AMC Entertainment consistently comes up with new and innovative programs for their cinemas, such as those marathon screenings of Best Picture and Best Documentary contenders they hold prior to the Oscars. And now they've got a new idea for the benefit of the movie lover: AMC Independent (AMCi), a program that brings indie films to AMC multiplexes otherwise reserved for Hollywood fare. Four new films kick off the concept. They include Nicole Holofcener's latest, Please Give, the documentary Babies, a Benjamin Bratt drama called La Mission (directed by his brother Peter) and Raymond De Felitta's City Island, starring Andy Garcia.

AMCi will be available at 60 locations, though these are all in big cities where arthouse cinemas might already be found. For example, New York City is unnecessarily on the list given that those four "small" titles are playing elsewhere in the Big Apple anyway. Same goes for Los Angeles. This is a similar issue to the Documentary Oscar showcase AMC had a few months ago, in that it doesn't cater to the many areas with no exposure to indie cinema exhibition at all.

Still, without full knowledge of the cinema situations in most of AMCi's target cities, I can't say they're all properly distributed to. Thanks to film festivals and alternative distribution platforms involving internet and video-on-demand services, arthouse cinemas are apparently going out of business around the country. So if AMC can fill in that void and continue offering indie film on a big screen and to an audience (as opposed to your TV in your living room), I'm all for it.

18 other venues will also be a part of AMCi on a seasonal basis in order to offer certain films with local relevance, meaning that a film like La Mission would be brought to areas with large Latino populations. This is nothing new, as distributors often target demographics anyway. It's logical that Spanish-language movies and Bollywood movies would be fed to Latino and Indian neighborhoods, respectively.

What I also wonder is how much AMC will be involved in the marketing of these films, locally or nationally. In my experience working in multiplexes, you can bring in a little movie nobody has heard about and put it in the small auditorium at the back of the building but that doesn't mean anybody is going to see that movie. Undecided moviegoers will surely ask about that title on the marquee they're unfamiliar with, but there's a high chance the ticket seller will only know so much to say something discouraging or unhelpful like, "oh that's some Mexican film" or "that's some documentary about babies." Yes, I've witnessed this sort of thing often.

AMC mentions that it's primary benefit to independent cinema and its filmmakers is providing the outlet and possibility for exposure. I think it's in the chain's best interest to also provide support in ways that encourage patrons to see these films, too. Otherwise they're just setting the program up for failure, blamed on lack of interest. One thing that is neat is that AMC claims to be availing these AMCi slots to distributor-less films, so long as the company sees both quality and a market for these titles. I'm dying to see how that "direct opportunity" works out.