... most of the NYAFF's ... movies will be reaching a theater near you, uh, well ... Hmm. I'm not exactly sure when, but here's a good guess: never. In fact, precisely none of the four dozen or so features in this year's NYAFF have United States theatrical distribution lined up.... That's precisely what happened with huge Asian genre hits like "Tokyo Gore Police" and "The Machine Girl," which got blink-and-you-miss-it releases from tiny distributors. ...Asian movies are dead in America and no one cares," says Grady Hendrix, co-director of Subway Cinema, which runs the NYAFF. "We're right back where we started."
Except that the trends being discussed here are not unique to Asian film in Western territories. They're pretty much the case for movies as a whole. It's becoming harder for any film to get a sustained theatrical release unless it's a double-A-list-actor super-tentpole production. Most of the reliable money for these products comes from video licensing now, which is about where most people can expect to run into these films anyway. (And the line about Gore Police / Machine Girl getting millisecond releases in theaters is missing the point: the company that financed them, Fever Dreams, is an arm of Media Blasters, whose major work has always been video licensing.)
To be honest, I'd rather have NYAFF-style festivals and video releases — where the movies in question can get specific attention and care and actually reach audiences in the first place — than the drop-and-forget assembly-line handling which ensures that films will not get booked into theaters remotely close to their target audiences. The audiences for these things are going to get more fragmented, not less, which means specialty showings like NYAFF and video licensing deals and streaming distribution through NetFlix or Joost or what have you are more important than ever.