Christian Parkes, Chief Marketing Officer at I, Tonya distributor Neon, has claimed that video games are the greatest threat to the future of the indie film industry.
“I am frankly terrified about what’s going on in the marketplace today,” Parkes said on a panel at the American Film Market’s finance conference today (November 8).
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“The competition is anything that takes you away from spending $10-15 at the movie theatre. The gaming industry is the biggest threat. It’s increasingly harder to get young audiences out to the movies.
“From a generational standpoint, younger audiences would rather play video games than watch movies. When they do watch movies, they want to watch it on their device, in small slices. If they’re not captured immediately with something incredibly compelling, they dismiss it… The gaming industry is obliterating the film industry,” he added.
“You’re competing against everything in the world,” added Erik Feig, Founder & CEO at production house Picturestart, citing examples including the popular online game Fortnite and “season two of The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air” to evidence that the competition is “everything that’s ever existed ever”.
However, the panel didn’t spell all doom and gloom for the biz.
Parasite, released by Neon, was held up as a shining example of being able to break out in the theatrical marketplace. The foreign-language pic will cross $10m domestic gross this weekend, and could have legs yet. “We started in three theatres, will be in 600 this weekend, and then hopefully more,” said Parkes.
But having a breakout indie hit requires a standout project that can be marketed to a clear audience, added Parkes. “If your content is not special, good luck. We’re not in a place where we can take a Venom – critically not a beloved film – and pump $100m of P&A behind it. Across the independent landscape, it really has to be special.”
Feig was quick to add that his company, which scored the first feature film commission from HBO Max with Unpregnant, saw plenty of opportunity in streaming as well as theatrical. “For Parasite, theatrical is by far the right model. Theatrical distribution is one way to get out into people’s hearts and minds, but not the only way. It’s different horses for different courses. We are truly platform agnostic.”
Tim League, founder & CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse cinema and also co-founder of Neon, said he believes there is plenty of room for theatrical and streaming to co-exist.
“We’ve always supported the full range of content,” said League, noting that his cinemas regularly screen Netflix content and is open to content from HBO Max and all streamers. “I don’t think the sky is falling. I have a subscription to every streaming platform that has been invented, but I still get out of the house.”