Big Studios, Art Films Stake Similar Ground

The once clear-cut dividing line between "major" and "independent" films is becoming increasingly blurred, and the accelerating trend away from formula films was on abundant display at the Berlin Film Festival.

Many films from big-money "major" production companies competing for Golden Bear awards, which conclude today, have a distinctive "independent" feel - rough-edged and without the polish and glitz that is Hollywood's signature. At the same time, more "independent" films made with small budgets and without hype had a more polished "major" studio feel.

While big-budget Hollywood films normally cost nearly $30 million to make, independent films can be made for a fraction of that amount - some for $500,000 or even less.

Major studios, all of which have produced big-budget flops at some point, have discovered they can make or distribute several independent films for the price of one big-budget picture and have reasonable hopes that one catches fire.

Recent hits such as "Pulp Fiction," "Kids," "Clerks," "Before Sunrise," "Smoke," and "Blue in the Face" had low budgets and extremely high returns.

"After so many years of making formula films, [major studios] want to make films now that look like they don't have a formula. People want novelty," independent filmmaker Murray Lerner says.

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