The following quote is attributed to Variety’s Pam McClintock:
“The worst thing that ever happened to indie film was that the studios decided it was a good business.”
And while I agree with that statement, I’m not sure I agree that Independent Movies are on the “endangered species list” as Variety editor Peter Bart writes in his latest blog entry. Bart claims that studio expectations for their art house divisions were too high. “Their production budgets were too lofty and their marketing budgets too ambitious,” Bart writes, pointing towards the downward box office trend for specialty films in 2008. Here are the Variety numbers:
2006: $416 million
2007: $330 million
2008 (so far): $161 million
While I do agree that the specialty film market is on a down turn, I think it is unfair to point to 2008′s numbers as an accurate indication of such. For example, Juno was probably the biggest indie film of last year, earning $143 million, and it wasn’t released until December. And there was no indication that it would be such a huge hit. Heck, no one had even seen the film until Telluride/Toronto. So I think it is far to early to count 2008 out.
That said, I think the quality of films being produced is not the real problem, but instead the marketing pushes behind them. For my money, The Wackness and American Teen were on level with the mini-major indies of years past, but both films were poorly represented to the mainstream public. One only has to look at the posters for each of the films mentioned to understand a problem exists. But this isn’t anything new. Picturehouse released King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters last year, and it barely went on to break a half-million dollars domestically. The film is one of the best reviewed movies of all time, and has huge appeal to the number one demographic in this country.
The problem is that the mini-majors don’t know how to sell a movie that can’t sell itself. Sony Pictures Classics doesn’t understand how to market a film, instead they prey heavily on possible award nominations for the needed push. And Fox Searchlight seems to be the only studio that knows how to market these type of films correctly. They have released eight “studio indies” in the past five years that have made over $32 million at the box office. But on the other hand, even Searchlight’s future line-up seems a bit weak. Choke is a low-budget R-rated comedy with the ability to reach the college-aged crowd, but it certainly doesn’t have the mainstream appeal of a Juno or Little Miss Sunshine. Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie, but there is only so far a film like Choke can go.
So what is the answer? Is independent film dead? And if so, who is to blame?
Discuss: What do you guys think?
Please Recommend /Film on Facebook
Sad news for the mini-major world of independent Hollywood, as Warner Bros has decided to shut down Picturehouse, the art-house/indie/foreign arm of New Line. But the bigger news is that WB also decided to close Warner Independent Pictures. The real problem is that the two companies had yet to find out a way to make a profit. So not only was Funny Games one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, but it’s also partly responsible for the death of a good mini-major. I’m not quite sure if this means that Warner Bros/New Line is out of the art-house/indie/foreign business, or if they will continue to distribute/produce those type of films under the Warner Bros brand/arm? It sounds like New Line might go on to represent lower budget genre films.
In a statement, Alan Horn, president & COO of Warner Bros. said, “With New Line now a key part of Warner Bros., we’re able to handle films across the entire spectrum of genres and budgets without overlapping production, marketing and distribution infrastructures. After much painstaking analysis, this was a difficult decision to make, but it reflects the reality of a changing marketplace and our need to prudently run our businesses with increased efficiencies. We’re confident that the spirit of independent filmmaking and the opportunity to find and give a voice to new talent will continue to have a presence at Warner Bros.”
Picturehouse had made a name for itself in recent years with films like The Orphanage, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Rocket Science, Pan’s Labyrinth, and A Prairie Home Companion.
Warner Indepedent Pictures filmography includes: Before Sunset, March of the Penguins, Good Night, and Good Luck., The Science of Sleep, A Scanner Darkly, The Painted Veil and In the Valley of Elah, among many others.
In just three films, actor/comedian/screenwriter Simon Pegg has gone from playing a lovable, if clueless, slacker fighting off a zombie apocalypse and saving his girlfriend, his best friend, and a pint of beer (not necessarily in that order) in Shaun of the Dead to an anti-slacker/overachiever/cop exiled to a small sleepy town experiencing a rash of mysterious deaths in Hot Fuzz and now, in Run, Fat Boy, Run, another slacker, maybe not quite as lovable this time, trying to win back the woman he left at their wedding ceremony five years ago. Offering a mix of raunch, silliness, slapstick, and sentimentality, Run, Fat Boy, Run is the perfect romantic comedy for moviegoers who don’t care for the genre.
Dennis (Pegg) still regrets leaving his fiancÃ©, Libby (Thandie Newton), at the altar more than five years ago, made all the worse because Libby was pregnant at the time. While Dennis seems to have lived down to his failure to marry Libby, working as a security guard at a women’s clothing store, barely able to make the rent, Libby has moved on, running a successful bakery and dating an American businessman, Whit (Hank Azaria). As Dennis looks on, Libby and Whit get closer, Whit begins to take an active interest in Jake (Matthew Fenton). Feeling, rightly, excluded from Libby and Jake’s life, Dennis agrees to run in a marathon that’s only three weeks ago.
Out of shape and an everyday smoker, Dennis doesn’t stand much of a chance of completing the marathon, but that doesn’t stop him from giving it a shot. With his best friend Gordon (Dylan Moran), a slacker/gambler who bets on Dennis completing the marathon, and his landlord, Mr. Ghoshdashtidar (Harish Patel), acting as his coach and assistant coach respectively, Dennis can’t lose. Actually, he can, very easily, but as the prospect of losing Libby and Jake looks increasingly likely, especially after Whit suggests a move to Chicago that would take Libby and Jake away from him, Dennis learns a few life lessons in (you guessed it) perseverance and self-discipline, both of which will make him a better father, a better husband (if he can convince Libby), and a better person overall.
A sports comedy/rom-com (as the British like to call it) that’s more formulaic than either Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz (where the romantic subplot was eliminated in favor of a platonic relationship), Run, Fat Boy, Run nonetheless proves that formula isn’t the problem (at least not always), it’s what you do with the formula or template that counts. Minus a too-long third act that follows, what else, Dennis’ improbable marathon run (it lasts twenty-odd minutes), Run, Fat Boy, Run perfectly balances verbal and physical humor with advancing the story. Credit to that goes to Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the script with actor/comedian/writer Michael Ian Black (The State).
Director David Schwimmer (yes, that David Schwimmer) basically stays out of the way and lets Pegg and the rest of the cast do their thing and yes, that’s all to the good. With a rom-com or sports comedy, the story and characters are more important than the visuals, something Schwimmer is obviously aware of from his previous experience working in television and film. Unfortunately, the one thing or rather person Run, Fat Boy, Run doesn’t have is Pegg’s onscreen comedy partner, Nick Frost. Frost co-starred in Pegg’s last two films, but here doesn’t even merit a cameo. Maybe next time.
Dylan Morgan, who contributed to a literally gun-wrenching death in Shaun of the Dead with Pegg and Frost, takes on the best friend duties. To be fair, Morgan’s comic timing is almost as good as Pegg’s or Frost’s. It’s just too bad Frost doesn’t appear in Run, Fat Boy, Run. Hopefully, the Pegg-Frost-Wright (as in writer/director Edgar Wright, Pegg’s writing partner on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) will get together sooner rather than later (probably later as Pegg will next appear as Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot).
/Film Rating: 7 out of 10
On Wednesday we told you that Steve Wiebe, noted Donkey Kong competitor and star of the 2007 documentary The King of Kong, was going to attempt to set the Donkey Kong World Record at Microsoft’s MIX08 event tonight in Las Vegas, with referee Walter Day in attendance. Many readers have commented and e-mailed me asking if Wiebe was able to defeat champion Billy Mitchell‘s score of 1,050,200 points. A few minutes ago we received the following unsolicited e-mail:
“Steve scored approx. 929,000 and reached the kill screen I believe… Great effort… Thanks, Billy Mitchell”
That’s right, THAT Billy Mitchell e-mailed us to brag that he is still the record holder. I’m sure anyone who has seen the fantastic documentary has something to say about this…
Update: Did Steve Wiebe Reclaim His Title as The King of Kong?
/Film reader Joseph D sent word that Steve Wiebe, noted Donkey Kong competitor and star of the 2007 documentary The King of Kong, will attempt to set the Donkey Kong World Record later today at Microsoft’s MIX08 event tonight in Las Vegas, with referee Walter Day in attendance.
Video game champion Billy Mitchell beat Wiebe’s record in June of 2007, and currently is ranked #1 with 1,050,200 points to Steve’s 1,049,100 points (only 1,100 points separating them). The event takes place during Microsoft’s TAO NIGHTCLUB PARTY from 6:00pm to10:00pm in The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino.
/Film wishes Steve Wiebe good luck.
Has Transformers 2 begun location scouting?
It is revealed in an article in Mainline Today that Michael Bay’s big budget sequel has applied for tax incentives to shoot in and around Philadelphia starting in June. M Night Shyamalan‘s big screen live action adaptation Avatar has also applied for the same incentives.
Exceeding all expectations and boldly showing up Hollywood on how to craft a stunning, historical battleground epic with tasteful violence and, sure, sweeping romance, Mongol was one of my top 10 films of 2007. And while it’s valid to make the argument for those films notoriously left out of the category, Mongol deserves to win this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. The American critics who are not gushing over it, simply have not seen it and are dismissing for shades of the some reason that many will dismiss it after viewing this trailer: it’s being marketed like 300 meets The Last Samurai meets Hero.
Instead, the soon-to-be signature effort from Russian director Sergei Bodrov conjures the hushed, bewitching appreciation for the existential qualities of nature and landscapes seen in Andrew Dominik and Roger Deakins’s The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, the Oscar-caliber clashes of Braveheart, and the universal, R-rated, crowd pleasing paternal tale of John Milius’s Conan the Barbarian. Believe it. You feel the small warmth of the campfires burning under majestic China night skies in this film, and you are transported into the main character’s sprawling travels from boy to man of ye gods. The first of three planned films about the life of Genghis Khan aka Temudjin, played with stoic depth by indie Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano (Ichi the Killer), Mongol is the convincing introductory piece to what might become one of the great trilogies in all of modern cinema.
Watch the trailer after the jump. Mongol will be released in the United States on June 8 by Picturehouse Entertainment.
Read More »
Cool Posts From Around the Web:
Remember David Schwimmer? He played Ross on Friends, and now he wants to be a director. His feature film debut, Run Fatboy Run premieres at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival. I was able to get an advance look at the film, although I wasn’t expecting much going in. The reason I wanted to see the film was because it starred Simon Pegg, who you may know from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame. And this isn’t the first collaboration between Schwinner and Pegg, the duo teamed up for a film last year called Big Nothing, which went directly to DVD in the states. No, I haven’t found time to rent it. And while most direct-to-dvd releases are usually of questionable quality, Big Nothing actually has a decent score on IMDb.
Read More »