no room in the zeitgeist for indie genre films?

The U.K. box office numbers for last weekend are in, and they’re not pretty. It seems that World Cup time is a dumping ground for U.K. cinema (which is absolutely contrary to how the movie biz works in North America, where June is, usually, when summer blockbuster business really heats up), and that may have been a particularly good idea this year, because it looks like hardly anyone went to the movies in the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland this past weekend.

Charles Gant at the Guardian’s Film blog makes an interesting point about the performance of one film that touches on what were talking about yesterday, about the possible changing nature of film geekery and the mainstreaming of genre tropes. Gant:

Dark ages-set Brit flick Black Death, from horror director Chris Smith, did significantly worse: £49,000 from 55 screens. The latter film, starring Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne, arguably suffered from not being particularly arthouse or mainstream; instead, a genre film without the market clout to engage the genre audience.

Now, I haven’t seen Black Death yet, but it looks intriguing and British critics mostly like it. So it makes me wonder if it’s possible any longer for a movie that should appeal to genre fans simply won’t be found by them without mainstream blockbuster-style marketing. I would think that that wouldn’t be a problem these days, with the Internet giving geeks and genre fans another channel by which to learn about films that they might want to check out.

It’s probably true that if Black Death is any good (or even if it isn’t), it could still find an audience on DVD. Still, though: this is depressing. Is it possible that even the grassroots nature of much film discussion online and the supposed power of social media is still not enough to trump multimillion-dollar (or -pound, or -Euro) marketing campaigns? And that the lack of such campaigns is enough to assure that even a good film can’t get an audience in cinemas? Can it be that the mainstreaming of geek tropes means that mainstream audiences simply don’t trust that they’d be interested in seeing an indie film because they suspect it’ll be, you know, “indie” and “unique” and “difficult”?

If that’s the case, then it sounds like it means doom for indie genre films. Which would be even more depressing…

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Thu, Jun 17, 2010 3:16pm

Is it possible that one contributing factor might be that people are watching their wallets? As much as I want to support a lot of films at the theater, my family more often uses Netflix these days rather than going out, simply because we can’t afford it. Maybe even the geeks and genre fans are saying “I’ll wait for the DVD.”

Thu, Jun 17, 2010 3:45pm

A combination of the recession, good weather and the World Cup equals low moviegoing attendance in the UK, I’d say. And, really, there isn’t much worth going to see that’ll cost you £30+ for a small family.