2007 will be marked as the year when the plans of indy studios failed. The majority of films designed for Oscar glory have failed in the U.S. market. Major studios have ‘specialty’ divisions such as Fox Seachlight, Paramount Vantage and Sony Pictures Classics. They hope for reviews and strong word-of-mouth instead of huge advertising budgets to promote their films.
Indie movies, however well reviewed they may be, are not crossing over into the mainstream. “Eastern Promises,” “Talk to Me,” “Lust, Caution,” “Into the Wild,” “Margot at the Wedding,” “A Mighty Heart,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “Rendition,” “Love in the Time of the Cholera,” “Lions for Lambs” and “In the Valley of Elah” have been well received but not done well at the box office. Others have done better, but not compared to arthouse films from previous years: “The Namesake” – $14 million, “Gone Baby Gone” – $11 million and “The Darjeeling Limited” – $11 million.
Four out of the five best picture nominees from last year could be considered indie films: “Babel” – $34 million, “Little Miss Sunshine” – $60 million, “The Queen” – $56 million, “Letters from Iwo Jima” – $14 million. That’s an average of $41 million per film. It looks like the nominations this year will be for films that few people went to see in the cinema.
I’m not saying that Oscars should only go to movies with mainstream success, it is just that the level of sucess indie movies are managing is much lower than before. This means a reduction in the studio’s return on their investment. That means less risk taking on independent movies.Maybe there’s been too much of a ‘indie movie playbook’ mentality. Studios have been following a simplistic set of rules when greenlighting, making and promoting their films.We might need a new independent mentality that isn’t afraid of striking out into uncharted waters. Independent from the independents!