Art House

Image: iStock by Getty, Shutterstock, © 2016 My Uncle Production Committee

APEX Insight: Blockbuster movies may be the main attraction of in-flight entertainment systems, but the discovery of an art house film makes for a delightful surprise.

It’s not every day that a film distributor receives a message about a passenger’s unexpected discovery of a movie. “I felt led to watch a Japanese movie … The Pearls of the Stone Man, which was very touching,” wrote one passenger to Jovita Toh, CEO of Encore Inflight. The note goes on to explain that after the flight, the passenger searched high and low to buy the movie, but it seemed the only place the indie film could be found with English subtitles was on an airplane.    

“Entertainment systems with larger capacities are allowing airlines to program diverse content catering to a large mix of cultures,” Toh says. “Airlines are looking toward increasing the number of new titles each month and introducing more art house and international content.” This makes moments like the one in the story above possible in the passenger experience, which also has a happy ending: The airline reached out to Encore, which sought out the producers who then granted permission of the movie to the passenger.

Encore has always focused on distributing independents, festival gems, foreign films and art house titles such as Barakah Meets Barakah (Saudi Arabia), My Uncle (Japan) and Planetarium (France-Belgium). “This has worked in our favor,” Toh says. “With passenger devices and aircraft connectivity, all the mainstream content is likely already viewed or downloaded onto personal devices. This makes niche and not-easily-accessible content desirable.”

“People are more open-minded when traveling.” – Cathie Trotta, Penny Black Media

But even within the genre of films that are left of center, there’s a range from obscure art-for-art’s-sake titles to award-winning box-office hits like The Imitation Game, which features Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. “This spectrum contributes greatly to an airline’s in-flight entertainment catalog by appealing to the diverse tastes of passengers,” says Terry Steiner, president of Terry Steiner International, “and affords them the opportunity to see films they may not have had the chance to see at the theater.”

There’s also something about being in the air. “People are more open-minded when traveling and are willing to watch programming that they wouldn’t normally watch, or in the case of local fare, might not even have the opportunity to watch,” says Cathie Trotta, managing director, Penny Black Media. “[It’s] what makes today’s array of IFE offerings so great. There’s a little something for everyone.”

“In the Mood for Art House” was originally published in the 6.5 December/January issue of APEX Experience magazine. 

Caroline is managing editor at APEX Media.