Gay pride abounds, but indie gay films tank

Mon Jun 16, 2008 10:34pm EDT
 
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By Gregg Goldstein

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Gay-pride season seems to be extending well beyond its official month of June. Gay marriage is now legal in California, stars are coming out of the closet (and woodwork) as never before, and NewFest -- the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Film Festival -- has kicked off the summer cycle of gay film festivals with its 20th anniversary run.

So why are independent gay films doing worse than ever at the box office and among critics?

Strand Releasing, which had 22 films in theaters last year (most with GLBT themes), grossed just $462,000. Killer Films, once a consistent producer of acclaimed "queer" projects, has shifted its focus to true crime dramas and other films, with tepid critical and financial success. At the same time, the 2005 Toronto Film Festival's gay-themed best Canadian feature winner, "C.R.A.Z.Y.," hasn't been able to secure U.S. theatrical distribution.

Gay characters might have gone mainstream at the movies ("Brokeback Mountain") and on TV ("Brothers & Sisters" and other shows), but that success hasn't led to more mainstream projects featuring them in main roles. There's merely been more awareness of a target audience of affluent young consumers seen as willing to support any film with a gay theme, including schlocky genre films (the sex comedy "Eating Out") similar to the kind of lowbrow fare generally aimed at straight audiences.

While smaller gay films are failing at the box office, their production is being fueled by the same venues that are drawing gay audiences away from theaters: cable TV, DVD and the Web. Small-town audiences who can't find gay films in their local Wal-Mart can head to Amazon, subscribe to Netflix or turn on MTV-owned basic cable channel Logo. Distributor Regent Entertainment, owner of the gay-focused Here! pay channel, is more than doubling its annual film production/acquisition slate to about 25 releases in the next year for brief theatrical runs.

While Regent's 12 films in theaters in 2007 grossed just $335,000, Regent/Here! CEO Paul Colichman says the channel's $7-per-month fee, DVD revenue and low marketing costs make theatrical releases a worthwhile loss leader.

FROM FESTIVAL TO SMALL SCREEN

NewFest artistic director Basil Tsiokos says that long-running festivals like his, San Francisco's Frameline and Los Angeles' Outfest serve more as launching pads for DVD and cable than for theatrical runs. One such example is TLA Releasing's "Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild," a sequel to 2006's "Another Gay Movie," which parodied gay and straight cinema cliches.   Continued...