The Future Of Theatrical Indies

25 12 2007

Salon.com has an interesting article by Andrew O’Hehir on what is happening with indie cinema in today’s mini-major world.

O’Hehir makes some very interesting points. He starts with the obvious”

But over the three years I’ve been conducting a year-end survey of the indie biz, one grand theme has emerged. You could almost call it a gigantic free-floating anxiety, rather than a theme: Nobody has a clue how audiences will be watching adventurous, modestly scaled, sub-Hollywood films in five or eight or 12 years, but everybody’s pretty sure they won’t be watching them the way they are right now.

But, in an interview with Milos Stehlik, director of Facets Multi-Media (a video distributor which occasionally distributes films), he makes perhaps the most cogent point of all:

“When you see exciting and terrific films that come with all this festival imprimatur, with rave reviews from all the critics, and they become barely a blink on the box-office scene, it’s depressing,” says Stehlik. “It’s probably a harbinger of very bad things to come.” (He’s specifically talking about “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” one of the best-reviewed films of 2006, which made less than $80,000 in U.S. release.) But Stehlik’s answer to Lenin’s perennial question for would-be revolutionaries (“What Is to Be Done?”) is pretty much the same as everyone else’s in the business: Like it or not, sooner or later we’ve got to leave the damn movie theaters behind.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. At last year’s Sundance, the people who were the most depressed were the indie producers who felt that they needed theatrical distribution. For them, their game was precisely the same as a major producer’s — find a great script and attach a big name actor or two to it. Directors fit in there somehow, but had very little to do with distribution and marketing, unless they themselves were names (hence the presence of Michel Gondry, Michael Keaton, Alan Ball, Stanley tucci, Isabella Rosselini, and Kirsten Dunst on this year’s Sundance program). The same game, but with less money and shooting time.

The producers who were happiest were those who realized that they didn’t need big names for foreign and domestic sales, because they didn’t care if they got theatrical sales. They were looking for other venues.

Seems to me that Stehlik is making the same point.

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31 05 2008
Indie Films — The New Way « H o l l y n - w o o d (Norman, that is)

[…] which there is no clear escape (see “The Dismal Future of the Film Business” and “The Future of Theatrical Indies“). I’ve mentioned that seeing theatrical distribution as the Holy Grail of filmmaking […]

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