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An art film is typically a serious, independent film aimed at a niche market rather than a mass market audience. An art film is "intended to be a serious artistic work, often experimental and not designed for mass appeal"; they are "made primarily for aesthetic reasons rather than commercial profit", and they contain "unconventional or highly symbolic content".
Film critics and film studies scholars typically define an art film as possessing "formal qualities that mark them as different from mainstream Hollywood films", which can include, among other elements, a sense of social realism; an emphasis on the authorial expressiveness of the director; and a focus on the thoughts, dreams, or motivations of characters, as opposed to the unfolding of a clear, goal-driven story. Film scholar David Bordwell describes art cinema as "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, the UK and Australia than in Europe, where the term is more associated with "auteur" films and "national cinema" (e.g., German national cinema). Because they are aimed at small niche market audiences, they can rarely get the financial backing that 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 that focus much more on developing ideas or exploring new narrative techniques or film-making conventions.
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