How is Covid-19 Impacting the Indy Film Market?

If the figures of the world’s largest film market are taken as representative of the global picture – and there are so many geographical variants at play here that we should be under no illusions that they may not be – then as of 2019, the independent film industry was likely worth around $4.8 billion in annual box office receipts. Of course, along with the broader industry, that figure tumbled dramatically over the initial stages of the pandemic.

Multiple sources predicted that the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic will cost the US film industry alone 40% of its annual box office takings. Amid the lockdown months, production ground to a halt across the sector, and cinemas operated at reduced capacity, or closed their doors altogether.

Globally, the box office suffered an even bigger loss than that, however. Takings fell by more than 71% – and the Indy market was not exempt by the massive fall in revenues.

Prior to the pandemic, the independent box office had steadily recovered from a difficult few years, to gross more than $1 billion in 2019 – the first time that happened since 2012. However, if the performance of the top selling independent films of each year is taken as representative of the industry’s health, then 2020 was little short of disastrous. The independent film market saw a slightly smaller percentage fall on takings than studio films – but with less cash to fall back on in the first place, this saw Indy filmmakers fall on harsh times through 2020.

To a certain extent, 2021 was a different story. With cinemas gradually reopening amid the early optimism of a vaccine rollout, and the arrival of the slightly less aggressive Omicron strain, the global box office recovered a great deal of revenue – and the independent market actually seems to have done so even faster. If the growth rate of the top 10 independent films of the global box office were replicated, Indy Film Library estimates that Indy films more-than doubled their gross in 2021.

If this forecast 114% climb in revenues is applied to the global independent film market, then the segment may have actually grown faster, proportionally, alongside the studio box office. With the studio system well and truly bouncing back with hits such as Dune and Spiderman: No Way Home helping the box office bounce back in 2021, that is no small achievement.