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Independent Movies Take Back Seat to Sequels

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Independent Movies Take Back Seat to Sequels

Movies

Independent Movies Take Back Seat to Sequels

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And here's a tiny news event that may mean more than it seems.

An independent bookstore closed over the summer in Los Angeles. If you didn't notice, you're not alone. One of the people who did notice was Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan, and he hopes it does not mean more changes in his future.

KENNETH TURAN: Movies are my life, but books are my passion. For more than 20 years, the center of that fervor has been a wonderful Los Angeles bookstore called Other Times. It was like the ocean: I couldn't imagine LA without it. Then, without warning, I woke up one morning this summer and it was gone. The owner had closed the store and left town. The stock was going to be sold and nothing in my book-buying life would ever be the same again.

The shock of that closing made me wonder what else in my life could be vulnerable. Might the kinds of movies I live for, the ones that are just starting to reappear in theaters after the usual summer-long drought, face similar pressures to disappear? On the one hand, that seems preposterous. A recent daily Variety story about the New York Film Festival listed a wave of inviting new films, including "Margot at the Wedding," the latest from Noah Baumbach, and the Coen brothers' exceptional "No Country for Old Men."

But before I could get too complacent, I noticed another Variety story, this one ominously headlined, "Hollywood High." It revealed that for the first time ever, four summer films have earned over $300 million apiece at the U.S. box office. None of these films, from "Shrek the Third" to "Spider-Man 3," were exactly New York Film Festival material. The movie business is getting increasingly addicted to the money only these kinds of overblown sequels can provide. Even a crowd-pleasing film like "Once," an indie success this summer, almost didn't make it to the screen at all because distributors were afraid audiences wouldn't support it.

If you want to see films more complex than "Pirates of the Caribbean," you must make the effort to seek them out and patronize them and not wait for Netflix. If you don't, don't be surprised if, like that wonderful L.A. bookstore, they won't be around when you need them the most.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies, and the occasional bookstore, for MORNING EDITION and The Los Angeles Times.

And this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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