coming out to our films a little more than going to see a movie that starts at 6:50 in the evening.

“The longer I do this though, the less I am able to predict what films will really resonate with audiences. But I absolutely love doing the film shopping for people to enjoy. It puts me in touch with a crowd of people that I am not normally exposed to during the usual daily grind. I like to see the films being presented as being a breath of fresh air for people seeking an alternative kind of movie-going experience.”

Article published in the September 24, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript