Why Many Indie Films Are Ditching Limited Releases and Opening Nationwide

Available to WrapPRO members

Oscar contenders usually start out with a New York-Los Angeles release. That’s not happening this year

The Card Counter The Eyes of Tammy Faye Belfast French Dispatch
(Clockwise from top left) "Belfast," "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," "French Dispatch" and "The Card Counter" (Focus; Searchlight)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is PRO-INSIGHT_banner_JF-1.png

The fall box office will foster new experiments with Oscar contenders, testing how many theaters on which to open a film.

Traditionally, a film with Oscar buzz starts out with a release on just four screens in Los Angeles and New York, followed by a slow rollout to the top 10 markets and then eventually nationwide as the screen count rises to a few dozen, then a few hundred and eventually as much as 2,000-plus, depending on how well it is doing in the awards race and with specialty audiences.

But that’s not happening this year. Between COVID-19 damaging turnout to art-house theaters and older audiences that support awards contenders showing more reluctance to buy tickets, both distributors and analysts tell TheWrap that they are trying a different approach to an indie distribution pattern that’s been in place for decades.