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Independent Film Distribution Companies for All!

Just press "Film Distribution": a primer on some of the best distribution companies serving the indie market. / Photo by Dizain777, courtesy of Dreamstime.

Just press "Film Distribution": a primer on some of the best distribution companies serving the indie market. / Photo by Dizain777, courtesy of Dreamstime.

A24 and Neon might be the coolest kids on the block, but there is life beyond them. Many distributors are serving the indie market. Some of them are close to historical institutions, thanks to their maturity and the kind of movies they have brought into the United States market. Alas, these are rather formal enterprises, meaning you can’t just pick up the phone and tell them about your amazing opera prima. You will have to take the classic path: submit your work to film festivals, hustle for an agent, network to meet film buyers, you know, the works.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing your movie's brilliance will appeal to everyone. It helps to profile distributors and determine which one best fits your project. So, watch a lot of current films and pay attention to whose logos play before the big show. Take mental notes and be alert when you enter the professional ecosystem. Gravitate towards the people you want to do business with.

In the meantime, we saved you some work, profiling some of the top indie distributors in the US market - and some go even beyond! It's all in the spirit of helping you master the art and the business of film distribution. The list follows alphabetical order. We don't play favorites, people.


Abramorama resides in New York and Los Angeles. Their cinephile bona fides are clear just by looking at their logo, which apes the recognizable emblem of the long-gone super wide film format Cinerama - IMAX before IMAX, younglings. They profess to concentrate on music and social impact documentaries, but at least the last term is elastic enough to include many subjects. The Academy Award-nominated “The Look of Silence” (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014) fits the bill. Still, they also have Banksy’s excoriation of the art world “Exit Through the Gift Shop” (2010), the biographical “Listen to Me Marlon” (Stevan Riley, 2015) based on Marlon Brando’s self-confessional, private audio tape recordings. On the music front, they have done everything, from the class acts -  “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years” (Ron Howard, 2016) - to the outliers - “Anvil: The Story of Anvil” (Sacha Gervasi, 2008), a look at a band of perpetually struggling heavy metal lifers -. “Pearl Jam: Dark Matter,” a concert documentary registering the return of the grunge superstars, will be distributed on April 2024 as a “Global Theatrical Experience,” with same-day screenings in movie theaters around the world, taking advantage of Abramorama’s enviable reach.  


You don’t have to wonder which one is the preferred genre at Jason Blum’s outfit: it’s horror, in all its variants. And I say “preferred” because lately, they have expanded into another territory: documentaries on subjects unrelated to their scary bread-and-butter. A documentary series appropriately titled “Choir” about the Detroit Youth Choir is currently streaming on Disney+. I have not seen it, but I can assure you no angry spirits are doing the devil’s work in it. And they have several others positioned in Amazon Prime, AppleTV+, and Netflix. But fear not; they have plenty of scary stuff down the pipeline. It's the house that "Paranormal Activity" (2007) built, and it shall never lose its foundations. A recent merger with genre distributor Atomic Monster should fortify its foothold in the industry.

Cohen Media Group

Real state magnate Charles S. Cohen founded Cohen Media Group in 2008. One year later, he had indie “Frozen River” (Courtney Hunt, 2009), competing for two Academy Awards. It was a promising debut for the company, and it even branched out into theatrical exhibition, buying and restoring New York’s legendary Quad Cinema and a streaming channel. It focuses on foreign cinema and is currently the US's largest distributor of French cinema. They scored an Oscar nomination with Matteo Garrone’s “Io Capitano” (2023) and snatched Marco Bellocchio’s “Kidnapped” (2023). They are classy but not above striving for popular entertainment, like the recent Art House sleeper hit “Driving Madeleine” (Cristian Carion, 2022).  


Dekanalog is a rather new player, working since 2020, but in a few years has amassed a compact but impressive library of films. They have daring works from contemporary titans, like “Air Doll” (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2009), the Spanish indie horror of “Amigo” (Óscar Martín, 2019), and fantastic new talents. They shepherded Lemonhang Jeremiah Mosese’s “This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection” (2019) to a Visionary Filmmaker Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and a Blu-ray release at the hallowed Criterion Collection. They have their home video platform thanks to a relationship with OCN Distribution. You can buy their beautifully designed discs at the Vinegar Syndrome web store.   

Gravitas Ventures

Don’t let the name fool you. Gravitas Venture only sounds like a retirement fund management firm. It’s an all-purpose independent film distributor with a worldwide reach towards theaters and home video. They handle such an eclectic catalog that it is very difficult to pinpoint their identity. They got the latest from Jackie Chan, a slasher film about a killer sloth - “Slotherhouse”- Martha Coolidge’s latest, “I’ll Find You,” a romantic WWII drama -, and “The Mole Agent,” Chilean filmmaker Maite Alberti’s Oscar-nominated documentary. It sounds like there is a place for everybody…and that offers the possibility of reaching over a billion homes worldwide. 

IFC Films

Back in the heyday of cable TV, AMC Networks founded this offshoot to program indie movies - the acronym stands for “Independent Film Channel” -. By 2000, it got into the theatrical distribution racket, and the timing was perfect. Little by little, all cable channels were shedding their identity, like MTV turning its back on music videos - now the brands don't mean a thing, and those beyond the premium bracket seem to be playing the same combination of reality shows and syndicated series -. But I digress...As a distributor, IFC Films hit on all the genres favored by indie-loving audiences. They have had a lot of luck with horror. Just last year, they scored with DIY sensation “Skinamarink. In Spring 2024, “Late Night with the Devil” (Cameron & Colin Cairnes, 2023) and “Stopmotion” (Robert Morgan, 2023) are doing their part to scare up some business. They also dig character-driven drama, like “Blackberry” (Matt Johnson, 2023), the best of the schadenfreude-rich tech-bro time capsules. Foreign prestige films like “The Taste of Things” (Ang Hung Tran, 2023) and award-worthy documentaries like “The Disappearance of Shere Hite” shine in their slate. They have a flagship theater in Greenwich Village in New York. The IFC Center is a multi-screen theater you have to visit when in New York. 

Janus Films

Like the Roman god referred to in its logo, Janus Films has two faces. One looks at the past, the other towards the future. Established in 1956, it planted the seeds of Art House culture, opening the US audience’s minds to world cinema. They brought Kurosawa, Ozu, Bergman, Antonioni, Tarkovsky, and pretty much any master of the medium from the second half of the XX century that you can think of. They are still going at it, restoring and re-releasing classics and giving their platform to contemporary, up-and-coming filmmakers. They bought Mexican director Lila Avila’s poignant “Totem” - one of the best movies of 2023 - and are bringing back Jean Pierre Melville’s classic “Le Samurai” (1967). The Criterion Collection is their home video arm. So, most of their acquisitions and restorations get the prime disc treatment.

Kino Lorber

Kino Lorber is the elder statesman of indie distribution in the United States. It was born in 1977, just in time to bring a new generation of directors from Europe and Asia into America. After 45 years, they have amassed a catalog of more than 4 thousand movies. Each year that passes, the number increases with about 35 films they release in theaters. Even though they have their own branded streaming channels, they are firm believers in physical media and consistently put out many movies on discs. For cinephile bona fides, they also invest in restoration. They are behind the rescue operation of Nancy Savoca’s “Household Saints,” and they are bringing back Sundance Film Festival winner "Slam" (Marc Levin, 1998). If you get into business with them, chances are you’ll have all the avenues to reach people at your disposal. 

Magnolia Pictures

Not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic melodrama, Magnolia Pictures has been around for two decades. By now, they have a library of over 500 titles. They combine international prize winners from the film festival circuit, American indies, cutting-edge documentaries, and cult movies. Those enjoy their imprint, Magnet, which has branded such fantastic fare as Carlota Pereda’s “Piggy,” one of Popflick’s favorite premieres from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Their peerless curatorial instinct accounts for two Palm d’Or winners at Cannes - “The Square” (Ruben Ostlend, 2017) and “Shoplifters" (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018) -. They should’ve gotten a Best International Film Oscar nomination in 2024 for “The Promised Land” (Nikolaj Arcel, 2023), but that’s another story. 


Executive Bob Berney jumped ship from IFC to found Picturehouse. They have taken challenges on foreign filmmakers bringing their work to US audiences - like Mexican wonder boys Alfonso Cuarón with “Y Tu Mamá También” (2002) and Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) - and first-timers with a dream and a script - like Nia Vardalos with “My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (2002) -. They drove Charlize Theron to pick her Best  Leading Actress Oscar with “Monster” (Patty Jenkins, 2003). They campaigned “Manchester by the Sea” to wins for Actor Casey Affleck and screenplay for writer-director Kenneth Lonergan. They are currently promoting the documentary “Carol Doda Topless at the Condor,” filmmakers Mario McKenzie and Jonathan Parker’s retelling of the life and times of sexual revolution pioneering icon Carol Doda was picked up at Telluride. 

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