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Site taps indie fans in the Heartland

IndieIn.com aims to beef up independent film aud

Everyone knows where to go to see indie films in New York and L.A, but what about Des Moines, or Topeka? This summer, you could’ve visited IndieIn.com and found out that “Hustle & Flow” was playing at the Wallace in Topeka or that “Me and You and Everyone We Know” was at the Fleur Cinema in Des Moines. Then you could’ve bought tickets, read an interview with Miranda July and located the nearest film festival.

Soft-launched in January at Sundance and rolled out ticketing options in April. The site will have an official launch at the Toronto Film Festival in September. Founders Michelle Bryant and Julie La’Bassiere’s goal is to create a Web business supported by advertising and partnership deals that will beef up the independent film audience — not so much by creating buzz about films, but rather by getting, as La’Bassiere says, “butts in the seats.”

“If we can see result in places that aren’t New York or Los Angeles, I’d say, ahhh, we did it,” she says.

In order to get to that point, Bryant and La’Bassiere , who met while working at the IFP in Los Angeles, have gone beyond creating a news or fan site. The core of their offering, called InTheaters, is ticketing information, some of which is provided by MovieTickets.com. The rest will come from contacting independently owned theaters for show times and linking up with film festivals — perhaps eventually offering entire travel packages to major festivals.

Bryant, who now works full-time from Chicago, says she modeled the site after networking communities like Friendster and MySpace. After trying to raise money for two years, she and La’Bassiere decided to move forward anyway. They got an equity partner, San Francisco-based Quimbik, to do the site development, and worked on everything else on their own, living off their savings and freelance income.

Their objective is to get heavily involved in grass roots marketing, using their “CommunINdie” bulletin boards to reach out to musicians, visual artists and fellow travelers. They also plan to offer Web pages to arthouse theaters and other itinerant screening venues to build awareness.

Some of this strategy is already working. The site, which averages about 50,000 hits per month without any advertising, is getting mentioned on blogs, which has been increasing traffic about 30% each month.

One of the first sites to do so was www.moviesbywomen.com, which puts out a weekly email called the First Weekenders Club, urging people to see films directed by women. “It’s a perfect match for us,” says Tara Veneruso, who started the group and also runs the production company Flaming Angel Films. “As soon as they were up and running, we started listing them. It’s an idea that really will work because it serves a niche market, and the Web is the perfect place for doing that.”