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#DigitalSkeptic: Sun Sets on Sundance -- and Independent Film

But The Canyons grossed just $59,000, barely over a third of its Kickstarter commitments.

Film hipsters would be making a bomb of Jack Carter proportions blaming this mega-flop on Lohan. Sundance founder Robert Redford's All Is Lost did a modest $8.6 million worldwide -- about a week's salary for the $75 million Tom Cruise earned on disaster pic War of the Worlds.

Real money this is not.

Telling the wrong story
The sense that today's independent motion picture industry is a facing Life of Pi-like self-delusion is confirmed emphatically by Hope. "Today's narrative is being shaped by video games and episodic TV more than they are by movies," he said. "It's almost as if we are trying to solve the wrong problem with the traditional multi-act movie model."

Hope's sense of a looming cluttered irrelevance for American indie film is -- believe it or not -- best confirmed by The Sundance Institute Itself. Go look at its online infographic: 30 years of the Sundance Film Festival, which graphically recounts the event's year by year evolution. Back in 1985, there were 86 pictures shown in two theaters, including real hits such as The Falcon and the Snowman and Brother from Another Planet. Compare that with last year, when 45,000 some-odd attendees viewed 193 films selected from more than 12,000 submissions in nine theaters. The biggest of them was maybe Richard Linklater's Before Midnight.

What Hope has had the courage to admit to me is what film industry investors need to admit to themselves: Sure, film festivals such as Sundance, Venice and Toronto are fun to visit. And investable properties are there. But in today's cluttered, race-to-the-bottom digital age, Sundance is nothing more than another trade show, like the Consumer Electronics Show or SXSW.

Yeah, people show up. But the story of who's really getting paid has never been tougher to tell.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.
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