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Movies

The Year’s Most Interesting Film Release Comes to the Texas Theatre This Weekend

The Oak Cliff theatre is one of the only venues to show the film in the United States.
By  Austin Zook |
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A still from Memoria, starring Tilda Swinton. Courtesy of NEON

On April 15, The Texas Theatre will host the film Memoria for a week. Normally, this isn’t news. But the acclaimed Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest movie, which stars Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton, has a unique way of bucking your favorite streaming service.

In lieu of a traditional rollout, NEON, the film’s distributor, partnered with art galleries and cinemas across the country to release Memoria. The film will rotate throughout venues for a week until its final round of showings in October. And then it may be gone.

In the perplexing drama, Jessica Holland (Swinton) begins to experience a mysterious sensory syndrome after hearing a loud ‘bang’ at daybreak in the jungles of Colombia. It is Weerasethakul’s first film in English.

The Texas Theatre is one of the first venues in Texas to participate in the roadshow style release. Owner and operator Barak Epstein describes Memoria’s release strategy as a positive for independent cinemas.

“Whenever there is a film that people want to see that is exclusive to theaters, that is the way to go,” he says. “Eventually even Spider-Man makes it to Netflix, but this kind of film will not.” 

When asked about what differentiates a theatrical showing of Memoria from other films, Epstein says it is about bringing the film to audiences in the way the director intended. “[Weerasethakul] wants to be able to control the experience. The sound is mixed in high contrast to create moments of extreme quietness and extreme loudness,” says Epstein. “They have even given the projectionist technical notes on how to make sure our speakers are calibrated.” In the past, the Texas Theatre has accommodated similar requests, so meeting these requirements wasn’t an issue. 

In addition to the technical specifications, the filmmakers took an old-fashioned approach to get audiences in the right headspace for the movie. “When you come to see the movie, there is a pre-show that will run after the trailers,” says Epstein. Expect 10 minutes of silence to prepare the audience for what’s to come. That’s not actually part of the film, it’s a special pre-show that (NEON) delivered to go with it.”

Those who attend the screenings of Memoria this weekend, will receive commemorative strips of film to celebrate the release. The theatre will also present two of Weerasethakul’s previous films: 2010’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and 2004’s Tropical Malady. The screenings are partnerships with Pleasure Style Attitude, a Dallas-based film program and curation group. 

It’s an exciting experience for independent cinemas, which struggled after pandemic closures shifted most major releases to streaming services. Epstein says distributors are approaching the rollout a week at a time, which means it is unclear if the Texas Theatre will show Memoria after this week. Memoria runs daily through April 21. Find showtimes here.

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