Ask the Audience: Blockbusters vs. Indies

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Ask the Audience

Ask the Audience is a monthly feature from Film Journal International and National CineMedia (NCM) that allows you to ask an audience of 5,000 frequent moviegoers, known as NCM’s Behind the Screens panel, the pressing questions of our industry.

Oh, 2018. What a year. From huge blockbusters like Black Panther and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, to smaller titles that gained critical acclaim like Eighth Grade and Tully, it has been a great year for movies. And now that we’re into the holiday season, we have big releases like Ralph Breaks the Internet running next to awards hopefuls like The Favourite and If Beale Street Could Talk. Obviously, blockbusters are going to bring in the big bucks, but in the court of public opinion among avid moviegoers, a reader asked us to explore whether the scales have tipped in the favor of indies. Time to ask the audience.

When asked whether they prefer blockbusters or indies, 49% of the Behind the Screens panelists said that they like both types equally. 43% preferred blockbusters, and only 8% opted for the independent movies. Of those that prefer blockbusters, 77% said that it’s because they are more exciting and action-packed. 45% added that they know more about them, considering their marketing budgets are considerably larger than those of indies. 35% felt that they have stronger casts, 34% felt that they were more likely to be able to discuss the movie with others, and 34% like that more money went into the production.

On the flip side, for those that prefer the smaller films, 89% said that they feel the movies are more unique, since they’re not typically sequels or part of a “universe.” Supporting that, 80% argued that the plot is more interesting in indies than in blockbusters. 52% like being able to support the smaller studios, 49% feel that indies have more talented directors, and 49% simply prefer to watch less mainstream movies.

Overall, sentiments around indie movies haven’t changed too much over the past year, with 68% saying that their interest in them is the same as it was a year ago. However, when we look at Millennials specifically, we see more of a change. Millennials were 65% more likely than their older counterparts to say that they are more likely to see an indie movie now than they were a year ago. When we asked what causes the sudden rise in interest, many of the panelists said that being part of a subscription service like MoviePass or AMC Stubs A-List encourages them to see movies that they would not have wanted to spend money on in the past.

At the end of the day, the magic of the movies is that audiences don’t have to pick. There’s room to see The Crimes of Grindelwald one day, and Can You Ever Forgive Me? the next. There are countless stories to tell, and endless audiences to tell them to. Here’s hoping 2019 is another successful year for those stories.

(Click to enlarge.)