The race between indie suppliers used to be wide open, with dozens of small labels quietly earning a good living in what was a rental-dominated homevid market.
But as the business of selling DVDs displaced that of renting videotapes, independent suppliers could no longer run on a less rich mixture of funds, relying on nothing more than compelling box art to get low-budget action movies and star-studded Pilates workout tapes rented at Blockbuster.
“Working in a sell-through market, you have to have films that the customer recognizes,” explains Screen Media topper Robert Baruc. “Whether you’re charging $9.99 for a movie or $19.99, it’s a bigger commitment than a $2.50 rental. There has to be some hook that gets the customer to say, ‘I want to buy this.’ ”
For this reason, Baruc is leading his company into theatrical distribution, hoping that limited release windows will give its pics more consumer recognition.
Certainly, other growth-minded indies are thinking the same thing, as a wave of mergers and acquisitions unfolds.
Over the last few years, distribs like Genius Products and First Look have acquired sophisticated inventory management infrastructure — and with that, the wherewithal to put a number of smaller labels under their distribution umbrellas.
And then there’s the biggest indie of them all, Lionsgate, which has amassed a library of 11,000 titles at a time when the biz is moving into distribution models not constrained by brick-and-mortar inventory.
Daily Variety profiles 15 execs who are driving — or have already driven — their indies to become mini-majors.