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As the American movie industry evolved, the business was dominated by large studios that produced and distributed films to the theaters across the country and around the world. Studio movies are big business, and after decades of consolidation and global diversification, movie studios are more powerful than ever, able to pour tens of millions of dollars into the production budget of every movie and take up most of the screen real estate in theaters all over the world. Indie films attempt to step outside the studio system in order to make movies that don?t fit within the narrow boundaries of what defines an acceptable studio movie.

Because studio movies need to recoup giant budgets, studios play it safe with the subject matter of their films, striving to provide entertainment that appeals to the broadest possible audience without offending too many people. Indie movies are more likely to stray into genres and confront subject matter that is of interest to more narrow audiences. Dark comedies, bleak dramas, movies that show a preference for dialogue and character over action, and stories that don?t necessarily have happy endings or tidy conclusions are the territories more often explored in indie movies.

Indie movies also typically have much smaller budgets than studio films, so their production values are sometimes ? though not always ? more modest than those of big-budget studio movies.