Art films are aimed at small niche market audiences, which means 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.
Furthermore, a certain degree of experience and knowledge are required to understand or appreciate such films; one mid-1990s art film was called “largely a cerebral experience” that one enjoys “because of what you know about film”. This contrasts sharply with mainstream “blockbuster” films, which are geared more towards escapism and pure entertainment. For promotion, art films rely on the publicity generated from film critics’ reviews, discussion of their film by arts columnists, commentators and bloggers, and “word-of-mouth” promotion by audience members. Since art films have small initial investment costs, they only need to appeal to a small portion of the mainstream viewing audiences to become financially viable.