Back at the end of April, Steven Soderbergh ripped Hollywood a new one in a "State of Cinema" speech that lambasted the movie industry for shifting more toward a model that invests way too much in the big tentpole movies aimed at the masses and not enough in the smart, inventive smaller films from talented up-and-coming filmmakers who have something to say. Instead, the major studios are going all in, so to speak, and betting on the big franchise moneymakers. But what happens when a bunch of those big franchise moneymakers don't make the money they're supposed to?
While speaking at the opening of a new USC School of Cinematic Arts building, Steven Spielberg predicted that, eventually, several of those tentpole movies are going to bomb, causing an implosion of the movie industry as we know it. "That's the big danger, and there's eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown," he warned. "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."
How exactly it will change is very much up to what audiences are demanding. Spielberg, who was also joined by his buddy George Lucas, claims we're approaching a time where going to the movies will be like going to see a show on Broadway. "I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they're going to be on television," Lucas said, with Spielberg adding that Lincoln was "this close" to becoming an HBO movie, much in the same way Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra was after studios refused to put it in theaters. Even though these are interesting, engaging stories starring some of today's most recognizable stars, it's beginning to make more sense to put them on cable television since the cost of actually putting a film in theaters has skyrocketed. In his speech, Soderbergh estimated that cost to average out at around $120 million.
Spielberg predicted that this implosion may lead to higher ticket prices for the bigger movies ("you're gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man"), whereas you may pay less for the smaller ones, if they don't simply opt for the cable television route. "The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller," Lucas said, echoing Soderbergh's speech.
What happens now is anyone's guess. Surely the entire industry isn't going to change because Spielberg, Soderbergh and Lucas are complaining about it, but as more and more content finds its way to your television and online, it'll be interesting to see what remains in theaters and how we'll interact with that content. Will theaters become more luxurious, or will the act of watching movies evolve into a more interactive experience?
What would you like to see happen?