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Positive reviews are also relatively cost free, unlike the very expensive mass television advertising used by the majors (although gaining press attention in the highly competitive environment of leading festivals such as Sundance is far from easy and can require the pricey services of a publicist). Prominent critics can become significant allies in the marketing and promotions process. 36 An eleven-minute teaser trailer about the Blair Witch myth, and the supposed ‘disappearance’ of the three central characters, was shot in advance of the film, initially as a device designed to attract potential investors.

In some areas, the business became more like that of the studios. Even in its more distinctively ‘indie’ guise, the sector has followed Hollywood in becoming a more hit-driven phenomenon, in which promoters and distributors are constantly on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’, which has come to involve some box-office performances (and budgets) indistinguishable from those of the Hollywood majors. The result has become a sharply delineated ‘boom or bust’ economy in which a small number of films receive headline-making advances at Sundance and/or large investments in marketing while large numbers fail to find distribution of any kind.

The opening of Welcome to the Dollhouse was deliberately timed to coincide with that of the heavily promoted Hollywood blockbuster Mission: Impossible on the Memorial Day weekend of 1996. 37 The film was also placed purposely in theatres that would not be large enough to accommodate the expected audience, a tactic used in the release INDUSTRY of a number of independent films, including The Blair Witch Project, to create lines outside and a sense that the film was in demand and difficult to see, contributing to the positive ‘buzz’.

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