New indie film companies look for market rebound

Wed Aug 19, 2009 5:51pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Looking for a rebound in the risky independent film business, several newly formed U.S. companies aim to fill a void created in the past 18 months when major players failed due to a glut of movies in the market.

But the recession and foreign competition have forced veteran companies, along with new players including distributor Apparition and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch's Oscilloscope Pictures, to change business plans and cut production costs, market players said.

One thing is certain as the indie film industry gears up for a big showcase at September's Toronto International Film Festival: audiences still crave low-budget fare made outside Hollywood's major studios.

Several of the U.S. summer movie season's art house flicks have enjoyed solid ticket sales at box offices including "(500) Days of Summer" ($19 million), "Away We Go" ($9 million) and "The Hurt Locker" ($11 million).

"The opportunity of the pullback gave us the motivation to go ahead and jump in," said Apparition co-founder Bob Berney.

Last year, Picturehouse, Warner Independent Pictures, Paramount Vantage and THINKFilm were among the major indie companies that closed or drastically revised business plans.

Fueled by Wall Street investors looking to strike box office gold with the next "Brokeback Mountain," -- a 2005 movie about gay cowboys made for around $14 million that reached mainstream success and a $178 million global box office -- indie movie budgets sometimes reached lofty heights of $30-$40 million or more -- near the cost of a Hollywood studio film.

But Berney said many production companies have drastically cut back costs and are making movies in the $15 million range.   Continued...