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MY BIG SKINNY ON "BIG FAT WEDDING"

You never know what's going to pop up in the mail. You certainly wouldn't expect a letter from an Independent Film producer blasting the distributor of the indie sleeper of the year, if not the decade. But that's just what we've got here, and it's well worth reading.


WHO KILLED INDEPENDENT MOVIES?

2002's sleeper hit is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," a Gold Circle Films and HBO production released via IFC. Box-office figures for the past weekend show it has already grossed $96,044,183.

That number is phenomenal when you consider that "Wedding" is a low-budget comedy with no "name" actors. It's reported to have cost just $5 million to make and IFC's marketing has defied all the movie-business truisms about summer (specifically, that big advertising dollars are necessary to insure a big opening weekend). Because of the slow rollout, estimates are that only a total of $15-20 million will be spent on domestic prints and advertising. And the end to the "Big Fat" box-office bonanza is not yet in sight.

In fact, the film, which opened April 19, 2002 to a modest $597,362 in 108 theaters and has been building on word-of-mouth ever since, still has a shot at becoming the No. 1 movie for the weekend of September 13-15. No other film has ever taken the Number One spot for the very first time in its 22nd week of release. "Wedding" already seems a sure thing as the second-highest grossing independent film of all time. The current all-time leader is "The Blair Witch Project" at $140.5 million. "Wedding" will have to continue to astound to pass "Blair Witch," but it may do just that.

In response to the overwhelming success of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," one might expect IFC to renew its commitment to low-budget films. Instead, according to an IFC statement issued Wednesday August 21st, IFC Entertainment has shut down its finishing funds company, Next Wave Films. In an interview with indieWIRE, IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring attributed the decision to a changing marketplace for low-budget films: "It's a distribution market that is increasingly reliant on higher-budgeted films, with name casts," Sehring said.

It took Miramax and Lion's Gate years to develop the hubris and contempt for independent filmmakers implicit in Mr. Sehring's statement. With "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," IFC has achieved its very first commercial hit. So what suddenly qualifies Mr. Sehring to compete with the major studios by focusing on higher-budget films with name casts? And if Mr. Sehring is no longer interested in financing or distributing lower-budget films with no names in the cast, can we at least have the name "Independent Film" back?

Anonymous Independent Producer
New York City

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's what I'd like to know--is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" a great movie, a good movie, a fair movie, a poor movie or a big fat mess? Please write to guy@moviecrazed.com and let me know what you think.


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