Good flicks missing at the multiplex

Have you seen any of these 10 movies: "The Deep End," "Ghost World," "Mulholland Drive," "No Man's Land," "In the Bedroom," "The Man Who Wasn't There," "Iris," "Monster's Ball," "Gosford Park," or "The Devil's Backbone"?

They all have made the Top 10 lists for 2001 of numerous critics or been nominated for awards by critics' organizations around the country. Most of them are in release now. Yet the movie listings for the two multiplexes nearest to my suburban Boston home (with 30 screens between them) don't contain a single one of them.

A few of these films may get Oscar nominations in coming weeks, coaxing theater owners into giving them a chance. But the others will be found only in a few theaters in urban areas, requiring a major effort for most people to find and view them.

Are the movie critics who loved these small-budget or foreign films elitists, whose tastes just don't reflect those of the average moviegoer?

That's one theory.

Another is that they're simply able to see good films that the rest of us have a hard time locating.

This isn't to blame theater owners, who're only trying to accommodate the most ticket buyers. If they can fill three theaters at once with this week's mega-hyped Hollywood blockbuster, why save a screen for a little-known film that isn't getting saturation TV and print advertising to whip up demand?

Hollywood just completed another record-setting year at the box office. So it has little incentive to change its ways. But if movie lovers don't work to find and support the little-known movie gems, 2002 at the multiplex is going to be the same old same old - again.

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