I truly believe that movie theaters as we know them today will not exist in 20 years. The experience is going downhill too quickly, the filmmaking industry is becoming more entrenched in only making specific kinds of films, and the competition for consumers’ entertainment dollars is increasingly fierce. And if you don’t take my word for it, just ask Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. THR reports that the two filmmakers spoke to University of Southern California film students, who were probably less-than-thrilled to hear that harsh truth. Spielberg told the audience, “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.” He went on to say, “you’re gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man” said Spielberg, “you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln.” So on the plus side: Cheaper Lincoln tickets! But Spielberg went on to say that his Oscar-winning, star-studded picture came “this close” to going to HBO.
Hit the jump for more on what Spielberg and Lucas had to say, including thoughts on what the business model for theatrical distribution will look like in the future.
Moving to HBO was the road Steven Soderbergh took with Behind the Candelabra because the studio system wouldn’t allow for a lower-budget, more adult-geared picture. The revelation about Lincoln is even more shocking since Spielberg is a much bigger filmmaker, the story was an easier sell, and it still had trouble getting made. Perhaps if Spielberg had made his Lincoln fight vampires, it wouldn’t have been such a struggle.
According to THR, Lucas told the audience that film exhibition in the future would likely follow the same model as Broadway exhibition where there are fewer films that cost more to see, but they also run for a longer period of time. Spielberg added that E.T. ran in theaters for a year and four months. Lucas’ model means that a lot of theaters will die off, and seeing blockbusters will be a luxury. I can absolutely see that happening. For non-blockbuster movies, people will stay at home and become absorbed in either made-for-TV dramas, or, more likely, series and mini-series.
And that’s a damn shame because it will only continue the march towards separating us as a society. Watching movies are a communal experience, and it’s already breaking down as people break out their cell phones because they no longer understand common courtesy. They’re not bad people, but they’ve become socially maladjusted in this regard. But their behavior will be welcome in the comfort of their own home, and that where Spielberg and Lucas believe better entertainment is heading. Lucas echoed other filmmakers by saying that cable television had become “much more adventurous” than films. While I enjoy exciting, thoughtful television shows, I wish there was room in the marketplace exciting, thoughtful movies. Sadly, it looks like film studios and movie theaters are blithely charging into obsolescence.
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