Theater criticizes studios

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Assistant to the Editor

Harper Theater will show “12 Years A Slave” beginning Friday, Nov. 1, two weeks after blasting distributor 20th Century Fox’s decision to exclude it from the film’s initial release.

The movie was originally released Oct. 18. Earlier that week, Harper Theater posted a petition on Change.org highlighting its exclusion from the release. It received 408 signatures.

It is unclear, however, according to owner Tony Fox, whether Harper Theater’s complaint had any impact on 20th Century Fox’s decision to show the film there this week.

The appeal for Harper Theatre’s petition, entitled, “20th Century Fox: Allow local, neighborhood theaters the chance to play movies that our customers want to see,” accused major studios and theaters of coming together “to squeeze neighborhood theaters.” It also cited a history of discrimination by 20th Century Fox against Harper Theater and its Rogers Park sister location, also owned by ADF Capital.

“[The studios] do it intentionally to hurt the little guy,” Fox said in an interview with the Herald. “And it’s anti-competitive.” He added that film audiences drop off in the second and third weeks of a film’s release.

Fox also emphasized that films such as “12 Years A Slave” should be shown at theaters like his, where he said the clientele is more than half African American.

Last April, Harper Theater filed another petition on Change.org directed at Warner Bros., to show the Jackie Robinson biopic “42.” The theater received it after Fox said he learned from a Warner Bros. executive that the theater’s exclusion was part of a miscommunication.

“12 Years A Slave” will hit theaters nationwide this Friday.

j.bishku@hpherald.com