While the word ‘independent’ is often employed when discussing various aspects of the film industry, from individual films to production companies to small cinemas, the meaning of this term is not as fixed as its ubiquitous use would suggest. This chapter will examine the ‘independent’ distribution of feature films, but, in doing so, it is necessary to acknowledge that what counts as ‘independence’ and what distributors can be said to be independent from, are both complex questions. As such, this chapter will begin by examining the many ways in which ‘independence’ can be defined and understood within the film industry. Such an enquiry is necessary in order to enable the examination of two specialist UK-based feature-film distributors that forms the focus of this chapter. These case studies demonstrate that film distribution companies are made up of individuals who negotiate their position within the industry in quite complex ways. Furthermore, the acquisition decisions of such distributors are informed by specialist knowledge accrued through the circulation of social and cultural capital within the film industry. In this context, the development of expert knowledge of film is key, but it is the sources for such knowledge (within the industry or from film fans) that distinguish the distributors in question from each other.
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