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Filmism.net Dispatch May 20, 2012

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Next time you want to rail against the big studios for churning out movies that all look the same, green lit by the same jaded executives trying to protect their jobs, approved by the same marketing departments who have veto power over scripts and characters to fit in with licensing deals at hamburger chains, check yourself and go and watch eight or 10 independent movies.

Watch Running With Scissors, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, The Chumscrubber and a million other leading up to the most recent quirky family drama, Jesus Henry Christ.

You'll see the fingerprints of marketing and distribution executives no less clearly than those of Marvel or DC Comics all over the forthcoming superhero behemoths The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises. The only thing missing is the theme park ride and collectible Pez dispenser.

In other words, tread warily to independent movies. More than half come from the 'indie' labels owned by big studios and follow a desperately hopeful, well-worn path towards the kind of awards credibility than can sell them. Just like all movies, if you watch enough of them many start to look the same. Formula can be found anywhere there's a movie screen. It isn't the sole domain of the studios.

Speaking of blockbusters, it wasn't so long ago when the news that a movie made a billion dollars was met with considerable excitement. Now it's almost routine, with The Avengers the latest title to crack the magic number in only weeks.

What's changed in the last ten years? First of all there are a lot more people watching movies. Despite the hemorrhaging of profits from the industry at the hands of DVDs and Playstations, the world's population is rising rapidly, and newly affluent markets in emerging economies are getting more screens. Even James Cameron has talked in the last few weeks about co-producing the rest of the Avatar films in China. You can read about it here. Secondly, it's kind of easy to get more money when you charge a third to a quarter again for a ticket price if it's in 3D. No wonder it's still the hottest ticket since the switch to colour.

And with yet another billion dollar blockbuster, it seems the crisis the studios faced throughout the 2010s has been averted... for now.

Lastly, I was also pleasantly surprised by Iron Sky, the gleefully reverent grindhouse homage movie geeks have been waiting keenly for.

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