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S&A 2013 Highlights: Dark Clouds Over Hollywood. Spielberg, Lucas Predict Industry Implosion (Thoughts)

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act January 9, 2014 at 6:01PM

S&A 2013 Highlights: Dark Clouds Over Hollywood. Spielberg, Lucas Predict Industry Implosion (Thoughts)
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Hollywood Sign

I'm sure, by now, most of you've have read/heard about the predictions for the Stateside movie industry made by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg (that the business, as it is, will implode, in short), which seem to have shaken the internet at its core, given how much the original piece by The Hollywood Reporter has traveled since it was published last night (I shared it on the S&A Facebook and Twitter pages soon after, and it's been shared several dozen times since them).


A common reaction to the words of these 2 industry titans was something like: "If they are having to fight to get their films from script to screen (Lincoln and Red Tails), and are as gloomy about the industry's future as they appear to be, then what does that mean for the rest of us...?"

The video footage of that conversation - a panel discussion at University of Southern California's School for Cinematic Arts, where they are board members - was moderated by CNBC's Julia Boorstin, and has now surfaced online, and is embedded below for you to watch.

In brief, both filmmakers see changes coming in the way movies are made, distributed and watched, as well as significant disruptions to the overall business itself, with Spielberg comparing what's happening in the industry now, to what the economy was like in 2008 - hitting a bottom, poised to eventually start to rise up again.

I have no idea what the business of cinema is going to look like in 10, 15, 20 years. It's really anyone's guess.

What I will say is that, with the widening availability of broadband internet access all over the world, as speeds get even faster, and service cheaper, and TV screens become even better, much larger, but affordable, I expect more and more of us to avoid movie theaters altogether, and use of acronyms like VOD become even more prevalent, as the movie theater experience becomes a very expensive one (to make up for the drops in attendance), enjoyed by the those who can afford it.

Now, I've already shared my own preference on this web site (Sergio has as well); specifically, currently, I'd say that I do the bulk of my movie watching at home. It's rare that I actually go to the theater to see a film these days, unless it's a film that I absolutely must see on the big screen - yes, even press screenings, which are free for me. My time is even more precious to me than my money. So a free press screening doesn't automatically entice me to attend (especially when I factor in travel time to and from the screening locations - usually in Manhattan, and I live somewhat deep in Brooklyn - and the film's 2-hour running time), unless, again, it's a movie that I really want to see. I could be doing something more important to me during those 4 hours.

There's just what I feel is a lack of quality in the films that do get theatrical releases (those being predominantly Hollywood studio product - the remakes, sequels, prequels, comic book adaptations - and even the indies as well, and very few of what I'd call smart, adult movies). Also, there's the fact that movies get to home video much faster these days than yesteryear, so unless it's a movie that I absolutely must see in theaters, I'm willing to wait the 2 months or so, for it to get to video.

VOD is on the rise, with some films getting pre-theatrical VOD rentals, meaning they are available for you to watch, at home, before they actually get to theaters. Magnolia Pictures does this a lot.

There's also the rising costs of movie ticket prices, especially here in New York City, where I live, as well as unruly theatergoers, something I touched on in a recent post.

Spielberg and Lucas mostly agree with me on all of that, saying that they expect consumers to watch more content, including movies and TV shows, on giant screens at home, as the separation between TV and film content disappears and theatrical releases are limited to fewer, big-budget films.

Times are a-changing, certainly; and movie theater owners aren't gonna like this change, when it eventually does come to pass.

You'll recall the 2010 proposal put forward by a few Hollywood studios, and least 1 cable TV operator, that would make movies available on TV, just 30 days after the films debuts in theaters, much sooner than the average! And how much were you expected to pay for this privilege? $20 to $30 per film!

They called it "home theater on demand."

I don't believe the idea ever went anywhere, although we could say that today's VOD model as I described above, is essentially a product of that, as it continues to evolve.

For some consumers, especially families, it would be much more attractive to pay the $20 to $30, to see a film at home, before, or soon after its theatrical debut, rather than pay $14 for each person (here in NYC), plus the high theater costs of popcorn and sodas, to see the same movie in a theater during the first month of its release.

But no matter how much change is fought, change will come. Change is already here. Just look at how much the financing/production/distribution/exhibition landscape has changed since this site was launched just 4 years ago.

And then imagine how much different it's likely going to look in another 4 years.

Exciting times ahead, and I just hope that I'm around to experience it all, and maybe even be a part of the change.

Watch the video below: 

This article is related to: Things That Make You Go Hmm...


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