As Indies Explode, an Appeal for Sanity

Are there too many Indie films hitting the market? Manohla Dargis explains why flooding theaters isn’t good for filmmakers or filmgoers.

Don Jon

On Jan. 16, some 7,000 entertainment industry professionals and journalists will converge on Park City, Utah, hoping for a miracle. Distributors will push past exhibitors who will hustle past programmers, agents and critics, all of whom will be sifting through 117 features and 66 shorts at the Sundance Film Festival, looking for the next big thing: for the new Jennifer Lawrence (class of 2010 with “Winter’s Bone”) or for another “Beasts of the Southern Wild,”"Fruitvale Station” or “Upstream Color,” three of the most talked-about titles from recent festivals. It will be exciting, exhausting and at times exasperating to be in the thick of such coordinated madness.

But I have a little favor to ask of the people cutting the checks: Stop buying so many movies. Or at least take a moment and consider whether flooding theaters with titles is good for movies and moviegoers alike. Because no matter how exciting Sundance will be this year, no matter how aesthetically electrifying, innovative and entertaining the selections, it’s hard to see how American independent cinema can sustain itself if it continues to focus on consumption rather than curation. There are, bluntly, too many lackluster, forgettable and just plain bad movies pouring into theaters, distracting the entertainment media and, more important, overwhelming the audience. Dumping “product” into theaters week after week damages an already fragile cinematic ecosystem.

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