Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #981: Pros & Cons: Back From The Dead Edition

Indie film entrepreneurs Bob and Jeanne Berney are reviving the Picturehouse company, and their first release with be a new movie featuring the rock band Metallica.

The original incarnation of Picturehouse was both the product and victim of the ultimately destructive consumption of the indie film business by the major studios.

The saga of Picturehouse began when New Line Cinema and HBO (Both subsidiaries of Time-Warner) acquired the distribution arm of Newmarket Films, and Bob Berney the man who ran it. The new owners renamed it Picturehouse, New Line folded its Fine Line specialty film division into it, and its home video releases were divided between New Line's home video, and HBO home video.

Sadly the whole big studio playing indie thing began to collapse in on itself. Because what made indie films appealing in the 90s and early 2000s was that they capitalized on the arrival of new people with new ideas that attracted audiences looking for something different. However, most of the major studio-owned "indies" changed that business model to being one all about getting "street cred" with their neighbours in Beverly Hills, and winning awards. 

The audience was left out of that equation, and you can't have a viable movie business without an audience.

So when New Line shot itself in the foot, parent conglomerate Time-Warner folded it into the main Warner Bros. studio, and at first promised to merge it with their other specialty division Warner Independent, but decided that it was better to just shut both down completely.

Meanwhile Bob and Jeanne Berney went on to set up other independent film companies before acquiring the name and logo for Picturehouse from Warner Bros. for a rebirth of the company.

Enough of the past, let's take a moment to discuss the future, specifically the PROS & CONS!


1. The major studios are cutting their output in both quantity and variety. This means that huge gaps exist in the marketplace that a well run indie producer/distributor can exploit.

2. The means of production and distribution have never been cheaper.

3. The more indie producers and distributors out in the wild means more independent films get made and released, and the odds of making a vital connection with the audience go up.


1. While the means of making and releasing films have never been cheaper, the means of marketing films at a level that can be heard above the noise made by the major media conglomerates has never been so expensive. Picturehouse will need to develop ways to get around this, possibly via the burgeoning online communities.

2. They're going to have to wade through a lot of shit to get their hands on the occasional indie movie diamond. The few companies that survived the great implosion guard their turf militantly and there's at least one rival willing to spend big money just to keep films out of other people's hands.

I wish them good luck, the fight won't be easy, but I think it could be worth it in the long run.

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