July 26, 2021

American independent production under pressure

Does the Cannes Film Festival whet new appetites? According to the American magazine Variety, a buyer – maybe Apple? – would have offered between 2.5 and 3 billion dollars (between 2.1 and 2.5 billion euros) to get their hands on A24, the most highly rated independent ministudio in the United States. The one who produced Moonlight, by Barry Jenkins, three times Oscar winner, or Uncut Gems, of the Safdie brothers. This project was made public on Wednesday July 14th exactly when A24 presented in competition Red Rocket, by Sean Baker, the rather pitiful story of a comedian, porn star, who, ruined, returns to live with his ex-wife and his mother-in-law in a remote town in Texas. A very low budget film, shot in record time with non-professional actors.

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Neither Apple nor A24 have confirmed the information. Created in 2012 by Daniel Katz and David Fenkel, with funds from Guggenheim Partners, A24 produces and distributes around ten films per year. Each production has a marketing approach – surprising for this type of film – extremely targeted, which goes as far as the choice of music for the advertisements. The stratospheric valuation of A24 stems from the need of the streaming giants to feed their film catalogs. As evidenced by the 8.45 billion dollars spent by Amazon to acquire MGM and its only treasure, the rights of James Bond.

Reduced theatrical distribution

The landscape of independent cinema across the Atlantic has changed considerably. “Ever since Hollywood studios, which produced forty films a year until 1980, found it more lucrative to produce only five a year by concentrating promotional expenditure on it, everything has changed”, explains Richard Peña, professor of cinema at Columbia University (New York). The very notion of independent cinema remains quite broad since it concerns everything except superheroes, franchises and studio suites. “With digital technologies, making a feature film is within the reach of all American citizens”, says Richard Peña, also co-programmer of the American Fringe festival. Film production (excluding studios) is overwhelming, as is the number of festivals. Sundance, for example, receives nearly 1,300 feature films of varying quality every year.

“Everyone has made a habit of watching movies on Netflix. Eventually, the rooms could be reserved, like the opera, for a very elitist public ”Richard Peña, professor of cinema at Columbia University (New York)

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