A quick look around the shelves of my local Blockbuster (which, as a chain, has its own problems), reveals that very nearly all the straight-to-DVD horror on their shelves is put out by Sony or Lionsgate (oh, those tiny independents). Two years ago, when TrashHouse hit those shelves, there were at least a dozen distribution companies regularly putting out indie horror and getting decent distribution for it. Nowadays, they all seem to have either gone out of business or, at very best, gone into a kind of suspended animation whilst hoping to weather the storm. Companies are folding left and right; some of them, like Tartan, make headlines. Countless others have just quietly stopped putting out product and expired.
So we’re in a kind of limbo at the moment. The day a movie hits the shelves in a single territory it also hits the torrents worldwide, which can be fatal for an indie with no simultaneous worldwide release. There seems to be no way of making money on smaller movies. Obviously, the BBFC have done their very best to turn the knife by tightening their restrictions on things like commentaries, (which now have to be rated as a whole new work, thus adding vast amounts of money to the BBFC costs) and Behind The Scenes materials. Thus when an indie flick does manage to get out onto DVD in the current climate, it can’t even afford to have the full extras on the UK disc which might actually persuade people to buy it. And without economies of scale working in it’s favour, it’s gonna end up costing the consumer twice as much as a 2-disc set of a blockbuster. For a vanilla disc. And the consumer, understandably, will vote with their wallet.
I’ve seen awesome movies that would have been snapped up two years ago fail to find even basic distribution. There are, of course, other options to be explored. There’s a terrific blog over at Zen Films about their decision to self-distribute the movie Mindflesh which is a really interesting read.. Tragically, though, the BBFC requirements as they currently stand would make a UK version of the Amazon Unbox scheme mentioned in the article completely non-viable. Thus driving yet more of our independent film business out of the country.
The whole thing’s a total bummer for those who make and those who enjoy watching independent cinema.