How we choose films

The process of how we go about choosing the films that will be screened at The Onyx can be a complicated one. We work closely with our film buyers – Bill and Susan Herting of Centurion Film – to make our decisions based on a number of factors.


There are some distributors we work with more often than others. The list of distributors that provide films for art houses is fairly limited; some are larger companies (such as Fox Searchlight), others are smaller (like Menusha Films). We spend time every month researching the upcoming films from each distributor, making note of titles that we think may be of particular interest to our patrons.

Box Office:

Our film buyers have easy access to box office receipt data for current film titles. They use these figures to study how a film is performing in a similar market after opening. The box office receipts are not necessarily an indicator of how a film will do at The Onyx, as each individual market has its own quirks, but it can be a decent indication as to how many promotional dollars a distributor is willing a certain title. This size of this allowance gives us an idea of how likely it will be that our patrons are familiar with the title before it arrives at the theatre. We’ve found it’s more difficult to draw large audiences for films that do not have a substantial promotional push behind them. However on occasion we will still book those titles and make an effort to ensure that our audience knows about the films and why we think they should see it. 

Subject Matter

There are certain subjects or themes that tend to perform well consistently with our audiences. When we find a film that we know will interest a large part of our population – and is receiving critical acclaim- we’ll do what we can to bring it to The Onyx.

One example of this is KEDI, the cat documentary that we were pleased to show in May 2017. CAPTAIN FANTASTIC is another film that ultimately did well nationally, and enjoyed a particularly successful run in Nevada County due to an apparent universally- appealing subject matter.  


because we are a first-run art house we can only consider titles that are current releases; in other words, if the film is three months old it’s too “old” for us to screen. We can only book films that will run for a minimum of one week, so the title has to be able to sustain an audience over a period that will include 21 screenings. Occasionally a patron brings a title to our attention that seems like it might be interesting, but realistically isn’t something that we think can hold its own for an entire week, and we sadly have to forgo it.

We aim to book films that’ve not only received critical acclaim but that we think our local audiences will be interested in seeing, or films that The Onyx staff and management believe are important to screen locally, even if they do not have a nationwide marketing campaign supporting them.

With that being said, we consider patron suggestions when deciding which films we will book. So please don’t hesitate to let us know what you would like to see at The Onyx. We are here to serve our customers in the best way that we can. We may not always be able to get the film that you want to see, but we often do our best to make it work.