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?
Reader Feedback - 42 Comments
Who needs shitty high budget movies, when you have good tv-series.
oibert on Jun 13, 2013
Avi on Jun 13, 2013
Charging 25$ dollars a ticket will cause the industry to implode. If i had to pay that much, id punch the kid who wont stop texting on his tv sized lightbright phone during the whole film. People being unrelentlesly rude is what has stopped me from going to thr theater.
Happy camper on Jun 13, 2013
Earlier this week, I encountered an individual at my local cineplex who was using his smartphone during the screening, and when I politely requested that he either put his phone away or stand at the back of the theater while texting so that his screen light wouldn't annoy other patrons, he responded (in addition to cursing me out) that he'd paid $30 for his ticket and for that much money, he was entitled to do whatever he wanted. The only movie theater staff who were working at the time were two very young-looking high-school students who would've persuaded no one of their authority, so appealing to them was a lost cause. From this incident, and from your comment, it strikes me that the increase in prices which Spielberg and Lucas discuss truly cuts in two directions. I (like you) now find it impossible to justify spending so much money to go to the movie theater, given the high probability that other attendees will ruin the experience. Other people, like my erstwhile foul-mouthed interlocutor, use the high price of tickets to justify any form of maladjusted behavior. Considerate movie patrons will increasingly stay at home in higher and higher numbers. The boors will increase their proportion of the movie audience (at least until their behavior annoys other boorish patrons and leads them into altercations with permanent physical consequences.)
Reedley Smith on Jun 14, 2013
This is the most elegant and thoughtful comment I have ever seen on a public forum. And you are right on the money with your remarks. I have found myself enjoying the movie going experience less and less over the last few years due to rude audience members. I find it much more enjoyable to watch movies in the comfort of my own home (complete with our large flat screen, movie theater quality sound system and HD quality movies), where I can make my own gourmet snacks.
Brooklyn_Betty on Jun 15, 2013
Well if t keeps the chronic intellectually dishonest rubbish that Spielberg churns out then it can't happen soon enough.
index1000 on Jun 13, 2013
Didn't Avatar stay a year at the movies? And Steven Spielberg and George Lucas do NOT have problems getting a movie made, between the two of them they have $12 Billion dollars. They could just pay the $100-$200 million for their own movies. But, I understand their concern, for the next generations. The real problem is too few go to the movies. Get asses in the seats!
David Banner on Jun 13, 2013
Spielberg and Lucas belong to a class of filmmakers that are slowly disappearing. They remember a time when going to the movies was an event and not merely commercial entertainment. I'm a hardcore cinephile, who goes to the movies on a weekly basis (often multiple times), but most of the general public only see films a few times a year. A new pricing model for movie theatres will only serve to alienate the movie-going audience further, with all casual moviegoers likely stopping altogether, while the hardcore like myself heavily limit the amount of films they see. The sad truth is that even though attendance is declining, the films themselves remain as profitable as ever (thanks mostly to inflated ticket prices). I doubt there will be an implosion, as long as people still go to those big mainstream blockbusters. All we can do is wait and see and hope for the best.
Sean Kelly on Jun 13, 2013
I would have thought multiple blockbusters bombing at the boxoffice would cause studios to reassess the quality of the stories they want to produce... solve the problem before it reaches theatres. A lot of people have justly felt let down by films they have payed to see recently and they share that with people on websites like this so others won't waste their money. This hasn't occurred to these guys because they have too much money Also not too surprised Lucas would think this way considering the quality of his last few films
Richie G on Jun 13, 2013
Ricardo_PT on Jun 13, 2013
Spielberg and Lucas bemoaning the state of American movies is rich, when they have been among the main perpetrators of the blockbuster mentality that pervades the industry today. A fifth Indiana Jones movie is in the works right now; why, one may ask, except as a speculative investment venture for the banks and private equity capital that fund Hollywood today. As for television and streaming video becoming the preferred media for smaller, presumably more serious movies, that could be a more positive outcome. But as is always the case, there is a chronic shortage of good, quality product: based on the evidence so far, “House of Cards” or “Behind the Candelabra” are anomalies.
moviegoer on Jun 13, 2013
No wow factor now in movies, I like my movies and have no problem buying drinks and snacks and going in and sitting down for 2 and a half hours to be entertained. Instead i sit down watch the best bits of movies in trailers for 15 minutes and expect to be sold. Then the grand finale.mediocre garbage from directors void of new ideas, No captivation. I walk out of a movie and instead of having a feel good factor i feel i never want to go back. How do you change that. Make movies that can make you feel alive and inspired. I want to leave a movie with a real experience. I want to be shocked, Inspired, Loved, Valued, Changed, Scared, Happy, Sad, Confused, Overwhelmed, at one, Powerful and all the emotions we put ourselves through every second of the day in one big movie that everyone can take home a piece of it, Then say, That's not a movie, That's me. Stop looking for the only thing in life that is real which is you. The rest of the world can take note. Movies are an escape from you and a pastime which is over.
trickster on Jun 13, 2013
Douglas Trumbull has given some speeches about how he wants to sort of revitalize the theater going experience and make it something truly special with a lot of immersion. Big, super bright, super high resolution 3D screens that project imagery with extreme detail and clarity...and a new kind of film-making that changes the cinematic language and tries to imitate 'looking into reality' more than the typical close-ups, over the shoulders, etc etc. It's some very interesting and mind-blowing stuff.
Chris Groves on Jun 13, 2013
Really interesting article. Not only has the industry evolved but so has the home theater. Blu-Ray, 3DTVs, 5.1 surround sound headsets - plus with your home being pants optional, movie theaters have a lot to compete with nowadays 😀
Nick Sears on Jun 13, 2013
Guess I know who's buying an xbox one... Honestly, I'm tired of these big names saying the movie industry (or gaming industry) is going down the pipe, I'm tired of we being responsible for crap decisions by top executives who are so disconnected with their public that they throw the same lame big budget movies over and over again and they expect us to pay for those needless explosions or a bigger desk for their stars. Just focus on doing good movies and maybe we'll pay you the money you deserve. Such a cocky atitude "herr...we're doing amazing top notch entertainment, people are just to lazy to go see it in theatres...".
Ricardo_PT on Jun 13, 2013
Two old, out of touch men bitter at the fact their box office drawl is at an end.
Emblem on Jun 13, 2013
octopus9498 on Jun 13, 2013
No, just to aging cinema masters who care deeply about their industry and have the power to not have to worry or give a shit about expressing their opinions.
Hattori Hanzo on Jun 14, 2013
I would like to respectfully disagree with Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Lucas on this one. I mean aren't they the ones that started "event" cinema with Jaws and Star Wars? And now they're complaining it's broken? People will still see 'event' cinema, and we're nowhere near an implosion. If anything it's harder for a movie to fail at the box office than it's ever been for exactly the reasons Spielberg suggests, studios don't take risks. Why? Because audiences are not taking enough risks either. Until people stop getting excited about Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, or Star Trek Into Darkness and start seeing more original content then the types of films will remain the same. People complain about this stuff all the time, but they're often the same people who, when push comes to shove, go and see (often very well made) franchise movies rather than supporting more creative ventures.
Mark D on Jun 13, 2013
It's been obvious for years that the trend in cinema is a migration to home theaters. There are legitimate reasons to see films on a full screen, with a proper sound system, especially movies with a focus on cinematography or unique special effects. For most audiences, though, the level of appreciation isn't that profound, and a 60-inch (and growing) television is an adequate approximation of that experience, with the comfort and convenience of home. Best of all: you don't have to spend the kids' college savings on $25 tickets, $8 popcorn and &6.50 sodas only to have the whole thing ruined by tweens on cell phones and the obnoxious group in the back yelling at the screen for two hours. Which movies will manage to transcend this trend? It won't be the character dramas, and it won't be the documentaries, and it won't be the comedies - those will all make the transition to home theaters, a transition that in all honesty may not be a bad thing. No, the movies that will manage to get viewers out of the house and into the cinema will be the big budget productions, the ones with massive explosions or towering robots or sprawling armies. The only question that really remains to be answered, as far as I can tell, is whether production companies will have the courage to make documentaries, decent comedies (no, not Disaster Movie with its buck-and-a-quarter budget; those will always have a profitable market), and mature dramas. The HBO/Netflix model will become the norm not just for older movies, but for new releases too. We know there's a market for this home-drama, a market currently filled largely by television shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, even shows like True Blood which stray intriguingly closely back towards the 'popular hits' which will be in theaters. I suppose, then, the question is whether that market carries with it enough money for the studios to manage, or whether we'll see a division in which drama and non-fiction are the realm of high-quality television, and movies double down on high budget hits.
Wafffles on Jun 13, 2013
Not only will the more interesting films (the comedies, documentaries, and dramas) easily make the transition to the home, they will make the transition to nearly every other viewing screen with hardly any loss. I recently took a four-hour plane trip, and one of the group of people I was traveling with had loaded up on her iPhone the 1993 Merchant Ivory classic "The Remains of the Day", a well-recognized character drama. She lent her iPhone to me whilst she slept, and I watched the entire 2+ hour movie on a handheld screen. The movie lost none of its power even in the tiny screen format because the audio I received through the earphones was very good. I've no doubt that a comedy or documentary would have been just as good a viewing experience on that little screen.
Reedley Smith on Jun 14, 2013
Lol, I wouldn't judge the industry by how hard these two must work to get a movie in theaters. Lets talk to someone like Nolan, Blomkamp, Scanlon, Whedon, or Abrams. I bet all they need to say is, "I've an idea..." and money starts moving.
VoiceOfReason on Jun 13, 2013
The local cinema around here is $19, $23 for 3D. $25 a ticket isn't going to do any good. People will just stop going to the movies.
Mark on Jun 13, 2013
High ticket prices are why I go to the movies three to four times a year. I just have to wait four months tops to rent the movie on amazon or something.
germss on Jun 13, 2013
Ok people who don't know what they are talking about yet again. Saying and blaming George and Steven because their movies were the beginning of the big summer time blockbusters. Ah you guys seem to forget Jaws cost 7 million to make as with Star Wars only costed 11 which were very low budget when the ave cost of a film was around 15 million at that time! With what George and Steven are saying if you make an IRON MAN like movie for 150 to 250 million and it bombs you have no way of recouping such losses which in turn will raise ticket prices, which in turn raises theater prices renting their theaters to the production companies to show the movies!!! I have to ask this do you know each theater is actually rented out by the production or home company to show the movie! It just doesn't show up in a few metal cases and oh ok lets show them. The Theaters are rented out to show with a deal in place for how long they can or will show them!!! And oh yeah not only ticket and theater prices will go up concession stand prices will be even more outrageous then it is now! Since that is how the Theater actually makes their money! The Theater doesn't make any money on ticket sales at all!!! Pennies on the dollar and that is it!!!! So yes before thinking George and Steven are out of touch learn your facts then speak!!! Because they truly know what they are talking about!!! That is why both of them are going into TV more now then ever before!!!!!!
Professor_Bedlam on Jun 13, 2013
Yeah, good luck with those higher ticket prices, LOL (PS. Do you hate the pop up box whenever you LIKE on DISQUS now?)
cobrazombie on Jun 13, 2013
Tell this to Alex. Maybe now he'll understand the power of VOD. 😉
nathan on Jun 13, 2013
I don't believe them. As long as the studios can make things appear to blow on screen and teenagers have nothing better to do on a Friday night, Hollywood will go on and on producing the same dreck it always has. Look no further than this site to find a legion of fans who are satisfied with garbage thrown at them. I gave up on blockbusters a long time ago and they just get worse every year and the studios somehow keep increasing their profits. Regardless how bad the movies get, people will still flock to them.
Charles on Jun 13, 2013
People will always go to the cinema because the experience is better than on tv. people want to escape for two ours in a movie full With explosions and special effects and great sound. Let mister Spielberg make a new war of the worlds and he has no problem to get it on a big screen.
Avi on Jun 13, 2013
This is a collection of some of the best comments I've ever read on Firstshowing. I've been following you guys for years but always stay in the shadows as the anger and vitriol that gets spouted by a small minority of your readers, quite frankly, scares me! But here we see a selection of the best. Eloquent, thoughtful, considered responses to an interesting argument made by two pioneers of cinema. I for one share the belief that lowering ticket prices (it's actually a little cheaper over here in the UK, if you live outside London), more concerted studio time spent on developing story and character, variety and originality in source material, and a scheme of mentoring for young directors to cut their teeth by co-directing with established names on bigger budget projects (thereby bringing a fresh approach to the art of directing), would all help foster a better theatre experience and stop the rot. Writer's continue to be treated as disposable assets and script-by-jury never produces anything other than garbage. If we want folks to respect the end product we should be setting out to make something special from day one, and that requires a desire for more than profit. Which is probably never going to happen. Oh, and Mr Spielberg, it has ALWAYS been a nigh-on impossible task to get a movie made in the UK, let alone screened. And Mr Lucas, let's not talk about Red Tails...
Guesty on Jun 14, 2013
Well said! Wellcome aboard, I hope you stay for a while 😉 Here in Portugal I pay 5.80€ for a ticket, I imagine the disaster it would be if prices went up by that much (Just 6 years ago I could go to the movies for 4.30). And by the end of this month we're getting our first commercial Imax theatre, I'm anxious to know what that'll cost
Ricardo_PT on Jun 14, 2013
Lets see; I can stay home and watch quality like Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Vikings, The Following and Mad Men each week with gutsy storylines and acting or I can over pay to see shit like the Hangover movies, anything with over priced Will Ferrell- Michael E-Bay-Adam Sandler blow hard type names attached to it, lame remakes and endless sequels ... Hmmm, I wonder which has become the better medium for quality these days ... And to think that before the above mentioned TV shows came on, I only watched movies and went to the cinemas. What a turn around!
Hattori Hanso on Jun 14, 2013
I thought 3D was going to save the movie-going experience!
Bob on Jun 14, 2013
This is such a great topic for debate! Allow me to put my two cents in. One thing I never hear attached to this topic is the the state of the economy. Now I live in Texas and can't speak on the economy in other parts of the world but my own personal experience is as such: Movies is my absolute favorite past time! I love it! I love going, getting popcorn, and watching with friends or by myself. Now I'm not going to tell you that the cost of going to the movies isn't too high but you know what everything else is too. I have to spend $60 on gas every week and that's just gas. Forget the cost of mortgage, groceries, insurance, medical cost, on and on. This is the main factor why more people don't go the movies like they used to. It would be great if the cost of going to the movies would be reduced but everything else is so expensive that people have to sacrifice entertainment. Sadly it's way cheaper to stay home. If it was up to me I would be in a theater every week but sadly I can't.
Crazy Legs on Jun 15, 2013
wow this is true
A5J4DX on Jun 16, 2013
This "implosion" will begin in 2015. Just look at the line up of mega budget films in 2015 and you begin to understand why they're concerned.
Avatar1209 on Jun 16, 2013
Sooner the better, I say. The last Hollywood implosion created the careers of masters such as Coppola, Scorsese and yes, Lucas and Spielberg. As the old singing-and-dancing model collapsed under the onslaught of vietnam war aftermath and the dreaded color television, the studios were prepared to give new concepts and attitudes a chance. Instead of hypocritically whining and being concerned Lucas and Spielberg should welcome its coming as a Hollywood's next chance to reinvent itself and become culturally relevant again. It's a normal process which happened a few times before. It's a cycle where every such collapse generates a "golden era" immediately afterward. Why are the cinematic memes created in late 70's still dominant today? Imo, the implosion is long overdue and film industry would have been in a much better shape today if it were allowed to collapse and rebuild itself back in the mid 2000's.
Disqus is an NSA shill on Jul 5, 2013
First the music...Now Movies. Next is? It's great that the consumer thinks they have choices. But what when the industry collapses and artists and creators stop creating, and have to find other work, what choices will they have then?
Memphis Nights on Jul 5, 2013
BadTigz on Jul 5, 2013
Hollywood needs to get a grip on the fees it pays to A list actors and free up the money to make more lower budget films therefore increasing output. Reduce the amount of endless lists of Producers on a film, particularly in the US. I counted 14 on a US film recently. These business people are simply haemorrhaging money away from where it is needed. Stop making 3D films too, they are a rip off and a gimmick that isn't as successful as they make out.
Dude on Jul 5, 2013
The bigger message, that Hollywood may still not be getting, is that there is a huge audience shift happening, away from violent films with spectacular fx and toward films with deeper meaning. What may go away is blockbuster films, altogether.
hnasc on Jul 8, 2013
When I "pause" & "Pee" in the comfort of my own home, WHY would I spend $40.00 for 2 people to watch a movie with some stale popcorn ?? I can wait for the movie to come to a redbox near me, for most movies. The few times I HAVE gone to a theater, I have kicked myself in the ass for doing so. Some idiot behind me just can't seem to keep his mouth shut!!!
MusicLover on Jul 10, 2013
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