There was once a time when studios owned the theater chains. In the early days of film up through the mid-60’s, this was a common practice. However, when the laws changed, theater owners became able to determine what would screen at their chains, what their concession prices would be, and most importantly they could charge what they chose. Now, the cost of screening a film is still determined, to an extent, by the studios. As the price of films goes up and the variety of screening options increases (on demand, YouTube, etc.), theater owners must recoup the cost of screening the latest Hollywood Blockbuster. This has lead to a decrease in the amount of theaters that will carry an independent film, or something out of the ordinary.
For a producer of independent films this has become frustrating in a variety of ways. One, an independent production depends on building an audience through word of mouth. The ability to screen films at small “art house” theaters in Los Angeles and New York, was once a necessary factor in the success of an independent film and gave those films the ability to sometimes, play with the big boys. Two, theaters demand audiences, now more than ever. As I stated above about the other entertainment competition out there, people have other options than going to a movie. So, theaters must show the biggest, baddest, star driven vehicles in order to ensure they stay in business. An independent producer often does not have the money nor the luxury of shooting a big budget, commercial film. Their films are usually more personal, character driven, unusual subjects are often broached. Mass audiences are not necessarily ready to take in a two hour journey that forces a mindful examination of the human condition (granted, not all indie films are this and not all Hollywood Blockbusters are void of this), and do not have a familiar star. Thus, the independent film is left to struggle outside of the theater system.
The relationship between the theater owners and the Independent Producer has always been a bit of a fight. What it boils down to is money. The solution to this would be for audiences to grow and accept independent films for what they can offer, for the stories they tell, and for introducing them to the next generation of stars at the doorstep.