There are quite a lot of standards in determining what movies make it to the big screen. This is why you can’t expect a movie to be shown in your local cinemas even if it has already been released. The main factor is money.
No cinema house owner would show a film that doesn’t rake money. Take note that the operating cost of movie houses is quite high. They also have to pay for the license to show the movie. This is why most of the time only mainstream movies make it to the big screen. Add to that the fact that in some movie houses, they only have 2 to 3 screens. It means that there are only 2 to 3 movies that can be shown at a time.
There are movie houses that might experiment on showing independent films and documentaries. However, as soon as they realise that they are not making money out of it, they might decide to pull them out and replace them with a more popular film.
This is the reason why it is quite a challenge for documentary filmmakers seeing their creations up on the big screen. They are lucky enough if people even hear about it. Usually, they end up showing what they have done in digital platforms. This is quite unfortunate since these filmmakers also need money in order to keep making films in the future. Even if documentaries are usually not as expensive as mainstream movies, they still have to pay the people working for the film.
A few exemptions
There were documentaries that were lucky enough to have made it huge on the big screen. For instance, former Vice President Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth raked millions of dollars despite being a low budget documentary. Of course, it involved a huge personality plus a very controversial issue.
Oscar nominations could also put a documentary up on the big screen. This year’s O.J. Made in America has also made quite a lot of money after winning the award at the Oscars. Other short films were also able to make big screen debuts because of their nominations.
The only problem is that it doesn’t happen all the time. There are a lot of great documentaries released every now and then but they rarely get noticed. You can even find the best evolution documentary online. You won’t know they exist up until someone tells you just how great the documentaries are.
The sad reality
For now, we have to contend with this sad reality. Documentaries will almost never make it on the big screen. The film industry is still about money. It also has something to do with the behaviour of people going to the big screen. Huge budget animated films and superhero movies rake billions of dollars while documentaries, no matter how great, end up with huge debts instead of income. This can only change with the change in the attitude of viewers towards documentaries when shown on the big screen. They definitely need our support.
Also read: The End Of 3D Era