October 14, 2013

Could the 2015 Tentpole Surge Actually Open the Door to Indie Filmmakers?

Blue JasmineCould 2015 be the end of the filmmaking world as we know it? Over the past decade, the big budget Hollywood tentpoles have been the main attraction at the cinematic circus, and 2015 looks like it's going to be the "biggest movie year ever." So, why all the doomsday talk? Well, according to an article from Tribeca, this impending over-saturation of superhero movies, sequels, and franchise films will lead to audiences becoming tired of the selection, causing the current system to meltdown, and leaving a big steaming crater for more cerebral, plot and character-driven films to fill. 2015 could actually be the year indie filmmakers have been waiting for.

So, what makes 2015 the "biggest movie year ever?" Well, how about the theatrical releases of the final Hunger Games installation, the sequels to both Avatar and TedAlvin and the Chipmunks 4Jurassic Park World, the Despicable Me Minions spinoff, Star Wars: Episode VII, and Mission: Impossible 5. I'd say that's one giant ball of big budget badassness that's heading straight for a theater near you.

Now, it's doubtful that a large number of those films will fail -- it's not like audience preferences turn on and off like a switch. People are still going to go see the Hunger Games finale and the Avatar sequel, and a handful of those films are going to make lots and lots of money, but the article from Tribeca suggests that because of the sheer number of tentpoles being released in 2015, audiences are going to basically get sick of them and want something else.

If the recent performance of thoughtful, story-driven independent films is any indication of the future, then I'd say that, yeah, this seems plausible. The proof is in the pudding. Indie films took over last year's Academy Awards. Small-budget, cerebral, dramatic films geared toward adults, like Blue Jasmine, Midnight in Paris, and Enough Saidhave found great success as the filmgoing audience ages. Even low-budget indie films not necessarily geared toward an older demographic, like Francis Ha and Spring Breakers found their audiences.

Even more, The 2013 summer tentpoles were largely unsuccessful compared to what was expected. Even Disney has delayed the release of Pirate of the Caribbean 5, which makes one wonder, "Do they know something we don't about the industry?" Is Disney taking these recent developments seriously and rethinking their strategy?

For so long, the astronomical success of big-budget Hollywood films has been influencing the way films are made, specifically in America, and the majority of indie films have found it difficult to find large-scale success in the industry. Based on their massive financial investments and box-office records being made left and right, it seemed as though the bubble was going to expand forever.

But, the industry will continue to change, as it always does. Will the bubble burst? That remains to be seen, but it's clear that a great shift is occurring, and audiences are beginning to want thoughtful and intelligent stories over superheroes and ridiculously over-the-top destruction.

Independent filmmakers might be wise to pick up their cameras and get to work. Come 2015, they just might find themselves with a huge audience hungry to see something, anything new.

What do you think? Do you think the movie industry is heading for a big change? Let us know in the comments.

Link: Will 2015 Be The Year Of Smaller, Smarter Films? -- Tribeca Film

Your Comment

25 Comments

it's not that the tent poles will fail, it's that they will fail because they will all compete with each other during the summer months. Which means that the fall and spring seasons will be featuring the smaller films. Looking at the most recent box office weekend's Top 10 and there are only two sequels in "Cloudy..." and "Insidious".
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Looking at the budgets vs. revenues, most of these films (Ron Howard's "Rush" is the longest shot) should turn profit after everything (theatrical, TV, cable, DVD, airline/hotel and streaming) and is said and done.

October 14, 2013 at 8:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Box office is often about 1/3 of the revenue taken over the life of the film, and that is not usually including foreign presales or corporate tie ins. Sure a movie like RUSH did poorly at the box office, but F1 loving countries definitely paid for the rights to it before the film was even finished (I'm looking at you Germany). When questioned about some of his flops Ridley Scott responded that he has never made a movie that lost money. When you see the numbers for the second and third tier (cable, airlines, hotels, streaming, dvd, etc) you will question what makes a flop too.

As long as the international box office continues to grow, as it has by almost a billion dollars every year over the last decade, I do not see Hollywood changing. They are doing better than ever before. Sure Disney put some things on hold, but that is probably because they just spent 4 Billion dollars buying Star Wars and have to carefully plan how to utilize one of films biggest properties of all time.

I love indie films but how many independents have a slate of films with a predictable take like mainstream producers have? Producers like Jerry Bruckheimer or Kathleen Kennedy can make 5 or more movies a year. While an indie can be excellent in its own right it is hard to match Hollywoods quantity. I go to sundance every year and while there are a few amazing movies each festival, most will never see the light of day. And Sundance helps produce almost half the films in their own festival!

The only way I see that Hollywood will be financially threatened is when independents or a new market can rival them in the terms of spectacle quality. I look at the music world to see how that has shifted for them. At this point it is often cheaper to build a music studio than rent one. People can make entire albums and careers with nothing but a laptop and some software and then keep it that way. Some day that will be completely true for film as well.

October 14, 2013 at 9:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

The future of good cinema is tv. Breaking Bad. Smart as hell and high ratings.

Filmmaking is only about global markets. What sells in China. Can you make a nuanced indie film and have it cross-cultural? Do French movies do good business in the US?

There are two worlds. The world of international and the world of good strong independent art. With netflix, with the internet - more people than ever now have access to smart good niche films. If budgets can be kept down, like Blue Jasmine, they can make a profit.

But the tentpole world does not affect the indie market, and vice versa.

If the tentpole world collaspes, that means nothing for indies.

But I disgress - Breaking Bad is the best piece of art out of Hollywood in the past 10 years. It's the future. A 100 hour story that has room for complicated character growth.

I have always felt films are too limited by the running time.

My favorite film, 400 Blows is more like a short novella. And I'm not expecting more 400 Blows. It seems that currently the market doesn't either. Our culture in the US at least won't make one. Where all the great minds bow to great financial pressure to make their "art" sellable. Only until filmmakers stop caring about "the bottom line" and "will it make it into Sundance" then we will have a resurgence of great cinema.

October 14, 2013 at 9:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I'm agree, I'm starting to see TV as much more of an option than movies. Even bad TV has the ability to connect in a way a movie can't. I mean thousands of people make feature films every year. Its not even the type of movie. There's just too many movies.

October 14, 2013 at 11:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Here's the thing, though. TV isn't THE future, but it is a huge part of it. Look at Gravity, a movie that barely clocks in at an hour in a half that's getting rave reviews and fairly good box office returns. The market is still there for people like myself who prefer to have a complete story told in the 1 1/2 hour to 3 hour timespan. The episodic format has fantastic advantages but Breaking Bad (and the AMC/FX networks as a whole) as creative flukes to an extent. They're smart enough to not do 22 episode seasons and burn out their creative staff. But that's not going to happen with the more mainstream TV market. The fact is movie theaters aren't going anywhere and neither is TV. The Hollywood system will eventually collapse, as it did in the 60s and things will open back up. We're going to continue to see this economic/creative ebb and flow for as long as there is an industry attached to filmmaking.

October 15, 2013 at 1:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Coty

Another thing to keep in mind with is that TV and Movies are run by pretty much the same people. Mark Johnson produced Breaking Bad, but also produced The Notebook, Rainman, and the Chronicles of Narnia. Joel Silver produced the Matrix, Die Hard but also TV's Veronica Mars. Jerry Bruckheimer is behind all the CSI's and Amazing Races along with most Michael Bay movies and the Pirates franchise.

Directors work on both TV and film too as do many actors. TV and Film are by no means exclusive.

October 15, 2013 at 2:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

Hey Ed, I disagree.
For me, TV and Film are different disciplines, if not fields of the arts. A film entertains me over 90-120 minutes, can put me in a different world, explore ideas, fantasies, realities. While TV drama is on a very predictable structure, drawn out to last seasons.
Some stories are told in short amounts of time, some aren't. Doesn't make one or the other story better by default.
I don't like to commit to a series where I have to invest up to 100 hours to get the pay-off.

October 15, 2013 at 3:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Elias

Very well put. I can't imagine my father telling us bedtime stories in the form of a series. Some stories are best suited for television and some for movies.

October 18, 2013 at 12:08AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Every six months a new article comes out asking if this or that will mean the end of filmmaking as we know it. I think it's too simplistic to think that way, and also that for the microbudget filmmaker it makes no difference at all. I really hope things change, but in a way, change back to the way some things were. It would be great if what we had right now was a mix of the ease of distribution due to communications technologies and the power of creativity and craft and true love for films of the 70's.

I really hope studio and commercial film industry collapses. It hasn't been more than a propaganda industry for decades.

October 14, 2013 at 10:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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maghoxfr

The TV landscape is more nuanced. There'll still be the housewife friendly shows like "House", "The Good Wife", "Gray's Anatomy" and all the CSI/NCIS incarnations. That's what sells to the same markets abroad. Edgier dramas like BB, SoA, GoT, HoC, etc. will be the staple of cable and Netflix (especially if the latter can get some sort of TV distribution deal as being bandied about). When you add up all the creative talent absorbed by the above, there's not much left for the independent market outside of the horror/comedy/minority genres, which have their own markets.
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Having said that, a lot depends on the VOD streaming systems. Unlike the theater chains that retain ~ 45% of the gross revenues, the percentage payout to the producers can be much higher online. The catch is that the producer has to provide his own advertising and promotion and that can be the most difficult task because the budgets for marketing are simply not there. Subsequently, the top online VOD sites will have to promote themselves first and their product second but they haven't gotten around to the former, let alone the latter.
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My hunch is that, within 2-4 years, the situation will change to a point where a well received independent could be made for $250K-$500K and generate $2M-$5M worth of VOD revenues. In order to do that, the stars of such films would have to do a lot of retail campaigning. At the present, not many are willing to do this. They'll have to change their tune.

October 15, 2013 at 7:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Tv is still vastly inferior to film on pretty much every level outside of narrative and character development, im aware that many people are not aware of the function of film beyond story and character tho, which is pitiful really. Although tv is getting better aesthetically it still looks awful next to moderately well shot films and doesnt even try to communicate complex ideas in interesting ways. Clearly its to do with more than just money(as there is plenty in tv). I think its more to do with the speed of production and the way tv is commissioned and executed by mercenaries. Film is art(outside of hollywood) tv doesnt even pretend to function as art, even tho it has progressed from being purely a "medium of distraction". Stuff like breaking bad and game of thrones is exceptional tv, perhaps the best its ever been and i think for a lot of audiences that dont really think much about what they are watching arent fully conscious of tv's inferiority, but subconsciously(and to anyone with a reasonable grasp of cinema) a lack of emotional and intellectual intensity is pretty evident i feel.

October 15, 2013 at 8:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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andy

Couldn't agree more. At its best current TV produces shows with very rich character networks and sprawling story-lines (i.e. The Wire), but it could never ever produce something as formally daring as 2001 A Space Odyssey!
When you really examine the form of most TV programs (even the good ones) you discover that they are just illustrated radio shows. You can close your eyes, listen to them and get 99.9% of the story; the stories aren't really being told with the images or doing anything remotely interesting with the combination of image and sound. I think films are open to more forms. I'd love to see a day when TV is as open but that definitely isn't the case right now.

October 15, 2013 at 10:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mak

"X-Files" the TV show was arguably far superior to the "X-Files" the movie. Or, at least, to its sequels. And the best "Simpsons" episodes were roughly equal to "Simpsons, the Movie". Where TV can't compete with the theatrical releases yet is on the action and special effect laden films but the "blow'em-ups" isn't everyone's cup of tea anyway. The acting and the dialog, on the other hand, can be better on TV, especially with the recently popular 13-episode seasons, which allow a couple of top writers/showrunners of a show to pretty much control every word uttered. In film, other prerogatives often supersede the acting part.
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PS. It's fashionable to beat up on Michael Bay around these parts and the last movie he directed that I saw was probably "Pearl Harbor" but it was a perfect example of the above. Despite having a very respected screen writer (Randall Wallace - Braveheart, We Were Soldiers, Secretariat), the non-action sequences were virtually insufferable but the staging of the Japanese attack itself was beautifully choreographed and executed. The film has a 25% score at Rotten Tomatoes and deservedly so.
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And, to finish with the Rotten Tomatoes grades - some of their top rated current movies are smaller films like "Enough Said" (95%) while the big budgeted films can lag far behind. From this summer, "Olympus Has Fallen" is at 47%, "World War Z" at 67%, "The Great Gatsby" is at 49%, "After Earth" at 11%.

October 15, 2013 at 11:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

There are plenty of examples of great TV shows that are better than mediocre films. There are plenty of great TV shows that are as good as or better than great films too. I was never an X Files person but The Simpsons is one of my favourite things of all time. If I'm making a value judgement, it's on the type of cinematic content and the openness of the form that TV currently has when compared to theatrical films. I don't think theatrical films are necessarily better than television but I do think they are more open (potentially) to

On The Third Man audio commentary track Steven Soderbergh and Tony Gilroy make a really interesting point about the film being a perfect 100min story. If it was fleshed out into a mini-series or cut up and interrupted by commercial breaks (and I realise not all TV has commercials) it would be objectively worse.
There is something to having a concentrated block of time to tell a story. An extreme example would be something like Satantango which could never exist if the idea of a theatrical cinema experience didn't exist. But you can make the same argument for a lot of other films that are less experimental. Groundhog Day, Slacker, The Matrix, Jaws etc... would not be able to come out of a television format mindset (at least not in the way TV currently exists).
The problem with form goes deeper than special effects and action in my opinion-American studio films have some of the worst action in the history of cinema at the moment in my opinion, but that is an argument for another day. Telling a story over 23 or 45 min episodes (often riddled with commercial breaks) puts huge constraints on the ways it is possible to tell that story. Especially when you factor in that a lot of these shows are written in a way to create a question or conflict that will make you want to come back after the commercial break.

Acting, narrative and character development are the areas where TV can really excel but I think the format even puts restraints on acting. Scenes are often uniformly shorter and more "plotty" in TV. Could you imagine anything like the 20 odd minute bar scene in Inglorious Basterds, the "How am I funny?" bit in Goodfellas or the intense acting scenes in many of Cassavetes's movies being written into a TV show? They are just too long and complex.

I have more hope in the kind of 13 hour series that you mention. We have had stuff like that in the UK (where I am from) and Europe for a very long time now. I think something like Kieslowski's Dekalog is a good example of a TV show that was daring in the way it told it's stories.

On a more positive note, I think that this is an area where people making web-series may really be able to do something spectacular. Web-series are often looked down on, but I think that an Orson Welles or Kubrick of the web-series is probably out there somewhere. One day they will make something that will force all of us (including the industry gate-keepers) to re-evaluate the way we look at episodic TV-style programming as an art-form.

TL;DR - TV is great but it can't do everything that theatrical films can because of the constraints it has as a format.

October 15, 2013 at 2:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mak

My take is that TV with a continuous dramatic story structure can clearly be superior to a one-off 90-120 minute film. Many a TV show - and I've touched on the subject in another thread - have become better/more compelling as late as a season or two into their run. The classic "Dallas" (with Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, et al) started out as an episodic type where each story was begun and finished the very same week. A year later, the producers decided to switch to a soap opera format with both short and long story arcs and "Dallas" became the most popular program of the era. Likewise, something like "The Sopranos" could take 2-3 episodes to introduce its overall seasonal plot but then ramp up the action leading into a cliffhanger in the 13th and final show. This helps an average viewer relate much better to an acting troupe that he sees every week - or even every day, as with the daytime soaps - rather than only once. In film, you have to do your exposition in 5-10 pages/minutes, introduce the main premise by the 10th page and then throw in your twists and turns every 10 minutes on top of that. So, the TV - with the exception of HBO, Showtime and Netflix - will throw in ads into those 10 minute plot twists. That can be annoying but is not considered a deal breaker in the US (sort of like the difference in American football and the global football/soccer - one has breaks, the other doesn't but it doesn't make either superior or inferior in terms of sheer entertainment).

October 15, 2013 at 9:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

You´ve had quite a few good articles in a row now V. Keep up the great work, it´s been really good reading.

October 15, 2013 at 9:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ben Howling

Thanks, Ben! Appreciate it.

October 17, 2013 at 6:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

> and audiences are beginning to want thoughtful and intelligent stories over superheroes and ridiculously over-the-top destruction

Look, I hate capeshit and HULK SMASH! as much as the next man, but someone is clearly biased here.

October 15, 2013 at 1:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

I've never been told I'm being biased by someone who agrees with my bias before. I think a wormhole opened up somewhere.

October 17, 2013 at 6:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

I just wanted to jump in here to agree with the folks above that say that TV is never going to replace feature films. I've been hearing this meme a lot over the last few months with the supposed "golden age" of dramatic TV series, but it just doesn't compute. There are some things that can be done in movies that would just be impossible on a TV series. And I'm not talking about special effects, but instead the kind of content, stories, structure, etc that some of the top filmmakers (people like Kubrick, Wenders, Dardennes, Haneke, etc) put out. There is no way that the effect of some (most?) of their films could ever be replicated in a TV series.

That doesn't mean that TV is inferior to films. I'm reaching the realization that the axiom "the medium is the message" is true after all, in that the format of a media piece deeply influences what can be done within it, and the effects that it has. The same type of difference exists between short films and features. Some things that can be done in a short would never work the same way or be effective in a feature.

So shorts are not equal to features are not equal to TV series. None of them can replace each other as they each have different strengths and are capable of different things.

October 15, 2013 at 7:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Shenan

American audience could be tired of the selection, yes but that's definitely an american problem (well, it's similar in many many countries).
The way films are released is stupid and is made for those big budget films. And it is known (maybe not so true) that most americans want to see american films. Too bad for them...
In France for instance, there are between 12 and 25 new films being released each week (too much according to me), and blockbusters are just a very small part of them (although better distributed than most other films, but that's a money problem). If you give a larger choice to people they will watch what they really want, not what the studios want them to see... It's an education problem. Show foreign films with subtitles to your kids and friends, and they will slowly change. 15 years ago nobody in France liked subtitles, they prefer dubbing. Now, because of dvds and internet, pretty much everybody under 40yo watch films in their original version and the biggest cinema theatres in Paris and some other cities only propose original version films with subtitles.

October 16, 2013 at 4:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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very true

October 16, 2013 at 12:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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andy

I find it illuminating that a lot of people have something to say about this and yet the post about the Bittorrent Bundles and P2P distribution received only a few comments.

http://nofilmschool.com/2013/10/bittorrent-bundles-for-publishers-p2p-di...

That potentially has a huge effect on indie film makers and their investors.

October 17, 2013 at 12:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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JPS

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/4-tv-execs-showdown-foxs-648368
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Good overall discussion on the TV drama biz among the top current executives. A quote - Landgraf (CEO-FX) : ... there are now 48 channels, at last count, making scripted original series."

October 17, 2013 at 10:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

10 reasons today's movies trump TV: This article for The Guardian by David Cox sums up a lot of what I feel when people say TV should replace film...
http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2013/oct/21/10-reasons-cinema-b...

October 21, 2013 at 4:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mak