It’s possible, or even probable, that you haven’t heard of the movie The Wretched. You might be surprised to know that it is the number one film in the US, and has been for five weekends straight! The teen horror film was made on a minuscule budget by independent studio IFC, which is taking advantage of the fact that most theaters have been closed and blockbuster summer films from the big Hollywood studios have been postponed. IFC has stuck to their release schedule, and their movies play in drive-in theaters with almost no promotion.
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“There’s a window of opportunity for success, and IFC is taking that risk and innovating,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “A studio like Warner Bros. can’t take chances like that because they’d lose money, even if drive-ins were packed. There’s not much expected for a film like ‘The Wretched.’ If it gets to $1 million, it’s like another studio getting to $100 million.”
It’s taken some recalibration and innovation to get near those box office receipts. Smaller studios rely heavily on mom-and-pop movie theaters, whose owners come to learn and help cultivate the taste of their clientele, to get the word out about a new movie. They can’t afford the same robust marketing spends as Marvel or James Bond films. For promotional efforts tied to “The Wreched,” IFC leaned heavily into the old-school nature of outdoor moviegoing. But they’ve found that chatter throughout the community continues to be one of the surest ways to spread the gospel.