|MY BIG SKINNY ON "BIG
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
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 email@example.com and let me know
what you think.
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