Can this help indie film? I think so. If anything, it should help potential investors feel positive about how the film industry is faring at the moment. Making investors feel comfortable about the state of the industry goes a long way in getting them to take an interest in investing in film.
If investors hear that box office records are being broken then they may want to get in on the action. They may get excited about a possible trickle down effect that may happen from this success. It is possible that this success at the box office will increase the demand for films and lead to increased buying. It may also make theatrical releases less scary for the distributors.
However, I wouldn't get excited just yet. Hollywood loves to blame success on anomalies so it's most likely going to take a lot more than one year's success during a recession to get them excited about buying more and doing more costly theatrical releases.
Will this success also make film investments safer? In my opinion, no. Film investments are high-risk investments no matter how you slice them. They strongly depend on the quality of the creative team and the script.
In addition, theatricals tend to be loss leaders, meaning the film loses money playing in the theater but the exposure leads the film nicely into strong DVD, TV and foreign performances. So though theatricals are breaking records, they aren't known for being major money-makers. The big revenue has been made more in the DVD and TV and foreign markets.
And right now, there is a real downturn in DVD sales (though rentals are up) and we still haven't figured out how to monetize digital downloads well yet and TV advertising dollars have dried up. Blu-ray has yet to prove it has the muscle to help the DVD industry.
What these box-office records do show is that people are making the trek to the movie theaters and that is exciting. Even with movie ticket prices being high, people are still enjoying gathering together in a dark room and being caught up in a story with no interruptions for an hour and a half or more. And that has to bolster the entertainment industry.
The moral of the story is that good news helps everyone -- even if you aren't quite sure how it will help you or your project specifically. Just an overall feeling of success can do a great deal in building confidence and positive buzz for an industry. So yes, I do believe these box-office records can be used to help indie film. They show that people do still love movies and they will spend the money at the box office to see them -- if we offer them a reason to do so. What is that reason? Good, enjoyable, satisfying entertainment. That should be our goal.