'Indie Roundup'

Indie Roundup reviews the past week of news from the independent film community and provides a peek at what's coming soon.

Opening. Three indie flicks open on Friday: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte's terrific music doc Soul Power, Chris Nahon's live-action adaptation of anime horror thriller Blood: The Last Vampire, and a reissue of Francois Truffaut's 1969 crime romance Mississippi Mermaid, with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve. After a good start in New York and Los Angeles (see below), action thriller The Hurt Locker expands into 50 selected markets.

Deals / Articles of Interest. Our friends at indieWIRE reported on three recent acquisitions with upcoming theatrical releases planned: Chris Fuller's critically-acclaimed teen drama Loren Cass (Kino; July 24); Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, with Robin Wright Penn and Alan Arkin (Screen Media, October); and Dror Zahavi's thriller For My Father (Film Movement, Winter 2010). Eugene Hernandez considers Chris Anderson's new book Free: The Future of a Radical Price and suggests that Anderson's "ideas and examples" are applicable to the "evolving marketplace for movies."

On-Demand Viewing. Anne Thompson posted a clip at Variety for Michael Almereyda's post-Karina drama New Orleans Mon Amour, with Elisabeth Moss and Christopher Eccleston. I saw it at SXSW last year and couldn't get into its very deliberate pacing; its virtues might be better appreciated on a smaller screen. It debuts on cable VOD on July 15. Blogging at The Huffington Post, filmmaker Adam Hootnick compares recent events in Iran with the situation in Gaza after Israel's withdrawal from its settlements in 2005. That's the subject of his film Unsettled, which is now available on iTunes and Amazon VOD.

After the jump: Indie box office results -- and a year-to-date report.


Box Office. Kathryn Bigelow's suspense-filled drama The Hurt Locker continued at the top in its second week, taking in $14,578 per-screen at nine theaters in New York and Los Angeles, according to Box Office Mojo. (The opening sequence is now available online.) Opening at 100 locations, action / comedy / romance Kambakkht Ishq, starring Akshay Kumar, made $7,685 per screen. Agnes Varda's The Beaches of Agnes pulled in an average $6,344 on three screens. Other debut engagements included The Girl From Monaco ($3,988), Lion's Den ($3,484), and I Hate Valentine's Day ($1,679).

Year to Date. Now that we've passed the mid-point of the year, Peter Kneght at indieWIRE reviews the box office results and trends. While overall earnings for the US film industry are up 10% over last year, he says that the top five specialty releases have only grossed half of what last year's crop produced at the mid-point. And only two have grossed more than $5 million -- Christine Jeffs' Sunshine Cleaning, with Amy Adams and Alan Arkin, and Sam Mendes' Away We Go, with John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph.

The article spotlights winners (Focus Features, Coraline, films that opened in four theaters) and losers (The Weinstein Company, The Battle for Terra, films that opened on more than 100 screens). Only five documentaries made more than $500,000. Only five foreign-language pictures placed among the top 20 earners of the first six months.

Obviously there is a dedicated core audience that is still supporting independent films in theaters, but very few pictures have been able to crossover to mainstream viewers. The scary thing is that the core audience has been aging and shrinking. Will that trend continue until it's no longer financially feasible to release an independent film in theaters -- unless it promises a more lighthearted approach? Or are we already at that point?