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Rise of the Independents

Indie Films Are Garnering Attention and Making Money in a Changing Entertainment Landscape

Big-budget superhero movies and explosion-packed action films typically headline summer entertainment. But with the global pandemic, 2020 will be known as the blockbuster-less summer. Most major studios are delaying their planned summer releases or changing their distribution strategy to a purely digital one. This lack of blockbusters has allowed independent films to come into the spotlight, garnering critical praise, box office standings, and attention that otherwise only goes to studio films.

In terms of box office numbers, independent films have had an unprecedented year.

The summer’s box office champions have been primarily low-budget independent horror films such as Becky, Wretched, and Relic. Wretched has topped the US box office for five weekends, putting it in the select company of films like Titanic and Avatar. These films lead the box office primarily through drive-in theaters that have seen a resurgence in popularity during this pandemic. These successes at the box office are comparative to the limited competition, but it still has thrust independent films into a spotlight.

Traditionally, independent films like these would release through a limited US theatrical run combined with immediate availability through streaming platforms. After the two weeks of limited theatrical run, the movies would leave the theater and probably lost in the sea of streaming entertainment options. In the current entertainment landscape, these films are taking front stage in US theaters and are going toe-to-toe with big studio offerings online.

Other independent films have shunned the traditional limited theatrical release entirely and taken advantage of improved placement on streaming platforms to release straight to digital platforms. Movies like Money Plane, The Outpost, and First Cow are competing with major studio releases while soaking up an unprecedented amount of press and attention.

Adam “Edge” Copeland and Kelsey Grammer in Money Plane (2020)

Money Plane is a campy low budget action film starring professional wrestler Adam “Edge” Copeland and Kelsey Grammer (of Frasier and Cheers fame) that would have seemed destined for relative obscurity a regular entertainment season. With a quarantined public hungry for new content and a particular clip of Kelsey Grammer delivering a line about wagering on alligator fornication, Money Plane has gone semi-viral on twitter and has gathered numerous articles on pop culture websites like Uproxx and The Ringer as well as a bevy of reviews on podcasts large and small. This flurry of attention, both positive and negative, has placed this small-budget independent film into near-cult classic status.

With a movie-going public having been primarily confined home for months on end, the landscape of entertainment is forever changed. People are now getting used to watching blockbuster new releases on their home televisions and seeing independent movies displayed prominently alongside major studio productions. This new way of consuming media has drastically broken down the barriers between studio and independent films. The many months of confinement also mean that viewers have seen large portions of the available content, and there will be an increased demand for new content in the coming months and year. With major studios often needing more time to produce their big-budget films, there will be a shift towards lower budget and smaller movies, giving independent producers a more level playing field for film releases in the next year.

Over the next year, major Hollywood studios will benefit fro the slow return to some version of normalcy. For now, independent films and smaller studios are at the forefront and will forever benefit from their time in the sun.

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