LGBT+ films too often face limited release

Jennifer Verzuh and Jennifer Verzuh

Much has been written and said about the LGBT+ inclusive films that have been released this year. “Carol,” “The Danish Girl,”“Tangerine” and “Diary of a Teenager” among others have all received critical acclaim and awards buzz. As a queer woman I think it’s fantastic that more prominent films with LGBT+ characters and storylines are being made, and even more importantly, are being made well. However, I think it’s majorly problematic that only a very limited amount of people are actually able to see these movies as they all (with the exception of “The Danish Girl” have only received limited releases in New York and Los Angeles so far).

I recently had the pleasure of seeing “Carol” on a recent trip to New York City. The film concerns the love story between two women in the 1950s and it’s a revelation. It’s beautiful and breathtaking with intelligent and sensitive direction and two captivating performances at its center. Not only is it one of the best queer movies to come out this year, it’s one of the best movies of the year period. And I’m not only one to think so, it’s currently leading the Independent Spirit Awards nomination. Yet, it’s only playing in two cities in the entire country, New York and Los Angeles (though it thankfully will expand to more theaters later this month and in January.) And of all the hundreds of movie theaters in New York, when I saw it a few weeks ago it was only showing in two theaters. This is outrageous.

One of the best things about the aforementioned films is that they portray LGBT+ characters in three dimensional, complex and realistic ways and bring diversity to the full front. Isn’t this very point somewhat destroyed though by the limited access these movies receive. Queer people and audiences who are hungry for representation don’t just live in New York, LA, and other big cities. Film distributors take note. We live all over the country’s, small towns included, and we deserve access to stories and films that reflect our identities as well. Especially ones that are actually quite good, which unfortunately is still a rarity.

And it’s not like I’m asking film distributors to take risks on completely random films to with unknown actors and directors. “Carol” is peppered with Oscar nominees and winners, including director Todd Haynes and actresses Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, as well as established actors Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson, all of whom would be a major draw to filmgoers. Additionally, powerhouse mainstream actresses Julianne Moore and Ellen Page starred as a lesbian couple in this year’s Freeheld, which sadly also saw a modest limited release. Happily “The Danish Girl,” which stars last year’s Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as one of the first people to receive gender reassignment surgery Lili Elbe and comes from the critically acclaimed director of “The King’s Speech,” is receiving a wider release. In its initial limited release, the movie earned $185,000 its opening weekend, making the movie the sixth-best opening weekend per theater this year. This proves that these are films that people want to and will see, whether they identify as LGBT+ or not. And they should be able to.