Hollywood begins jetting to Toronto this week for glittery premieres and awards-season jockeying — but the indie film market is under siege with fewer traditional players and the ongoing threat of deep-pocketed streaming giants.
This year’s TIFF sees theatrical release companies pivoting from conventional acquisitions (STXfilms), recovering from Sundance failures (Fox Searchlight) or outright disappearing (Broad Green Pictures).
“Audiences are smart, they have content being thrown at them in every direction,” one distribution executive told TheWrap, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It’s great news for filmmakers, but it’s bad news if you have both a bad movie and bad marketing. A lot of folks are mad and distressed because we can’t fool the customer anymore.”
The two companies spent big in Sundance this year, w
Amazon, meanwhile, swooped up titles such as “The Big Sick” for $12 million — a success story as
That’s raised the overall price of films on the market — and not all of those bets have paid off.
In fact, some of the fallout has been severe: Broad Green Pictures, run by hedge-fund brothers Gabriel and Daniel Hammond, pulled the plug on their 3-year-old production operation in August. Their plan to partner w
Open Road Films, which enjoyed a lengthy victory lap for
“It’s not as devastating as
Change is also afoot at STXfilms, where Bob Simonds’ would-be mini-major will premiere Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut “Molly’s Game” in Toronto — a title acquired at the script stage in Cannes two years ago. These days, STX seems to be banking on movie stars and mid-budget fare like Melissa McCarthy’s dark puppet comedy “The Happytime Murders” and Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty.”
Other indie perennials have a lot more on the line: The Weinstein Company has a pricey Oscar campaign to launch for the Thomas Edison vs. George Westinghouse drama “The Current War,” and made such a fumbling mess of recent releases like Alicia Vikander’s “Tulip Fever” that The Atlantic even covered it.
Focus Features will likely have an eye out for potential acquisitions, but the Universal shingle has its own ambitious slate slate of original movies to release. That includes awards hopefuls like “Victoria & Abdul” with Judi Dench and Daniel Day-Lewis’ final acting performance this Christmas in an untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film.
Sony Pictures Classics remains a market stalwart, and could easily come away with titles in addition to its rollout for the awards-bait Armie Hammer drama “Call Me By Your Name.”
There also may be trepidation for a company like Fox Searchlight, which paid a steep $10 million in Sundance for “Patti Cake$” to stave off streaming compet
“What’s interesting is that there was an audience for ‘Patti Cake$,’ but
Indeed, 5-year-old upstart A24 trotted out “Moonlight” at TIFF last year and
Tim League and Tom Quinn’s Neon, which released its first film last spring, has a similarly sexy brand that keeps sellers believing that streaming is not the Goliath to the lim
Still, both old and new companies in the indie world face challenges pitted against Netflix and Amazon — and their willingness to spend big even without the promise of a payoff at the theatrical box office.
Streaming platforms also offer producers protection against financial loss — Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos definitively told TheWrap earlier this year that “no one has ever lost money” making a movie w
But the streaming giant’s model for features often fails to catch — or hold — public attention. Take this year’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” a quiet crime drama that won raves for star Melanie Lynskey and first-time director Macon Blair. Netflix released the film less than a month after Sundance — and
Consumers are trained to follow the linear cycle of theatrical release, including plenty of runway for promotion (yes, even for indies, especially those w
“One of the things I think is going to have to happen for those folks to compete is they will need to play to their unique strengths: a theatrical first focus, unique distribution and marketing capabil
“They’ve got to get in early w
A veteran distribution exec agreed. “We have to brand our service, make a consumer-facing product and use social media to stay alive,” the exec said. “And the movies have to be better than they use to be.”
Matt Pressberg contributed reporting to this article.