Where Do Independent Films Go Now?

By Bella Friedman

During the height of the Covid-19 Pandemic, large streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Apple TV, were spending tens of millions of dollars on independent films. Now that the pandemic is no longer considered a global emergency by the World Health Organization, these same streaming services and distributors have become more selective with their content.

The rise and fall of indie films on major streaming services

In response to this and the reopening of movie theaters, some indie distributors claim independent filmmakers must adapt their films for the current post-pandemic market audience. Streaming has become a far less reliable source of distribution for independent films in the past two years, and the studio prioritization of franchise and blockbuster films may also impact the creative output of independent filmmakers in the long term.

The major streaming services are still purchasing independent titles, but at a much lower rate than before. When choosing movies to buy at festivals, they focus on ones that they think will appeal to a mass audience or market trends.

President Arianna Bocco of the Independent Film Channel (IFC), an arthouse, streaming service, and distributor, claims that she’s “…not entirely sure the creative community has caught up, on the indie side, of what’s working in the market and what people want to see.” While this is not necessarily the case for arthouses like IFC, in general Hollywood is decreasing spending and taking fewer risks on films due to its focus on franchises. It is much easier to capitalize on previous success than to take a chance on a new movie from an unknown team of creators. 

During the pandemic, streaming services were buying festival movies to stock up on content and to gain the awards that came with those films in order to have a greater level of prestige with their viewers. “It was a feeding frenzy,” Brian Beckmann, chief financial officer of Arclight Films, claimed.

However, things have significantly changed since then. In January 2023, Chris Moore, the creative producer behind films including Good Will Hunting, Manchester By The Sea, and the American Pie series, lamented how streaming is now negatively affecting the entire film industry and creative producers. “Volume is more important than quality,” said Moore, on the priorities of the streaming platforms. “They must try to be everything to all people, which places more value on the content platform and its library than the quality of each individual piece of content.”

Streaming services are paid by subscriptions rather than box office revenue (with a few exceptions, like CODA, which received a theatrical rerelease after winning the Oscar for Best Picture in 2022). Even if a film is not considered a hit on a streaming platform, the service still earns money from user subscriptions. This allows streamers to make and collect lower-quality films with a high quantity output in order to maintain their full library.  

An alternative to the big studios

As a streaming service for independent film and television, Filmocracy is uplifting smaller creators and works that may have otherwise gone under the radar. The platform is driven by a love of film and the community that quality filmmaking generates. Additionally, by housing virtual film festivals, Filmocracy supports innovative, independent films and filmmakers.

Filmocracy provides a space for indie media that is diverse in content, budget, and style. This opens audiences up to new characters and experiences that they may not typically be able to view on the big screen or larger streaming services. 

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