June 13, 2013 at 8:39 pm #103187
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas spoke at their old school USC, with Spielberg in particular sounding pessimistic about the future of current theatrical moviemaking at anything close to its present form:
Steven Spielberg Predicts ‘Implosion’ of Film Industry
2:55 PM PDT 6/12/2013 by Paul Bond
George Lucas echoed Spielberg’s sentiments at an event touting the opening of a new USC School of Cinematic Arts building, saying big changes are in store.
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.
our editor recommends
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.June 14, 2013 at 3:20 am #103189
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.
Looking forward to that.June 14, 2013 at 5:35 am #103190
What’s the average cost of a Spielburg or Lucas film?
They’re not wrong but are the very people who created this problem in the first place.June 14, 2013 at 6:20 am #103191
Is he serious? I can name few directors that spend a lot of money on the movie around that amount he said:
1)him (he hasn’t been doing as great anymore……War Horse anyone?)
2)James Cameron (he is James Cameron……always does well in the box office)
3) Peter Jackson (he is always doing great box-office wise so he easily makes more than the budget)
4) the guy who directed the Transformers movies (2nd one did ok but showed that less is more)June 14, 2013 at 11:54 am #103192
Actually, Spielberg’s films don’t cost as much as the Marvel films, or Superman, or Nolan’s films, or Bond films, or even some “regular” blockbusters like “Real Steel” or some recent remakes like “Planet Of The Apes”. Every now and then he has soemthing like an Indiana Jones film or Saving Private Ryan that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but a lot of the time, he doesn’t even cross the one hundred million dollar margin. His films still cost a lot of money, more than a ton of other smaller Hollywood films, but his recent ones certainly aren’t in the higher end of today.
I think Spielberg is talking about stuff like John Carter or Oblivion. There was a time where the industry could spend tons of money in a film and others would compensate it. But the tumble for big films has become too big as budgets inflated, many aren’t returning much big of a profit. At some point, instead of throwing more and more money in new films than the ones that came before thinking the size of it will get audiences interested, they’ll have to realize they need more cost effective films. I think that’s the point Spielberg is trying to make.June 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm #103193
^ Don’t forget Battleship.June 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm #103194
but are the very people who created this problem in the first place.
Precisely, but that they are the ones admitting this says something.June 15, 2013 at 10:14 am #103195
Movies have to start having variable ticket prices. It’s ridiculous that tickets for a huge tentpole blockbuster opening weekend cost the same as tickets for a B-rate horror movie that came out weeks ago. Once movies drop to a certain level of time out/popularity they have to start cutting their ticket prices. And conversely, some movies could probably charge more opening weekend than they do. A movie like Iron Man 3, could probably get away with having $20 tickets (for 2-D) for opening weekend, for example. Back in the 50’s, adjusting for inflation, tickets for the Broadway premiere of Around the World of 80 Days cost $30.
The issue though is that media companies nowadays think that they can tell consumers how much the consumers are willing to pay. I’m a socialist and even I know that that’s not how capitalism works. The consumers are the ones that should be dictating prices. That’s how this works. We’re seeing this start to backfire in other fields, like with Microsoft’s used game policy for their upcoming video console, where instead of reacting to complaints about video games being too expensive by lowering prices, they simply say “You’re all just entitled, you’re going to have to pay what we want.” While I don’t disagree with the entitled part of the argument, that’s now how this system works. If your customers are entitled then you bend over backwards to give them what they want, and if that’s not good enough to sustain your business, I guess the consumers are gonna be out of luck.
On a separate note, the limited release market is most likely struggling due to a glut of releases. If you compare the overall amount of movies released today to the amount released in the mid-90’s the total amount of films released in a given year has surged by 100-150 titles. Wide release numbers over this same time period have stayed roughly the same, meaning that this surge is almost entirely due to an increased number of independent/limited release films. Almost twice as many, in a market where limited release box office makes up the same percentge of the overall box office as it did 15 years ago. That’s horrible for business, and a lot of these movies should be pushed off onto television or go straight to DVD/VOD, I can’t imagine that this doesn’t have anything to do with the struggles that the independent/limited market has seen of late.
In conclusion, I guess you could say I have a lot of issues with the film exhibition model at the moment.June 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm #103196
Limited releases are down because of two main factors:
The collapse of the DVD market (which used to provide a majority of their income)
And the explosion of marketing costs.
Much of the specialized market – including a majority of Oscar-potential movies – could be mainly VOD within a few years, with openings in NY & LA for review and marketing purposes, but at home viewing being the main venue.
Variable pricing seems unlikely – consumers will take the idea that a film costs less as a sign that it’s a turkey. I imagine some tentpole movies might be able to charge enhanced initial prices, but that is very risky – my guess is a lot of people would back away, meaning the $ totals would be at best the same, and this would screw theaters, who with fewer customers would see their concession income go way down. It costs the same to market a movie (under the current model) as much is the ticket price is $20 as if it is $4, which is another problem.