Slip sliding away

Independent film production continued to decline marginally for the second consecutive year as the number of films rated by the Motion Picture Assn. of America’s Classification & Rating Administration figured in at 352 from the prior 12-month period’s 378. It represented a 7% decline to the immediate prior cycle dip of 8%.

It was the lowest volume level since 1987 and the indie share of total product — 61% — has not been lower since 1986.

The slow erosion can be directly linked to the majors’ increasing hold on product aimed at the homevideo market. Once buoyant companies have disappeared or seen their activity severely scaled back. So, the prominent indies continued to dominate the field while mid-range companies have declined or become marginal players.

The top five companies — Republic, New Line and its Fine Line subsidiary, Miramax, Trimark and Concorde — were consistent but most had new placements. Republic serged to the top with 28 films from its third-place, 22-film output in the last survey. New Line slipped from first into a second place tie with Miramax. The latter two companies each registered 24 titles, down six and three, respectively.

Compiled from CARA ratings spanning the period from early June through late May annually, the MDBODaily Variety poll tracks all titles submitted regardless of their ultimate exploitation. Increasingly, both indie films and product from the majors have had limited theatrical or direct-to-video lives.

Overall production also declined for the 12-month period, with the 575 registered films representing a 3% decline from the prior frame, which had the second highest volume in the past 25 years — 590 titles.

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