If a big-budget, star-laden film like "Cowboys & Aliens" can't make a killing at the box office, what chance does a little ol' indie film have?
The odds have been stacked against independent film for some time now, and even the genre's "successes" arrive with a huge asterisk. A runaway indie hit might make $20 million, about as much as the latest "Twilight" brought in during its first few hours in theaters.
The rest - meaning most independent films - are lucky to scrape together $1 million during their theatrical runs. Some earn much, much less.
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That's why the advent of Video on Demand services could be just what the flailing movement needed.
Indie film studios like Magnolia and IFC have been offering their first-run releases via video on demand (courtesy of content distributors like Comcast) for a while now. And, according to TheWrap.com
, the studio number crunchers are starting to like what they see:
Without early VOD releasing, such recent indie films as Kevin Spacey's financial crisis drama "Margin Call" -- expected to double its $4 million domestic box office through on-demand rentals -- would face a tough road to profitability.
Likewise, Lars von Trier's latest, "Melancholia" -- which is on pace to gross $2 million via VOD vs. between $2 to $3 million in domestic art houses -- is connecting with home audiences in a way that the polarizing film might not have been able to otherwise ... And for indie labels, here's what might be the best part: The split between cable companies and studios is far more favorable than the one distributors receive from exhibitors.
The dollar amounts matter to studios but not the general public. Movie goers should applaud the rise of VOD all the same for different reasons.
People who live in medium-to-large cities like New York, Chicago, Denver or Washington, D.C. likely have a plethora of independent film houses in their neighborhood. Folks living in smaller towns are typically stuck with mainstream movie options.
"Honey ... should we see 'Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star' tonight or 'The Smurfs?"
What indie film studios need to do know is get more aggressive with the VOD model. Why isn't "Martha Marcy May Marlene," one of the year's best films, available now via these services? Now, there's no excuse why indie films can't be shown both theatrically and via Video on Demand.