When Cinema began back in the late 1800s, independent film was all there was to come by. Directors funded their own projects and when a film finally became finished, it had its limited run in a movie theatre. In the early 1900s, studios began to rise. The six big studios to first make a name for themselves were 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures (Sony), Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros. From then on it became a bidding war and eventually a competition about who could make the most profitable films. Throughout the years, independent cinema and smaller studio releases have slowly begun to make themselves a household name once again.
Take 2016 for example. Yes, there were some quality blockbusters in Captain America: Civil War or Star Trek Beyond, but most of the others were lacklustre. This is solely due to the fact that studios have become more money-hungry than ever, sometimes not even caring if the substance is worth displaying on screen. Now please don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that every independent film is the greatest, but this year sure seems to be an indication that it's where all of the quality stands. Films like Sing Street, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, or even The Edge of Seventeen are the movies that have been winning everybody over. After some digging and hard research, here is why I believe people will be looking forward to independent films more than the big blockbusters releases in about a decade from now.
Money Down The Drain
With the exception of studios like #Disney or #Marvel, it's rare to see a film that costs hundreds of millions of dollars make its budget back. Most of you may know that a film usually has to double or even triple its budget in order to make its money back. Unless you're #StarWars, your chances are very slim in getting a multi-picture deal. Take this years release of 10 Cloverfield Lane for example. Originally titled The Cellar, it was transformed into a loose #Cloverfield sequel. More of an anthology film, but that is aside from the point. On a $15,000,000.00 budget, this little thriller would have been released around the world and barely made a third of that back. I could be a little off on that statement, but it would not have received over $108,000,000.00 at the worldwide box office, if not for the name change and nods to the original film.
Any film is a risk, but independent films are far less of a risk and people have actually been seeking them out, due to the lack of quality in the cinemas lately. For this reason and many more, blockbusters have been losing out on money, due to online rentals of independent film and #Netflix. This is only one of the many reasons that independent cinema has been clobbering mainstream media of any kind lately. It doesn't help that most of the award shows usually include independent films 80% of the time.
Awarding The Best Of The Best
There is no denying that the best films of each year are usually the smaller films. The big-budgeted studio blockbusters can be recognized if you happen to be James Cameron or Peter Jackson, but most of them are just fun popcorn flicks, not meant to rake in the awards. In technical categories sure, films like 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road will sweep, but the voters have always loved the popular indies. It was no surprise that Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker beat out James Cameron's Avatar back in 2010, simply due to the fact that it was a much better film with a more riveting premise. The best of the best are usually the films that are made on the side, that nobody knows about, until a film festival accepts it in their lineup.
Many people called Star Wars: The Force Awakens their favourite film of 2015, simply because it was the most fun they had at the cinema. Looking back on it, there really wasn't anything incredibly original about it and it didn't deserve to be nominated for best picture, which is why it wasn't. What is my point here? After #Disney milks #StarWars for the next 10 or so years, it will eventually feel like they have remade every classic animated film into live-action form and extended every franchise as far as they possibly can. Slowly but surely, more people will wait for the smaller films to make their way into the theatre around award season. Why else do you think films like Ghostbusters, The Huntsman: Winter's War, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Alice Through the Looking Glass, or Zoolander 2 were all considered failures? They weren't quality films and all were poorly received. People want original content more than ever. In ten years from now, everyone will want to drive the extra few miles to a theatre playing a film like Moonlight.
Branding Is Everything
Out of the top ten grossing films of 2016, #Disney owns six of them. The others are either animated films, sequels, superhero films, or remakes. The sad part is that twenty years ago, the top ten grossing films of 1996 were all original properties, aside from the live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians. Studios have become so overly obsessed with making money that they are afraid to dip their hands into an original property, due to the fact that they will be scared if someone else picks it up and makes billions of dollars off of it. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a great #Disney flick and I love the route #Marvel has taken with their Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I still go out of my way to see the greatest films each year.
Branding also hurts other blockbusters too though. Whether or not a film is good, people will still see the same movie over and over again. December is usually the dumping ground for the films that will likely be up for best picture at the #Oscars. La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Arrival, and even Loving were all released fairly wide this past December. Some of them are doing fairly well in comparison to their budget, but the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story left them no chance of gaining a large audience, and yet, they are still the only films that people are talking about. Everyone flocked out to see the latest #StarWars film, because it's an experience, but that's not what has been sticking with everyone. It has been the storytelling of Moonlight, the musical numbers in La La Land, and the brutally honest performances in Manchester by the Sea. Ever since the release of The Avengers in 2012, not a single #Marvel film has matched its box office return. The fatigue is starting, not only for superhero films, but big blockbusters in general. A good story is what film has always been about.
The Same Old Schtick
In the past, when an explosion occurred in a film, it was a moment to remember. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s technology began to improve. Eventually, explosions (or any action set-piece for that matter) would be able to be completed on a computer, leaving little realism to gawk at. #Hollywood cinema is so caught up in displaying monuments, scenery, and visuals that their audiences have become a custom to, that their originality becomes forgotten. When you watch an independent film, they are not afraid to showcase grungy streets or messy houses, because if it serves the story, you shouldn't have to worry about everything looking polished to impress a gullible audience. People have been saying that superhero films and explosions for action sequences will soon become the biggest fatigue in cinema, and yet, big studios continue to deliver the same old schtick. In ten to twenty years time, there is going to be a huge change in the quality of mainstream media, mark my words.
Inspiration Will Only Get You So Far
The reason mainstream media needs to make a change for the better, is due to the fact that nothing seems original anymore, even if the story itself is. A big complaint that La La Land is receiving, is that it borrows too many sequences from existing classics and that it doesn't deserve the #Oscar. I'm forgiving of this, because every single film released nowadays ends up sharing aspects with another. Take 1923's film Harold Lloyd, Safety Last for example. The classic sequence of the titular character hanging from the clocktower has been done to death throughout homages. In films like Back to the Future or Hugo, they were nods, but most films nowadays just copy existing sequences, thinking they are homages, when really they are just copy and pasting. The closest you can get to being wholly original these days, is to seek out the best of the best in the world of independent film.
Always Look Forward, Never Back
To quote the lyrics from Adam Levine's song Go Now in the conclusion of Sing Street, "Don’t sit around and talk it over, you’re running out of time, just face ahead, no going back now." If big studios (even #Disney) continue to rehash their old products, people will lose interest even more than they already are. Box office returns will continue to lessen as time goes on (and films become more expensive), the #Oscars will focus even more substance over style, people will grow tired of the things they current love to see on the big screen, and remakes will peak. Throughout the coming years, once the big franchises come to an end, the studios will end up milking them for every cent they can and will continue to rehash ideas from the past. People will want independent cinema more than ever and the greatest directors will follow suit. Streaming is a thing of the future and movie theatres will begin to fade. Cinema will never die, but $300,000,000.00 production budgets will no longer exist. Audiences need to support all areas of film and studios need to say no to franchises more often than not. #Hollywood is not dead, but it's on its way.