Last indie standing: the special case of Lions Gate in the new millennium
Industry trade publications and the popular press regularly speculated on the state of independent ﬁlms during the ﬁrst decade of the 2000s. Utopian visions of ﬁlmmakers bypassing the studios and reaching viewers directly with new digital tools often accompanied nightmarish tales of the collapse of the latest independent distributors and conglomerate-owned indie divisions. In contrast, only a handful of scholars attempted to make sense of this shifting industrial terrain in any systematic way.1 Their work focused mainly on the ongoing evolution of the studios’ indie divisions or the ascendance of Indiewood as a hybrid of Hollywood and independent aesthetics. The 2000s have yet to be examined as a distinct historical period for independent (i.e., unaﬃliated with the major conglomerates) or indie (conglomerate-owned) ﬁlm, a time when speciﬁc industrial and creative practices dominated.2 With the passing of the ﬁrst decade of the millennium, it is possible to begin to make sense of this landscape. In so doing, the initial response might be to characterize the 2000s as a time of utter chaos and confusion. Indeed, the body count of independent distributors would support this claim. Lions Gate’s success, however, belies such claims. Even as several studio-based speciality operations became footnotes in the history of indie ﬁlm, Lions Gate grew and diversiﬁed, ultimately becoming the largest autonomous ﬁlm production and distribution operation in Hollywood.