September 26, 2013

New Indie Niche: Intelligent Films for Adults

Enough SaidThe steady stream of tentpoles and mega-budget studio films has been going strong for the past few years, and many of us, including Steven Spielberg and George Lucas sensed a disturbance in the Force. However, there's an upside to the saturation of a specific market, and that means the unsaturation of others. An article from Tribeca sheds light on a movie genre that has largely remained untouched by the studios: intelligent films geared towards middle-aged and older adults.

According to an article on Tribeca's blog, these films, geared toward the 40+ crowd, have been doing quite well at the box office, considering of course that they're under-marketed and under-hyped indies. One example Tribeca brings up is Nicole Holofcener's latest film, Enough Said, which debuted last weekend on just four screens, but averaged an incredible $60K per screen, "one of the best limited debuts of the year."

Holofcener is no stranger to intelligent films geared toward adults, though. She's been making such films since the mid 90s with Lovely and Amazing, Friends with Moneyand Please Giveand certainly she, as well as the late James Gandolfini and good reviews, helped beef up ticket sales, but Tribeca says it's more than that.

And this is where the tentpoles come in. After such a long stretch of the market being flooded with action-packed, effects-driven, foreign market friendly films, older audiences are wanting something that appeals to their intellect rather than their adrenal glands (they need a rest, I think.) Independent films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,  Midnight In Parisand big hit Blue Jasmine give the aging filmgoing audience something to enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atLg2wQQxvU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FER3C394aI8

Tribeca explains the implications:

This may lead to a world in which cinema no longer has the stranglehold over popular culture that it once had (a stranglehold it is already in the process of relinquishing), nor would it rake in the kind of money it currently does, but it might become a landscape in which a greater number of thoughtful, insightful films -- are given the chance to reach, and move, audiences.

As indies continue to prove their mettle, the cinematic environment begins to change all the more. The success of these independently made intelligent adult dramas (hopefully) signifies to film financiers and investors that, yes, people ready for something new, and yes, independent filmmakers can do the job.

What do you think? Do you think we'll start seeing intelligent films for adults being made by the majors, now that the indies have shown they're financially viable? What does all of this say about independent filmmakers as a whole? Let us know in the comments.

Link: Racking Focus: Indies Have Found an Unsaturated New Niche -- Tribeca

Your Comment

20 Comments

The monotony and homogeneity of mass pop culture of today is aimed completely towards teens/kids. It's amazing how adults consume that. I'm glad there are still a market for better content.

September 26, 2013 at 4:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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maghoxfr

Exactly.
Have you ever seen an aspirational advert on TV that didn't feature twenty-somethings?

If there an actor in an advert 30's and over, you can bet it is for a supermarket, garden equipment or wrinkle cream.

September 27, 2013 at 4:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Fresno Bob

I'm 27 and have liked Holofcener's films for quite a number of years. I think a lesson here is that audiences are more diverse than Hollywood may have tried to force them to be. Glad to see some recognition of her and a "new category" emerge, but I'm not entirely sure the category means all that much at the end of the day. Maybe as a useful means of curation and discovery for people, but there's a lot of value in going outside of one's "comfort zone" as well.

September 26, 2013 at 5:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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It's not a specific scene emerging...it's just the opposite of today's mainstream big budget daily menu. It's always been like this and will always be: for each trend there is a counter trend.

September 26, 2013 at 7:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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hansd

On a sort of a related note, Disney has parted ways with Jerry Bruckheimer. One "Lone Ranger" ($190M projected loss) was enough. Their decision was explained by their move toward smaller budget flicks and fewer tentpoles.
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PS. Is Woody Allen really an independent? Is the Gandolfine/Dreyfus pairing? There's something to be said about having a big name star attached to your lower budget film. S/he will bring name recognition but will also absorb profits, should there be any to begin with. On the other hand, a VOD distribution may be straight-forward enough to have actual profit, something that big Hollywood studios will never show on their books. The business model with these stars, I reckon, is to have a good screenplay and, to borrow again from a concurrent discussion, a quick production schedule.

September 26, 2013 at 11:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

A good chunk of hyped indies is pretentious crap, but at least it's somewhat better than yet another Edgy Dangerous Cop Movie #350 or Generic Superhero Flick #115

September 27, 2013 at 3:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

Intelligent films for adults ? What manner of fu#%#ery am I hearing?

No ! They are simply GOOD MOVIES.

Giving good movies a genre is idiotic. While the fluffy crap are looked at as block busters. Now the kids are going to grow up not knowing what a true good movie is. Geez they are already jaded

September 27, 2013 at 7:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Nigel Thompson

Spielberg and Lucas getting jitters is quite funny since it might be argued that they caused a certain mess in the first place. Once upon a time Hollywood routinely made intelligent films geared towards adults; even a kids film could be something like Phantom Tolbooth. Perceptions have shifted so much since Jaws and Star Wars. I believe The Godfather was a mainstream release, whilst Lord of the Rings was technically an independent film. It's not really a case of trading one thing over the other, but the widening of the base would be good.

September 27, 2013 at 8:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Saied

I think that big movie studios will shift at least a little towards intelligent films. The studios are out to make money. The Indy film makers are the artists doing it for the love of it. There are definitely Indy artists who work for, with, and are studios and do what they love, but Indy artists are always the pioneers. Once it's done and catches on, the money people tell other film makers "hey let's make this next movie like this film. It had a big return". That's why the market gets saturated with the same types of films all at once. It happens in tv too. American idol comes to mind, now there are a bunch of spinoffs of that. And American idol wasn't the first. Studios feed us fast food while we hand them convenience money. Indy filmmakers feed us clean fresh organic home cooked meals that most people are afraid to taste. It can be an acquired taste after all.

September 27, 2013 at 11:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Melanie Griffith chimed in about a month ago - "“In this day and age ... most of the scripts are so sh**ty and stupid and superficial,” Griffith continued. “It’s not that I get that much stuff anymore. But I do read my husband’s scripts and what he is offered… The movie business has changed. I don’t go to the movies these days because there is nothing to see. There is not very much, some little movies, but the big movies are all cartoons and super heroes.”
http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/08/20/melanie-griffith-lashes-...

September 27, 2013 at 12:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

That's some deep thinking there. And total bullshit Melanie.

September 27, 2013 at 1:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

This post is just trolling right? I'm trying to remember a time period when there were no decent films that didn't involve robots or explosions. Nope.
And I really wish those huge-budget SFX films and gross-out comedies would stop winning all those Oscars/SAGs/Globes. Oh, hang on. One. One Best Picture in the last 20 years that falls into these categories.

There are just more films period. Of every kind. This is not a trend - this is media confirmation bias.

September 27, 2013 at 1:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

Huh? Are you saying I was trolling for posting a widely circulated article?
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As to Mrs. Banderas, she said that she got virtually no scripts while her husband received weak, mostly action oriented, scripts. She did not say that there were no quality scripts anywhere in Hollywood.
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FWIW, I happen to think that an established actress like her would be perfect for a well written low budget film, if for no other reasons than her name recognition. Considering that Melanie is a "woman of independent means", she could probably even finance a shoot of under a quarter mil by herself in return for the ownership percentage of the property. In fact, I wish more well-off stars no longer at the pinnacle of their careers would become producers-directors-investors for the independent type projects holding appeal for them.

September 27, 2013 at 5:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

This supposed trend will spark some interest in LA and NYC and you may see some smart work coming out, but I doubt it. The big studios already buy those from independent producers and they can't match the numbers of tent pole movies.
What many consider 'intelligent ' movies are really just cinema screen versions of made for cable films. Hollywood made or distributed plenty of these films right through the 1990s.
I think the real challenge for independent filmmakers is to stop emulating the industry's model of storytelling and production and invent new ways of doing cinema. The first step for some would be to offer a script to Melanie Griffith and other quality actresses over 50. Then be a true independent by budgeting films within reason. Outside of effects and such there is no reason an indie film should ever cost more that 300,000 dollars.

October 3, 2013 at 4:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Alejandro W.

It is great that discussion is happening around these issues, but as an independent filmmaker living in New Zealand (but very much in the cultural shadow of USA) I do find the American-centric focus frustrating. Intelligent films for adults have ALWAYS been made, It just happens that most of them are NOT in the English language, and more often than not made on budgets a fraction of most Hollywood movies.

October 3, 2013 at 4:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Quite right!. There is a LOT of good movies outside the USA that don´t follow the Holly formula. Do you get argentinian, iranian or brazilian films on theathers there?

October 4, 2013 at 2:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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TonyBR

I disagree on the quote "(they need a rest, I think.)" the people that are going to these kind of films including me , just enjoys a good story. I'm 29 and their are a lot of us around my age that enjoy good story telling over transformers and vampire teens.

October 3, 2013 at 9:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Bruce

I completely agree with you, but statistically speaking, these films are more popular with an older demographic. That doesn't mean that younger people don't like them or prefer them.

October 4, 2013 at 2:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

It's foolish to attach age to intelligence. I see and hear from many "older adults" who thrill to the overly trite superhero, Sci-Fi and Psy-Fi, effects-riddled blockbusters. Intelligence isn't something you acquire by growing older, it's only gained by pursuit. A couple who regularly attend professional wrestling events all their lives aren't going to magically evolve into opera-lovers on their 50th birthday. If one insists on restricting his/her intake of visual arts to a stream of toilet jokes, racial stereotypes, or amygdala stimulation, they won't ever appreciate anything else.

October 4, 2013 at 9:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Zan Shin

Nowhere in the article or the source article did it say that intelligence and age are connected in some way.

Different kinds of films traditionally appeal to different demographics. Disney films, action films, teen movies, foreign films all appeal to different people of different ages. These "intelligent" dramas and comedies appeal to middle aged adults -- that is their largest demographic. Of course younger audiences will enjoy them, too, but their numbers will be much smaller.

I think it's great that younger people like these movies. Maybe I'll find someone my own age to watch Woody Allen movies with!

October 4, 2013 at 2:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director