Steven Spielberg & George Lucas Predict 'Implosion' of Film Industry
With more low budget films finding their audience on VOD or streaming on Netflix rather than movie theaters, and big budget films taking over multiplexes and occasionally bombing spectacularly, the film industry is on the verge of a dramatic shift in how audiences get their big screen entertainment. Speaking at the University of Southern California yesterday, iconic filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas lamented the difficult path to get a film into movie theaters nowadays, and they both predict an implosion of the motion picture industry as we know it, mostly in how we pay for films and where we see them. Read on!
As evidenced by film studios' obsession with established intellectual property over original ideas, Spielberg says that many of the ideas coming from film students at schools like USC "are too fringe-y for the movies," and that's where the real problem begins. With studios putting all their money into these big blockbusters that have the potential to lose a lot of money, something has to give. THR has Spielberg's comment:
"That's the big danger, and there's eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm."
It's going to take some big time failures from movie studios to realize this business model isn't working as well as it used to. Spielberg thinks the pricing model for movies in theaters will change to reflect a film's higher or lower profile. The director thinks, "you're gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man, you're probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln." In fact, Spielberg points out that his Best Picture nominated drama was extremely close to becoming an HBO film instead of a theatrical release. And it sounds like TV might be the next "big" thing for the movies.
Lucas praises television, saying the medium is "much more adventurous" and he predicts, "I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they're going to be on television." That kind of dramatic shift would mean there would have to be some kind of reworking of the Academy Awards, especially when a film like Behind the Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh's HBO film about Liberace, is getting so much critical praise and could easily be an awards contender when the Oscars come around if it had been a theatrical release. But if movies like Lincoln that aren't huge blockbusters head to TV, what happens with the big screen?
The Star Wars director believes the movie theater model could revert back the Broadway play format (which is kind of how movies used to be release in theaters decades ago). Rather than movies sticking around for only a couple months, they would be in theaters longer, and the ticket prices would be higher in order to make sure a film's budget is recouped. Spielberg pointed out that E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial stayed in theaters for a year and four months. That simply doesn't happen anymore with the most recent wide release, extended theatrical run belonging to Titanic, which stayed in US theaters for about nine months. My Big Fat Greek Wedding was in theaters for nearly a year though, beginning with a limited release.
It would make the most sense that the bigger movies, which costs hundreds of millions, would be the films people want to see in theaters, and might be willing to fork over some extra money. Plus, if the film is in theaters longer, with the home video release gap no longer being a mere two or three months, more people will be likely to pay to see it sooner than later. And considering how many indie releases head to VOD or Netflix for a release, Spielberg and Lucas seem to have the right idea about an extreme paradigm shift.
When it comes down to it, getting a movie made and into theaters by way of a studio is extremely difficult nowadays. As Lucas points out, "We're talking Lincoln and Red Tails -- we barely got them into theaters. You're talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can't get their movie into a theater." Though Red Tails may not be the greatest example, the idea is that these iconic filmmakers are having trouble getting their own movies made. Spielberg points out that he had to own half of a studio in order to get Lincoln made. The times they are a-changing, and let's just hope that Hollywood has the foresight to take action and not let the industry crumble before shaking things up. Thoughts?