Indie films moving up in box office

Jessica Pellegrino – General Assignment Reporter

Independent film making has been around as long as Hollywood has graced screens with epic blockbusters. Usually flying under the radar, indie, or independent, films have long served as your “guilty pleasures.” Never telling your friends about these movies, people would simply tell you you have “probably never heard of it.”

But in the past few years, low-budget films seem to be making their way into the mainstream. People seem to be agreeing with the witty, often character driven flicks.

One of the first examples of a film bursting the blockbuster bubble came in 2007, in the form of the endearing indie film, “Juno.” Film goers fell in love with the snarky, character driven drama about a pregnant teenager, which mixed sassy dialogue and easy to watch settings to win over its viewers.

Take this summer for example. While movie-goers saw their fair share of instant blockbuster hits like “The Avengers,” “Jurassic World” and “Mad Max,” they also saw the success of lower budget, poignant films. Indie movies invaded your movie seats, and wormed their way into your hearts. Movies like “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “Love and Mercy” grossed intense profits, considering their costs to make.

In the past years, box offices have seen an uptick in human interest style films. Wes Anderson is a great example of low-budget, high-impact film production. His two most recent films, “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” were not even released in all theaters, yet used a mix of high-end celebrity actors and artistic filmography to create masterpieces. His particular style of filmmaking has not made him a household name, but has afforded him a devoted fan base and countless Oscar nods.

The art of indie film success in not in competition. Rather than trying to be better than blockbuster movies, they simply present their work as art.

In a study through New York University, Leonard Stern, a business professional, says, “A few main players dominate the movie industry by controlling most of the revenues and market share, with as little as six percent of movies making up 80 percent of revenues. The major studios focus on releasing a few blockbuster movies with budgets over $60M and huge marketing spends, with the intention of attracting a wide audience.

Most of these movies are produced in-house, but some are also acquired from smaller companies in different phases of the development process. The last decade has seen a new trend in the film industry, whereby new players have emerged under the assumption that making smaller budget movies with a limited release will necessitate significantly lower prints and advertising expenses, and result in the potential for a significantly higher return on investment.”

In other words, indie movies are financially successful because less money is put into making them, so more money is returned in profit.

Stern suggests that indie movies receive more profit over time in merchandise and DVD sales.

“After a movie has been exhibited in theatres it will be cleverly sold through different channels in a system called windowing. This means that for the next 10 years it will receive revenue streams from other forms of distribution deals. This sophisticated model is what has allowed studio movies to be successful on average and for companies to be valued on their movie library,” he said.

This means that people get more attached to indie films and value them so much that they buy a physical copy of the film to put on their shelves.

Perhaps indie films will never pull in the millions that blockbusters do, but they do create lasting fan bases and become the cult films we hate to love.

Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes


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