Steven Spielberg and George Lucas Predict Film Industry “Implosion” or “Meltdown”; LINCOLN Was Almost an HBO Movie

     June 13, 2013


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.

steven-spielberg-george-lucas-indiana-jones-set-photoMoving 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.


[Photo credit: welcometoalville]

  • tonymatthews

    What the hell is up with George Lucas’ neck or jaw or… whatever that is?

    • Jack Inthebox

      “Lucas the Hut.”

    • scififan

      It’s not the same as yours so it deserves ridicule.

      • Scavenger

        Maybe it is the same as his and he just subconsciously loathes himself!

      • Scavenger

        Maybe it is the same as his and he just subconsciously loathes himself!

  • peter

    I dont believe that I rather go to the movies with my friends than watching a show or a dvd at my house alone the experience the movie theatre brings you is like non other. Yeah there are few people that go there and start talking out loud or take out their phones and things like that but they’re at least paying to see the movie which means they like going there. And no, I rather pay to say an indie lowbudget movie with a great story and acting than some boring blockbuster about robots fighting robots

    • Jeff

      It is the general populace, not the film enthusiasts, that he is referring to. The social media obsessed who prefer their phones and laptops to human interaction are the people who are becoming more commonplace. How hard has it become to strike up a conversation with a stranger without either being a freak or a flirt? Americans are heading in a lazy direction and theaters aren’t full of film enthusiasts anymore, they are full of families and date nights and any risks or overly artsy or intelligent screen plays are just not acceptable to them. Only sequels (gross) and book to screen adaptations and remakes seem to catch their attention. It is a sad place to be. The only way to lure them in is with a hugely popular actor, and that takes up half your film budget anymore.

    • Harry Palm

      Going to the theater is a terrible experience. People talk during the
      movie. You can’t talk to your friends during the movie unless you’re a
      dick. There’s always a crying baby. The floor is sticky. You have to
      wait in line. You have to be there at a certain time. It sucks when
      the movie you wanted to watch is sold out. The worst thing is the cost.
      Tickets are overpriced and the snacks and drinks are insane. The real
      rub is that when the movie sucks, you don’t get your money back.

      nothing stopping you from inviting a bunch of friends over to watch a
      DVD or watch a TV show, or even play games or something. It’s far
      cheaper and more fun.

      The film industry already imploded once due
      to a bunch of overpriced and bloated crap movies. It was in the wake
      of that implosion that guys like Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, ect. came
      along and made some really good movies. I’m hoping history repeats
      itself. The corporate film studios just produce overpriced garbage and
      right now they’re making money but people are getting sick of them. I’m
      hoping they dump billions into those crappy Avatar sequels and Marvel
      movies and then they bomb and it causes another collapse. Then maybe
      we’ll start getting good movies again like we did in the late 70′s and

      • Bo

        History won’t repeat itself because you are looking at the history wrong. The irony is these two guys are responsible for it. American movies were smart, edgy (Five Easy Pieces) and intelligent until these two made Jaws, Star Wars and then there was Rocky. All right around 1975 ’76. Movies produced to be very mass audience friendly and became what we now know as ‘blockbusters’. And these two kept it up….Indiana Jones…the first was was fun…all the others just junk made to make big, big money. How do you think these two became billionaires? By making small, smart intelligent movies or big dumb movies that appeal the the dumb masses? Lucas still makes movies like that. Spielberg has made a few interesting films, like Munich. I still can’t believe he made that. A very gutsy, intelligent, gritty and truthful film that he took a lot of flak from Isreal over. Still, he has his hand in many big dumb movies that appeal to the herd. Funny they would complain now!

      • Clay

        I can live with these two being “responsible for” Jaws, Star Wars and Rocky. Populist films, to be sure, but great cinema and now overwhelmingly considered classics. You seem to be stating that movies post 70s targeted toward mass audiences can’t be intelligent. Simply not true. Intelligence and marketability are not mutually exclusive. I think the admittedly terrible 21st century output (w/ few exceptions: Pixar, etc.) has blinded your appreciation for the 80s and especially the 90s.

        I wish the article delved deeper into what I think is the most crucial factor plaguing cinema today: vfx and star salaries. Before the computer boom, movies were much cheaper and relied on practical, on-set solutions. Nowadays half of movies are done in post and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, with substantial percentages going to talent, especially if there are back end deals. Cheaper movies means less risk and more emphasis on creativity and storytelling to get asses in the seats. I can’t fathom why studios wouldn’t subscribe to a philosophy that has outrageous potential for profit margin. Look at Paranormal Activity, a film I absolutely adore. Grossed 107 million domestically on a 15,000 budget. Imagination people!

      • Nmaster

        The new xboxOne Kinect may stop you from having too many friends over, depending on the number of users(!?) to individual movies/licenses – MS have already filled the patent…

        Marvel have probably already planned to use their low-level street crime fighter superheroes – when they’ve run out of steam on their big heroes… It’ll be one big cycle.

    • Bungo

      Absolutely true. Pay television is the future of film. Productions like Boardwalk Empire, Homeland and Dexter are where it’s all headed. Personally I like it and that’s where I would be focusing if I was a producer. You can make the “film” longer and more detailed and intricate with all of the same sex, violence, nudity and profanity as in a theatrical production.

  • ikkf

    I’m all in favor of waterboarding people who run their phones or talk loud during movies.

    • Scavenger


  • Matt

    I think a lot of these film industry icons who have been talking about the “implosion” and “decay” of the film industry are far too reactionary and fail to see how the modern world (as facilitated by the internet) is splitting in a way that will actually keep the industry going. What I expect is movie tickets will jump in price, but this will mean that people will only be attending films they genuinely want to see. Arthouse theaters will thrive in cities and big budget theaters will move along everywhere on the backs of blockbusters. But really, thats the way it already is. Having gone back to the suburbs post college for a year or so, I haven’t been able to see half the movies I wanted to because none show around here. They only show in cities.

    Think about the best low budget movies that have come out in the last few years. Many are low low budget. Not 10-20 million. Five or less. The big studios aren’t even involved in them. The people funding them are doing so not for money but for art. That isn’t going to change.

    Just like the music industry, the film industry is going to have to find new ways to make back its money. This will mean multiplatform release. So perhaps a movie comes out in theaters, then is on HBO, then is on digital and whatever physical is still being made, all around the same time. They’ll find a way to do it.

    I don’t see theaters dying. I just see them changing. And thats been happening for 100 years.

    • Michael Gonzales

      Exactly. Just like sporting events. Football stadiums are implementing fantasy football stats in real-time to get people to come and Wi-Fi. Theatres won’t go away – they will just evolve.

      Side Note – Don’t eat movie food. They are starting to post calories and they are absurdly high. A cup of pretzel bites is > 1600 calories. Go to CVS/Walgreens and grab some cheap candy.

  • Sugatits

    You reap what you sow.

  • Still a fan

    I have a REALLY hard time swallowing this. Sure the Hollywood distribution system is changing, but I highly doubt they’d go so far to eliminate the theatrical exhibition model to the point of it becoming a Broadway style play. I don’t doubt Lincoln had a tough time making it to screens, it is a period drama, but it also had numerous story structure faults. The performances were grand and wonderful but when there is no “drama” in your drama, you’ve got a problem. But then that didn’t stop the movie from making bank at the box office. Few movies ever make more money in the home video exhibition market than they do in the theaters. And they’re NOT going to charge 100 bucks a copy like they did in the early days of VHS.

    What I think would help films as a whole: STOP setting a release date before you’ve even gotten a writer started on your project. Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness, among NUMEROUS others, ALL could have greatly improved their critical and box office standings with a little more development time. If the movie sucks, it’s not going to connect with an audience.

    ALSO, Hollywood needs to appreciate the impact of smaller budgeted movies; see The Purge as an example. I don’t mean they all need to be horror films, just that bigger isn’t better. When compared to The Avenger’s $220million budget, They could have made over 70 films the size of The Purge.

    Just my thoughts, carry on!

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  • Adron Gardner

    Stop making sequels
    Stop making reboots
    Stop making crappy 3D movies
    Start making original stories
    Start taking time to make it good instead of making it fast.
    Start making movies without traditional clichés
    Start making movies with riskier ideas and methods for a lot less money.
    Cable series like True Blood, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, House of Cards have shown you can do a lot of things better and deeper than a 90 minute explosion fest, computer generated armies and flurry of F-Bombs.
    I don’t know anybody who would want to watch three hour Hobbit movies filmed in slow motion with computer generated everything when you can get a room of friends over to watch BBC’s Sherlock or Game of Thrones every week. It’s an event. They need to find a way to duplicate that again instead of churning out things we already have seen too many times.

    On top of that, why do I want to pay to sit in a crowded room with phones going off, babies crying and watching through dim 3D glasses when I can get a better experience at home with my surround sound, 70 inch TV on my futon?

    • Nmaster

      MS have patented KINECT technology that prevents more than a certain number of people from viewing a movie/license on the Xbox One…

      • Adron Gardner

        Ahh right, thanks. Something I DON’T OWN. We aren’t all 8 years old and don’t all worship at the altar of video games. If you wrap tape around your eyes, you may miss the movie too!

      • Nmaster

        Hey man i agree with your comments.
        I’m just saying, be wary of the big corporations; as they attempt to control (& profiteer) every element of your home life, including watching films – the patent was built with the eye for big studios to profit in more ways iniside your own home…

        a word of warning for those who are 8, parents or grown adults who may buy the xbox one

        – it’s not about games (personally i probably won’t get or play the new ‘next-gen’ for another year or so), it’s about anti-consumerism…

    • g0nk

      True Blood and Game of Thrones? As they are both based on books, I would hardly consider them original.

  • Travis Gowen

    The only thing that is going to destroy the film industry is the increase in the movie going experience. When my wife and I started dating (8 years ago I think) we could go to a Friday night showing for $13 (I only remember because our first date was Friday the 13th). Now, a trip to the movies on a Friday night will cost you nearly $50 for two people. The inflation that this country has gone through is blowing away the increase in income that people have had.
    Add to the fact that the experience in theatres is barely any better than in the past yet we are supposed to believe that digital projection and 3D films are worth more than the cost of eating out 2 or 3 times a week when I can just wait a few months and have it look exactly the same at home just on a smaller level?

    • Tim Miller

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. I think that is what Spielberg and Lucas were eluding to. People can’t afford to go see every movie that comes out. This is already happening.

  • jonadobe

    less commentary next time

  • Mixed Race rich kid NYC

    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… and 40 cents to see Red Tails.

    •‎ tarek

      and you will get paid to see After Earth

      • kmccarney88

        Priceless…..absolutely priceless. Bahahaha!

    • kmccarney88


  • Jonatan

    Lincoln was horrible. It deserved to be a TV movie. A series is way different than a movie you cant say one will replace the other. Is like said that video games will make disappear cinema and that also is impossible. I don’t see the theaters disappearing maybe it will change a little but it wont disappear. Take the book for example. The book fought the tv, comics, cinema, 3d, internet. And still is with us…
    The most successful film of all time was Avatar and it was made three years ago

  • Nathaniel Haywood

    I can see that happening because of how crappy the moviegoing experience is and how bad the movies are compared to how convenient and awesome television is now. The very best things to watch are always on TV – for every genre except action and superhero films. Any other type of movie has a better written, better cast, and more engaging counterpart on TV. Plus you can tailor that experience to suit your needs. Ever had to go the bathroom halfway through a movie that you really want to see? Sucks, doesn’t it? Ever wish noisy talkers would just shut up in the theatre? Ever been at a movie and wish you could’ve just brought the M&Ms from your coffee table? Ever leave a movie thinking “eh, it was okay. I can’t wait for the next episode of Dexter/Parks & Rec/Doctor Who/Downton Abbey/Insert-Awesome-TV-Show-here, though.” Yeah, we all have. Action movie and superhero films – the only reason movie studios still exist.

  • Ashtalon

    Well, I’ve seen 5 good movies so far this year (Stoker, The Place Beyond the Pines, Room 237, Mud, and Stories We Tell) that were all independent films. The studio films I’ve seen (GI Joe 2, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast 6) were all mediocre to bad. I’m learning to stick with independent films and really lower my expectations for studio films. I think theaters will be be around for a long time. It just seems that mainstream, tentpole types of movies will continue to be aimed at the masses, while more thoughtful movies will be for smaller audiences. If anything will collapse, it’s that studios might eventually realize that banking all their profits on $200 million tentpole movies is too risky. They should start reducing their budgets and force filmmakers out of this “every film has to be bigger than the last” mindset. Most audiences just want good films, not ones with larger explosions than the last. Like Ryan stated above, Spielberg’s name is on so many mediocre-to-bad films and tv series as a producer, you think he’d start getting more involved with injecting quality into the projects which have his name on them. Lucas hailed himself as an independent filmmaker and then made 3 films in a row which were exactly like studio films (hollow CGI-fests). Both of these guys could have teamed-up and revolutionized independent film if they wanted to, but the continued to play the studio game with their films.

  • The Blue Elephant

    Lincoln was a bore fest, it just couldnt hold my attention. Glad I didnt go to the theater to see it. It is true though that I only go to the theater to see blockbusters. So who knows.

  • Burning_Horizon

    It seems like Spielberg and Lucas are mixing two distinct messages here. Spielberg talks about the price of movies going up, and how that will alienate audiences. Then they go on to state how cable TV is “much more adventurous”, I’m guessing he means from an artistic standpoint. However, cable TV is much more expensive than going to a movie. I guess you could wait for these series to appear on a streaming platform like Netflix or Hulu, but most film buffs want to see the greatest and latest. Part of what makes going to the movies fun for general audiences, is going so that you can talk with your friends about the freshest “new thing”. It’s a social phenomenon, and a conversation topic.

  • Agent777

    Back in the day if you went to the movies, you’d see newsreals, shorts, cartoons, part of a serial (serialize a Star Wars, then you’ll start filling seats), a movie, and most likley another movie. They’d re-release older movies, and if a new Bond came out, they’d triple bill it with the previous 2.

    I remember as a 90′s kid they had exclusive toys in the theater, and I know in Japan they sell all kind of cool, exclusive merchandise in the theater.

    At most theaters, they still have the same arcade games from the 90′s.

    Every time I see a R rated film there is a d&*n baby.

    The food situation is insane. I’d get food at the theater is it wasn’t triple the prices it should be, and wasn’t the type of food to give me violent diarrhea half way through.

    So if and when the major chains start falling, it’s because of the substandard services they provide, and there cheapness is costing us one of the best experiences we USED to have.

  • Godot18

    I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this doomsday scenario for movie theaters before. But if you look at the numbers, it’s possible what they’re saying is correct.

    I looked up film attendance during the last few decades. Between 1982 and 1986, when VCR’s were being introduced and pay cable was becoming the rage, the average yearly film attendance was 900,36,1460. (source, box office mojo).

    Between 1989 and 1993, when everyone had a VCR, the average was 1,089,785,100.

    Between 2000 and 2004, when DVD’s became readily available, the multiplex boom occurred, and more advanced home viewing techniques were introduced, the average yearly attendance was 1,482,681,060.

    So even with the roll out of VCR’s, pay cable, and DVD’s, attendance was always on the incline.

    Between 2008 and 2012, when HD tv’s were really getting sold and on-line viewing took off, the average was 1,345,699,180. That’s a huge dip from the early 2000′s. Still better than the 1980′s by a landslide, but that decade’s theatrical release model mirrors what Lucas and Spielberg are warning us about.

    For those who think that the quality of cinema is going down (someone mentioned Prometheus), take a look at the critics ratings for each film. During the 2000 to 2004 time frame, the average rating for the top 10 films was 64%. Between 2008 and 2012, the rating was 67%.

    For those who thought last year was bad in terms of quality, it was had the highest rated critical success of all the years between 2000 and 2012 (77%). Still, the attendance of 2012 couldn’t match the lowest year of the 2000-2004 time frame. The lowest for that was 1,420, 242, 500. The attendance for 2012 was 1,374,043,300.

    The recession may have played a part in the 2008 time frame, but there was also a great recession lasting 2 years after 9/11. Plus, statistics have proven over the years that film attendance goes up after an economic collapse or global threat (it’s a cheap form of entertainment). It is possible, however, that ticket prices have gone up so drastically that the old model may not apply. If that’s the case, the movie theaters are pricing themselves out of a job, especially when there are so many other possible forms of entertainment delivery out there.

  • FrillorFrakJustSayItGodVanDam

    Movie theaters won’t disappear, they’re doing just fine (I should know, I’m currently working at one). We were sold out when Fast 6 premiered, and the purge (fuck you kids, fuck youuuuuu!) has been killing it. Studios will continue making loud dumb shitty movies because that is what the masses pay for. Not all of the movies are like this, but you’re never going to see huge lines for something like Winter’s Bone or Moonrise Kingdom. If I didn’t see movies at the theater for free I’d probably never go. Ridiculous prices and asshole customers can suck my dick. Yes! That’s right *gasp* the prices are insane, who the hell pays 4 bucks for a box of candy?! Oh that’s right, you do. So shut the fuck up already holy hell either don’t go to the movies or stop bitching and moaning. Just give me the money and go dump the shit you smuggled in on the floor like a good little cunt. I too smuggle food into people’s place of employment and dump it everywhere for them to clean up. Fucking cock juggling thunder cunts, the lot of ya. Hope ya get buttfucked in the parking lot.

  • junierizzle

    They’ve been saying that for decades. Look, I don’t care what new TV, gaming system, media streamer,etc comes out, going out to the movies will never die. People need things to do. Going to the movies is and will always be something to do.

    Even Lincoln made money.

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  • White Rose Brian

    We’ll just have to see what happens. What happens happens, and real talents and dreamers will figure out where to go from there.

  • Nmaster

    These guys seem to have forgotten – they’re the ones who pushed the blockbuster event cinema… They abused the system: whoring it out to kids popcorn movies that rake in the bucks & NOW they want to prop up some sort of intellectual legacy…

  • Hop

    Whatever. Let us hope this never happens. I respect both these people, but they are just …old.

    Oh, and Collider, you ripped this straight from Empire, didn’t you?


  • Walt D in LV

    A major problem is the multiplexes aren’t really multi anymore. If you have a theater with eighteen screens, they often only show about six different movies at time, especially over the summer. These six films HAVE to be big hits. Perhaps a model of showing ten to fifteen lower costing films at this same multiplex could work without mass stampedes. An occasional breakout hit would be EXTRA profitable, but each individual movie would do well on its own.

    Lionsgate seems to follow this model in their studio. Just put out a bunch of smaller, little films, and when you have a big hit, such as the Saw movies, that helps pay for all the other little ones (and there are a LOT!). Summit was bought by Lionsgate for this reason. The Twilight series was a big hit to a little company not many people ever heard of, but it financed many other smaller films. Now, The Hunger Games is doing the same thing. Lots of money from one low-cost film, finances a bunch of other smaller, and GOOD films.

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