An art film (also known as art movie, specialty film, art house film, or in the collective sense as art cinema) is the result of filmmaking which is typically a serious, independent film aimed at a niche market rather than a mass market audience. Film critics and film studies scholars typically define an “art film” using a “…canon of films and those formal qualities that mark them as different from mainstream Hollywood films”, which includes, among other elements: a social realism style; an emphasis on the authorial expressivity of the director; and a focus on the thoughts and dreams of characters, rather than presenting a clear, goal-driven story. Film scholar David Bordwell claims that “art cinema itself is a film genre, with its own distinct conventions.”
Art film producers usually present their films at specialty theatres (repertory cinemas, or in the U.S. “arthouse cinemas”) and film festivals. The term art film is much more widely used in the United States and the UK than in Europe, where the term is more associated with “auteur” films and “national cinema” (e.g., German national cinema). Art films are aimed at small niche market audiences, which means they can rarely get the financial backing which will permit large production budgets, expensive special effects, costly celebrity actors, or huge advertising campaigns, as are used in widely-released mainstream blockbuster films. Art film directors make up for these constraints by creating a different type of film, which typically uses lesser-known film actors (or even amateur actors) and modest sets to make films which focus much more on developing ideas or exploring new narrative techniques or filmmaking conventions.
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