At least that's according to Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg on Wednesday predicted an "implosion" in the film industry is inevitable, whereby a half dozen or so $250 million movies flop at the box office and alter the industry forever. What comes next -- or even before then -- will be price variances at movie theaters, where "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." He also said that Lincoln came "this close" to being an HBO movie instead of a theatrical release.
George Lucas agreed that massive changes are afoot, including film exhibition morphing somewhat into a Broadway play model, whereby fewer movies are released, they stay in theaters for a year and ticket prices are much higher. His prediction prompted Spielberg to recall that his 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial stayed in theaters for a year and four months.
The two legendary filmmakers, along with CNBC anchor Julia Boorstin and Microsoft president of interactive entertainment business Don Mattrick, were speaking at the University of Southern California as part of the festivities surrounding the official opening of the Interactive Media Building, three stories high and part of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Lucas and Spielberg told USC students that they are learning about the industry at an extraordinary time of upheaval, where even proven talents find it difficult to get movies into theaters. Some ideas from young filmmakers "are too fringe-y for the movies," Spielberg said. "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."
Lucas lamented the high cost of marketing movies and the urge to make them for the masses while ignoring niche audiences. He called cable television "much more adventurous" than film nowadays.
"I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they're going to be on television," Lucas said. "As mine almost was," Spielberg interjected. "This close -- ask HBO -- this close."
"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," Lucas said. "I got more people into Lincoln than you got into Red Tails," Spielberg joked.
Spielberg added that he had to co-own his own studio in order to get Lincoln into theaters.
"The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller," Lucas said.
Mattrick and Spielberg also praised Netflix, prompting Boorstin to ask Spielberg if he planned to make original content for the Internet streamer. "I have nothing to announce," said the director.
Lucas and Spielberg also spoke of vast differences between filmmaking and video games because the latter hasn't been able to tell stories and make consumers care about the characters. Which isn't to say the two worlds aren't connected. Spielberg, in fact, has teamed with Microsoft to make a "TV" show for Xbox 360 based on the game Halo and he is making a movie based on the Electronic Arts game Need for Speed.
This comes across as a little strange. I'm writing a piece currently that I may finish up tonight about The Lone Ranger, a western that has political incorrectness written all over it, but let's focus on this Hollywood situation. Both Lucas and Spielberg spoke about the difference between film making and video games because the later hasn't been able to tell stories and make consumer care about the character?
What the fuck are they smoking? That's pure bullshit. Spielberg clearly hasn't actually seen a video game since the 1980's when he had to dump all of those copies of E.T. into the New Mexico pit. But there's a lot of video games out now that you care about the character and they're mirrored, if not close to movie star level in terms of plotline and story.
That's not to say I will play them or even give a shit about them. But then again, I don't give a shit about movies like White House Down. It's just not on my radar anymore. But video games can deliver that same feel at a much lower price... for a much longer time than the two hours that a film can generate.
I do think that the Hollywood blockbuster may be coming to an end. It has become more and more easier to see that a film gets released in a theater one week and by two weeks, it's already shoved off to the dollar screening or coming out to DVD in another two months after that. The turn around really only hurts the movie theaters in the long run, but you get the point.
Besides that, there really isn't any Hollywood action stars that can carry a film anymore. Brad Pitt can do it for World War Z, but he has the whole Zombie craze helping him out there. But you see a lot of films lately that are a sort of duo carried film. Sandra Bullock and McCarthy in The Heat. Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum in White House Down.
It's stuff like that which allows for the films to carry on. But the Die Hards or the single action hero films... those seem to be all but dead. You have to carry the film with franchise films. Superman was god damn awful and I'll get into that with a post come Comic Con time, but that's more Zack Snyder's and Nolan's fault more than anything else.
So are Hollywood films dead? Well, not really. China is going to constantly love them and eat them up. Especially since they don't have the production means to make them themselves, they will count on us to do so. It's really a nice relationship. They lend us tons and tons of money to keep our stupid country afloat, and we give them huge Hollywood blockbusters in 3D that they can't produce like Pacific Rim.
It has gotten to a point that we cater to them. If an actor doesn't do well in China, that fucker could kiss his career in getting roles to a very limited amount. We shoot scenes specifically for them and we also change plots like the one changed from the Red Dawn remake.
So in a sense. Summer Blockbusters aren't dead. They just became more communist.