Indie World Thrilled About Oscar

Movies that face campaign problems due to small marketing budgets will have more opportunities.

Last Updated: June 25, 2009 @ 8:19 AM

The indie world is licking its chops at the notion of more contenders for best picture.

In recent years, indies have made it to the top five, including this year’s winner “Slumdog Millionaire” and 2008 winner “No Country for Old Men” and audience pleaser “Juno” in 2008. But other acclaimed titles such as last year’s “The Wrestler” and “The Visitor” came up short.

With 10 slots instead of five, the movies that usually face more campaign problems due to small marketing budgets and overall muscle will have more opportunities to grab a dangling golden carrot.

"The indie film community needed a shot in the arm, and this is it," said Cassian Elwes, who ran the independent film unit at the William Morris Agency until three weeks ago. "For movies struggling to find proper distribution, the notion that good films may get a best picture nomination will help on every level," Elwes told TheWrap.

Bob Berney, who with Bill Pohlad runs an as-yet-untitled distribution company and who has Jane Campion’s "Bright Star," said, "It’s fantastic. More of us will be included, and more of us will have a reason to think about our strategies."

The Academy’s decision means that films such as last year’s “The Visitor” or “Frozen River” might have made the cut, said mPRm’s Mark Pogachefsky. “You know there is a lot of support for these films.” 

And with that support comes more of a concerted effort to keep the films in theaters.

"The films that will have a chance are the kinds moviegoers appreciate — and that will get more people out to see them," Elwes said. "It’s good for box office, so it’s good for the industry."

Sony Pictures Classic’ Tom Bernard was also excited at the notion that indies will be a big beneficiary of the Academy’s decision. "Best Picture is very sought after and it’s very difficult to get in," he told TheWrap. "Independent pictures have a shot now, so for that world, it’s great."

Bernard also said that things may change in the way movies are marketed on DVD. As a hypothetical, he bought up SPC’s "Whatever Works," the Woody Allen movie starring Larry David that opened last weekend.

"We may want to try to have the DVD come out in January now," he said. SPC also has "The White Ribbon" and "An Education" on its slate.

James Stern, CEO of Endgame, sees advantages and disadvantages for indies.

"There has always been a bump at the box office when there are five films," he said. "If there are ten, it dilutes it a bit, but it gives more an opportunity. A bump at the box office is imporant and this kind of exposure helps. But if the extra five are in ‘The Dark Knight’ category it could hurt."

Pogachefsky also suggested that the change might prompt more companies to send independent films as screeners to the entire voting membership, as opposed to select branches. Noting that in total all branches account for 6,000 votes, he added “if you know there are 10 slots, you might be more likely to send it to everyone.” 

PREVIOUS: TheWrap Picks the Oscar Contenders – in June

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