Independent theaters depend on you

It brings me immense joy to sit in a theater and watch a movie. 

With the Oscars and Independent Spirit Awards just around the corner, it’s important to recognize the power of independent films.

Kate Poe | Graphic Artist

A film that is produced outside of a major motion picture studio and distributed by independent entertainment companies is referred to as an “independent” film. For example, “Poor Things” is an independent film that was released this past December, and is now nominated for several Oscar Awards.

As a film major here at BU, I definitely love going to the theaters to see movies. One of my favorite films I saw during 2023 was the romantic-fantasy “All of Us Strangers.” 

This independent film began a limited run in the U.S. this past December and I had the privilege of viewing it at the independent AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland during winter break. 

Independent films allow for more creative storytelling as they are not restricted by a brand or big corporation. The sheer amount of stories that can be told is endless. Films made for major organizations can be constrained by the company prioritizing its profits rather than the content of their films. 

Independent films also typically exhibit more diversity and don’t shy away from what is deemed “taboo.” Because of this creativity and divergence from the “norm,” they succeed in telling raw, emotional and thought-provoking stories that are palpable to audiences worldwide.

Movies like “Moonlight” (2016), a coming-of-age story about Black queer identity, and “Tangerine” (2015), the story of a transgender sex worker, made audiences laugh, cry and feel seen for the first time. These kinds of movies are limitless and cover topics that are not commonly discussed in society. 

“Tangerine” was shot entirely on an iPhone 5s and “Moonlight” was shot on an ARRI Alexa XT. But it doesn’t matter. The independent film’s collective effort to move the audience carries more value than its production equipment. 

Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986) paved the way for the representation of Black people in cinema. Made on a $175,000 budget, the film proved that high budgets and fancy equipment aren’t needed for success. 

Film festivals like NewFest, Sundance and SXSW have given an array of independent films and directors from different backgrounds an immense platform to let others feel represented within an industry that still falls short on diversity. 

I consider myself lucky to have seen some of these extraordinary independent films like “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” and “The Sweet East” by going to independent theaters both in the Boston and  D.C. area. 

The downside of independent theaters, though, is that they typically house only one to four screens and may only show two films throughout the entire day. However, I still find that there is a certain warmness to these theaters that I don’t experience at larger cinemas.

Theaters including the Brattle in Cambridge and the Coolidge Corner theater in Brookline all have series and special screenings of independent films, which offer a more community-oriented experience that you can’t get from the AMC located just outside of the Boston Common.  

This past year, I saw Gregg Araki’s “The Living End” during LGBTQ+ History Month at Brattle with the author of  “The Queer Film Guide: 100 great movies that tell LGBTQIA+ stories,” Kyle Turner in attendance. 

During the pandemic, a lot of independent theaters struggled to stay afloat, so it’s important to keep the ones remaining active, as they allow for people who don’t have access to popular streaming platforms an opportunity to see them.

Without independent films, I don’t think I would’ve ever thought about pursuing film. The opportunities of independent cinema are truly endless. There’s liberation in knowing that budget doesn’t have to dictate the creativity of a film, and I encourage you, too, to explore that. 

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