Over the summer, indie films like Blue Jasmine, Mud, and The Way Way Back all grossed over $20,000,000 at the box office and attracted near universal critical acclaim in the process. It is an unusual occurrence that many of this year's indie films have been garnering extensive attention throughout the summer since the warmer season is typically the domain of the blockbusters.
But this summer was different. It seems truly odd on first viewing that the indies, produced by small studios on relatively minuscule budgets — as opposed to the typically grandiose productions of Hollywood — are able to match the massive blockbusters with gargantuan budgets (as well as normally gigantic gross profits) on their home turf. However, there are many factors that have led to this distortion of the playing field.
First, this summer there was a pretty dramatic failure in the ability of blockbusters to grab the attention and money of theater-goers. Last year, no less than 11 films managed to gross over $600,000,000 worldwide — the first year for such a colossal event to take place. On the contrary, this year the blockbusters appear to be on a bit of a come-down. A mere five films have managed to cross that milestone despite the traditional blockbuster season now being practically over. Practically regardless of the manner in which you look at the figures, this is a let-down of monumental proportions for the major movie studios. With many big budget movies falling significantly short of the gross profits garnered at the box office by films crafted at similar costs by the major film studios of the cinematic world, attention is shifting towards indie film.
For example, the 2013 production of The Lone Ranger had an incredible estimated budget of around $225,000,000, but grossed only a little over $260,000,000 worldwide. This can be compared to 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, a similarly expensive production (approximately $230,000,000) albeit one that managed to storm cinemas worldwide to gross in excess of a gigantic $1,080,000,000 (due partially, to be fair, to the success of its precursors). Even a similarly marketed comic book film, Man of Steel, only managed to pull $622,845,518 to date. The margin of difference between these examples quite clearly illustrates the general migration away from many Hollywood blockbusters by cinema-going audiences this year, a colossal collapse in levels of spectatorship.
It is this underperformance of some of the big budget blockbusters that has allowed the smaller budget Independent films to make their way into the limelightand collect more accolades for their high quality values. I am sure that we have many more of these interesting indie spectacles coming our way — with the likes of 12 Years A Slave already gaining critical steam. As we head into the fall, a time typically dominated by smaller films, we might see an unusually heavy representation of indie films in this year's awards ceremonies. After all, it seems this has been the year of the indie film.