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Could You Help Me Find My Friend Dahmer?

For months I awaited the release of My Friend Dahmer.  Yet here it is, 28 days after it was released in theaters, and it is still not being shown in Charlottesville. How is it that every movie theater in Charlottesville is playing A Bad Moms Christmas and Daddy’s Home 2, neither of which received above a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, yet not even one is playing My Friend Dahmer, which received an 81% rating. Someone please take my money already, so I can see this film.

America has always been obsessed with the monsters its society creates. My Friend Dahmer marks the sixth film made about his life– two documentaries and four biopics. There are four films on Ted Bundy, four on Aileen Wuorons (“America’s First Female Serial Killer”), four on John Wayne Gacy, and Ed Gein (“The Butcher of Plainfield”) inspired the creation of famous fictional characters such as Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Buffalo Bill. Mindhunter, a Netflix original series released this October, depicts real serial killers like Edmund Kemper and Jerry Brudos– dialogue in the show often echoes real-life interviews with them.

Currently, it has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96% and Vanity Fair called “one of Netflix’s most artful, substantial series”. So, knowing that Americans seem to love serial killers (or at least watching footage about them), again I ask: why have I yet to be able to see My Friend Dahmer in theaters here in Charlottesville?

I reached out to both Regal Stonefield and the Violet Crown. Both admitted that they didn’t know the movie selection process and referred me to a corporate media interlocher. For Regal, it was a helpline– well really it was a ringtone for 13 minutes and then a voicemail that informed me that if I left my questions and contact information, than I would receive a response in “a timely fashion.” Still haven’t heard back, Regal. 

Bill Banowsky, the Principal Owner of Violet Crown, clarified, “We are always trying to balance quality versus commerce in our film selections. My Friend Dahmer is a small film, commercially speaking.”

Banowsky continued his explanation of the Violet Crown’s selection process. “Three from our film team saw it.  One really liked it. Two did not. Our job is to curate film selections as best we can, and to play as many worthy films as we possibly can.”

He also informed me that the Violet Crown has a program called Arthouse Monthly, which is a monthly

series which aims to bring in interesting films that don’t have the demand for a week-long run, for a one-time screening. To my delight, Banowsky said, “Our Arthouse Monthly team is a fan of My Friend Dahmer and plans to announce a screening of the film as part of our series.”

He also addressed the reason for playing Daddy’s Home 2 for nearly a month, stating, “Will Ferrell comedies usually do pretty well regardless of my opinion or the opinions of the film critics.  As a general rule we prefer to not bet against Will Ferrell.”

“Believe it or not, Daddy 2 will end up grossing about $90 million nationally,” Banowsky added.  “That may say more about our country than this film or our film selection talents, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.”

While I will most likely not have the patience to wait for the one-time showing of My Friend Dahmer, and will probably watch it illegally online tonight, Banowsky’s responses do give me faith that at least the smaller  theaters put forth genuine effort to play it all. But this whole ordeal does not bode well for my chances of getting to see the new Ted Bundy biopic, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, staring Zac Efron, which is to premier at the Cannes Film Festival.   

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Zoe Serratelli  is a fourth-year who has optioned the rights to this piece to Castle Rock Productions.