As the name implies, a studio film is partially or wholly financed and/or produced by a film studio. This means that in addition to producers being involved in the decision making processes, studio executives also have a say on things like casting, script changes, and allocation of funds.
By definition, a ‘film studio’ is simply a large production company that has its own hard equity (actual money), and is capable of distributing and advertising its own projects worldwide.
The major studios are Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, Dreamworks, Fox, and Sony. A ‘mini-major’ is a film studio that produces fewer projects, often works with smaller budgets, and functions on a smaller scale in most areas than the major studios. Mini-major studios include Summit, Revolution, Lakeshore, Lionsgate and the Weinstein Company.
A major studio won’t usually produce or finance films with budgets under $20 million. Most studios have smaller independent arms that make projects with budgets from $6 million to $20 million. The mini majors will also work in the $6 million to $20 million range. You won’t often find a film with a budget lower than $6 million being produced by a studio. A studio may come on board to distribute the film, but it would be rare for them to be involved in the financing or production of a project that small.
Not every film with a budget over $20 million is a studio film; there are some anomalies. For instance, Oliver Stone produced ‘Alexander’ for around $160 million dollars without the backing of a studio. This would therefore be considered an independent film regardless of the size of its budget.