The intriguing audience demographics of indie films

 

Rebellious. Anti-authoritarian. Pretentious. These are all preconceived notions about what indie films are like, and there is an amount of truth to it. Some indie films do try to be too artsy for their own good and come off as these notions.

With these stigmas, it’s easy to imagine that a younger audience would be more accepting of indie films. They’re into that sort of thing: rebellion, being hip and rising up against “the man.”

But a post by Ted Hope on Truly Free Film puts doubt into this belief of indie films attracting the youth:

What is it that new audiences want? What must the indie community do to engage them?

It is really surprising how few true indie films speak to a youth audience… Are we incapable of making the spirited yet formal work that defines a lot of alternative rock and roll?

You’d think with truly free film’s anti-corporate underpinnings that those who seek out authenticity would respond…

This is something I’ve noticed myself. At The Palm, I rarely see young viewers, and the majority of audiences going to see a movie there look like they have great-grandkids.

David Llamas, a ticket taker and a concessions worker at The Palm, confirmed this. “Some nights, I don’t even know if anyone under 40 or so comes in,” he said. “The majority of people who come in are definitely older.”

Now, this is all anecdotal and seems like it could very well be the result of the fact that there are just a lot of old people that live in San Luis Obispo.

Even so, this trend hasn’t been noticed only by Hope and Llamas. Nigel M. Smith wrote an article for The Guardian noting that, as a whole, older audiences are being, as the headline says, “ignored by youth-obsessed Hollywood”:

This phenomenon is not new: older audiences, starved for Hollywood content that speaks to them, have been making the arthouse their entertainment go-to destination for years.

Wait, this has been going on for years? I guess I haven’t been paying attention then.

 

Where Indie movies are in San Luis

With recent Indie films like Hunt for the Wilderpeople and A Man Called Ove receiving praise from critics, it can get to be maddening in actually trying to see them. Theaters won’t risk money with Indie films when they can bank on big-budget films.

In a small city like San Luis, it would seem like there’d be no way to view Indie films while they hit theaters. However, one theater is responsible for the latest Indie films being shown in town: The Palm Theatre.

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Small theater for small films.

Having three screens, it can only show so many films a day. Even so, The Palm draws in crowds with relatively well-known films like Eight Days a Week.

While The Palm is noted for its Indie showings, it’s steeped with history, being the first theater in the United States to be solar-powered in 2004.

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Soaking in the sun.

Indie films don’t exactly come out as often  or as prominently as big-budget releases, but The Palm keeps its shows fresh. At least one film is cycled out for a new one every week. 

‘Indie’ distributors becoming Hollywood

The appeal of Indie films for some is that they’re free of Hollywood constraints and can pursue something more creative than executives will allow… with less money, of course.

So it might be a bit scary, as Virginia Crisp of Coventry University notes, that Hollywood studios are sneaking their way into Indie distribution:

One of the ways [Hollywood Studios’] dominance has extended more recently is into the ‘independent’ film sector. Such a move might seem a contradiction in terms… While independent distributors might primarily distribute independent films, independent films themselves may not necessarily be distributed by independent distribution companies.

That’s a bit of a riddle there at the end, I know. But there are examples of what she’s talking about.

The Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli is independent of Hollywood production and money, but in the US, their films were distributed by Disney, allowing them to dub however they wish (within reason).

Even so, there are still decent completely Indie films releasing, like Hunt for the Wilderpeople, so not all is lost.

How ‘The Beatles: Eight Days a Week’ is doing so far

While some Indie films might gain attention briefly, very few will do as well as The Beatles documentary Eight Days a Week. As Indiewire notes:

What was initially planned as a one-week U.S. theatrical run in 85 theaters has expanded to 180 cinemas, with nearly every venue holding the movie over for a second week, according to Richard Abramowitz, president of specialty distributor Abramorama. Appetite for the film is so strong that some Beatles fans have even emailed producer Nigel Sinclair’s White Horse Pictures complaining that the movie wasn’t being shown in their town.

What’s especially interesting about how well Eight Days a Week is performing is that it’s already available on Hulu. Who knows if this popularity has to do with audiences being  more interested in Indie films or The Beatles.

Actually, let’s be real: it’s the latter.