Where did all the independents go?

My name is Daniel Miles

And I am a film critic.

I’ve loved films forever and decided that this year I was going to try to turn my passion into a career and start reviewing films on YouTube.

I knew that the vast majority of my work was going to be reviewing the latest Hollywood films, but I also wanted to review lower budget films as well. I personally find them more inventive and rewarding as a viewing experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love a popcorn film as much as anybody, but a man cannot live on junk food alone.

Except, I can’t find any independent films to review.

Let me elaborate, around Valentine’s day, I put myself through 50 Shades of Grey (Click for review) but I also wanted to see Love is Strange, a film about a gay couple having to suddenly deal with redundancy and having to live apart. As a fan of both Jon Lithgow and Alfred Molina I was looking forward to seeing this film.

And I still am! None of my local cinemas picked it up. Now, let’s put this into perspective: I live in London and my local cinema has 15 screens. Not one of them was used to show this film. The same film which received very heavy advertising on the London Underground.

This is symptomatic of a larger issue. Last year in the UK, 91% of all takings went to the top 100 grossing films! Meaning that, although there are still independent films being made, fewer people are going to see them. Another example is that this year’s best picture nominations between them made (roughly) 605 million dollars worldwide with more than half of that coming from one of them, American Sniper.

This is bad for cinema. Films are a business and if lower budget films stop making money or being picked up at cinemas then they will simply cease to be made, forced online or simply released straight to DVD. Whilst I love watching a blockbuster on the big screen, some of the best cinema experiences I’ve had, have been as a result of low budget films that I’ve taken a chance on. Locke and Buried are masterpieces of claustrophobic tension; Dog Soldiers, my favourite film of all time, can best be described as ‘Zulu with Werewolves.’ Low budget films are where directors hone their craft before graduating to Blockbusters. And now that I’m getting slightly older and a little past the ‘Explosions are Everything’ stage I’m finding that they are a lot more satisfying to watch.

So what can be done to help Independent films? Quotas are a bit of a blunt tool but worth looking at. Another is to introduce lower ticket prices for independent films, but this would be self-defeating. Cinemas need to make a profit and if something starts making less profit then they will stop doing it.

This leads us to what I believe is the main issue. The cost of going to the cinema is incredible. Cinema tickets for two, plus coke and popcorn can easily reach £40-50 and that means people tend to save the cinema for special occasions such as the latest blockbuster. This is why films are almost treated as events in and of themselves. And with the rise of streaming services such as Netflix, cinema also has to deal with the luxury and comfort of the home viewing experience.

So where does this leave the amateur film critic? I’ll still review as much as I can and try to shine a light on the smaller films as well as the big ones, but mostly? I just want my cinema to stop showing 50 shades of Grey.

Daniel Miles

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