On the eve of the 65th anniversary of the 1955 lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Louis Till, it is announced that writer/director, Chinonye Chukwu will helm a feature film based on his tragic death and the story of his mother, Mamie Till Mobley. Her subsequent pursuit of justice for her son and insistence on an open casket funeral became... read more >
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To show their support to the COVID-19 first responder and essential healthcare workers and the charities assisting the theatre community, the cast of Sing Street present Sing Street: Grounded – At Home With The Broadway Cast. It’s a chance to see the young cast perform some of their favourite scenes and songs to benefit The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New... read more >
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MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, announced today that after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace, the release of NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November 2020. The film will be released in the U.K. on November 12, 2020 with worldwide release dates to follow, including the US... read more >
“Bond… James Bond” – The first trailer for NO TIME TO DIE has arrived. In NO TIME TO DIE, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a... read more >
Since June 2019, London has played host to Secret Cinema’s immersive production of CASINO ROYALE. The four-month show entertained over 120,000 people, placing the film back in the UK Top Ten Box Office during the entirety of its run. The show transformed a 70,000 square foot warehouse in East London into a multi-layered set where audience members embarked on a mission. High octane stunts... read more >
The first trailer has been released for THE RHYTHM SECTION, a thriller starring Blake Lively which is produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Blake Lively stars as Stephanie Patrick, an ordinary woman on a path of self-destruction after her family is tragically killed in a plane crash. When Stephanie discovers that the crash... read more >
Unless you’re Disney, releasing the umpteenth iteration of a money-printing hit, or you’re some other version of a franchise blockbuster derived from beloved IP, you likely haven’t had a great run at the box office so far in 2019. (In fact, Jordan Peele’s horror film “Us” is the only original screenplay among the top 10 grossers of the year so far.)
As bad as things are for the five major studios and longtime mini-major Lionsgate, the situation is worse for independents and the specialty divisions of the majors heading into this month’s Toronto Film Festival. Indie film releases made up approximately 11% of the 2019 domestic box office to date, which comes to approximately $890 million out of the $7.8 billion that all of Hollywood has amassed. By the end of last year, indie films made up 13% of the overall box office total.
“It’s been a bad year,” Magnolia Pictures President Eamonn Bowles said. “There’s been some fine films, but I haven’t been phenomenally inspired.” (Magnolia’s own top performer this year, the Japanese Oscar nominee “Shoplifters,” was a holdover from last year that topped out at $3.3 million.)
The narrative surrounding the 2019 indie box office has been one of nearly unrelenting disappointment. The year started off strong with Lantern Entertainment’s “The Upside,” an American remake of the French film “The Intouchables” starring Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston. The former Weinstein Company drama, distributed by STX Entertainment, grossed $108.3 million in the U.S. and is far and away the highest grossing non-studio release of the year.
But after that early January release, films such as Fox Searchlight’s “Tolkien” ($7.8 million), Annapurna’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” ($8.5 million) and “Booksmart” ($22.7 million) fell flat when they hit theaters. And then buzzy titles out of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival such as New Line’s “Blinded by the Light,” Amazon Studios’ “Late Night” and “Brittany Runs a Marathon” — which sparked higher hopes after selling for between $13 million and $15 million apiece — haven’t been able to live up to expectations.
Add to that the rumblings of financial troubles from major indie studios. STX, which had to forego an IPO in Hong Kong last year, has shed top executives and been on the hunt for investors — and possibly a buyer, TheWrap has previously reported. And Megan Ellison’s Annapurna, which has had a rocky year at the box office, was forced to renegotiate its financing deals with banks to pay off debts.
That’s nothing, however, compared to the toll the indie box office slide has had on art-house theaters themselves. Mark Cuban sold Landmark Theatres, which operates 252 screens in 27 markets, to Cohen Media Group late last year. Just last month, the 16-location premium chain iPic Theaters filed for bankruptcy, while Deadline reported that the 41-screen family-owned Laemmle Theater chain was up for sale. On top of that, New York City’s beloved Paris Theatre shut its doors for good.
As a result, many in the indie film world are questioning the future of theatrical releases for lower-budgeted, non-studio projects.
“The indie business isn’t dying, it’s just evolving. There are arguably more independent movies being made now than ever before,” Juliet Berman, head of development for indie production company Treehouse Pictures, said. “The thing that’s changing is the way that people are consuming them. The traditional theatrical model isn’t going away but it’s not necessarily the best way for every film to reach its audience or make money.
She added, “We need to look at each project on the basis of its own merits and apply individual barometers of success rather than measuring everything up against a distribution model that is no longer the gold standard that it once was.”
And many of the indies are pursuing strategies similar to the majors — just on a smaller scale. Of the 10 top grossing films from indie distributors so far through 2019, only three weren’t remakes, reimaginings, sequels, true stories or pulled from preexisting IP: “Booksmart,” Searchlight’s “Ready or Not” and A24’s “Midsommar.”
Now the film community looks to Toronto, whose festival kicked off on Thursday, to help turn the narrative around. From a business standpoint, however, Bowles said relying on glitzy festival acquisitions is the worst strategy for an indie distributor. “Yet every year, without fail, people are out here doing it,” he said.
“Unfortunately, this is such an image- and perception-based business,” Bowles said. “This is a very, very hard business. The success rate is probably worse than restaurants.”
Jeremy Fuster contributed to this report.