Distributors, Patrons Balk at Fairfax
CinefamilyAccountability (CA) has reported on Cinefamily’s planned 2018 reopening as Fairfax Cinema. Initial reactions from distributors and Cinefamily donors and patrons indicate Dan Harkham and the Cinefamily/Fairfax team have challenges ahead in rebuilding trust with the film community. Many distributors and donors are owed money by Cinefamily. Many in the L.A. film community were horrified to find themselves associated with an abusive environment and have called for change and oversight.
Many (including this website) say Cinefamily’s August 2017 closure was handled poorly. In a recent email provided to CA, Cinefamily/Fairfax’s Kate Rouhandeh acknowledged to distributors “[t]he communication from the Cinefamily Board left many parties unsatisfied. I certainly wish it had been handled differently.”
CA reached out to several indie distributors. Some had been approached by Fairfax; none was prepared to do business with Fairfax. A representative sampling of reactions from three different distributors:
- “We will do absolutely no business with Fairfax until we are made whole again vis-a-vis Cinefamily debts.”
- “I’m not prepared to get “back in business” with Cinefamily unless they’re able to pay the prior debt and show real accountability (including reporting grosses to Rentrak / Box Office Essentials daily).”
- “So the long and short of this is – [Fairfax] is run by the [same] two guys who own the building and who were in on and aware of the financial scammery and harassment that was Cinefamily?”
One person familiar with the situation—and who has claimed familiarity with Harkham’s finances—urged caution even if distributors are made whole for past debts, telling CA “if [distributors] are smart, they would get a security deposit and a personal guarantee from Dan [Harkham] before lending movies for show.”
Several former high-ranking Cinefamily staffers have told CA Cinefamily regularly “cooked the books” and reported false attendance numbers. “Box office fraud is not a new thing,” former Cinefamily programmer Bret Berg told CA. "Film distributors know it’s possible for a venue to take liberties with box office numbers—but not to the extreme Cinefamily took it,” Berg said. “Some of those distributors—both indies and majors—have no idea how much money they’re owed.”
CA is working with former staffers to collect daily attendance numbers across several years. We hope to provide, as a resource for distributors, a searchable guide to raw Cinefamily attendance as reported internally, and which can be cross-checked against official Rentrak reporting.
Rebuilding trust with Cinefamily donors and supporters may be more difficult. In a Facebook group dedicated to “the mission of the Cinefamily,” former staff, volunteers, and back card members have been harshly dismissive of Fairfax.
One black card member told CA “It’s not even the money they owe me. It’s that it’s the same scumbags in charge. It’s a fresh coat of paint and they’re calling it a new business!”
See other developments related to the planned reopening…
Cinefamily Board President Breaks Silence
Cinefamily/Fairfax's Hensley Attacks, Tries to Silence Watchdog