By Open Book
The 64th Cannes International Film Festival awarded the Palme d’Or to The Tree of Life, The Artist and Melancholia. Some say the Cannes International Film Festival is where films can exemplify a countries social construct. In the first part of this series Blockbuster vs. Indie Films: Part 1, we discussed American consumers preference for blockbuster films and why major studios are veering away from producing specialty films. In this article we will discuss the current market and future distribution and what consumers can do to support indie filmmakers.
What’s an indie film? It’s a low budget (5 to 25 million) film made outside the studio system. An independent film represents the filmmaker’s vision untouched by studio executives. They usually take on issues mainstream films will not address. In other words they go against the system be it, political, social, class etc…. Film festivals play a key role in helping local filmmakers get their films seen and distributed. Yet, not all indie films will be seen this year. According to an article Indie Films State of the Union, it states,
“In fact, indie films are not in good shape. Here are the numbers that prove it: Only about 40 of the 3,812 finished films that were submitted to Sundance this year will get any kind of distribution at all. That’s slightly over one percent. The other 98% you will never get to see – not even on Netflix.”
So what caused this problem? Many speculate the advancement of digital technology opened the floodgates and now filmmakers can produce films cheaper and faster. Although, some want to blame the indie filmmaker and distributors for the oversaturation. The truth is, all this attention has provoked some serious debate over what American audiences want to see. More scrutiny over quality versus quantity. Should more indie films go straight to video than seek theatrical release? Are American audiences not seeing indie films due to poor marketing and availability? The list goes on. Yet, one question still remains.
What does the future hold for indie films? Some interesting ideas have begun to circulate. One company called Cinetic Media started by John Sloss is a top indie films sales agent, advocates making films available on the Internet rather than in theaters. In an article from the New York Times in 2008 John Sloss states,
“We’re going to make it our business to go to every portal, every mobile provider, every video-on-demand service and make the most aggressive deals we can,”
So what does this mean to the average consumer? So far indie films (sometimes referred to as art house or specialty) fail to attract consumers attention online. Mainstream films are still winning over indie films online and in theaters. Some claim this problem can be resolved through aggressive marketing. However according to an article in the New York Times, the Motion Picture Association (MPAA) the average cost for marketing an indie film was 25.7 million in 2007, which was up nearly 44% from the year before. The marketing overhead is what caused major studios to back away from distributing indie films. Today it’s believed there is more support for American indie films internationally than domestic. However, it’s still too soon to tell given moviegoers are so unpredictable. For example it was reported in February 2011 by the MPAA moviegoers 50 and older attendance was up due to films like King’s Speech, Black Swan, True Grit and The Fighter being released. So what’s it going to take to resolve these issues relies on consumer support and demand. What were some of your favorite indie films from last year and why?