You’d think George Lucas and Steven Spielberg would offer an optimistic prognosis for the next generation of filmmakers, having built so much of the current Hollywood production infrastructure themselves. But no — while unveiling the University of Southern California’s Interactive Media Building, the power duo both concurred that the current ‘blockbuster’ business model of Hollywood is not sustainable, with Spielberg predicting “there’s going to be an implosion, or a big meltdown,” according to TechCrunch.
You don’t rake in $4 billion of lifetime box office revenues by sugarcoating, I guess. Spielberg and Lucas’ predictions stem from the same disruptive factors identified in a typical media industry op-ed analysis — the rise of Netflix, the challenge of content on multiple screens, and of course, the films being just so damn expensive to produce. Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ — a relatively staid historical piece — had a $65 million budget, and Spielberg says it was almost shown on HBO.
Lucas — ever the savant for artificial environments — predicts that there will be fewer theaters with nicer amenities, costing between $50 and $150 and creating the equivalent of a Broadway experience. The hollowing of the middle class, in other words, will be extended to movie theaters. Most films — perhaps those less blockbuster-worthy — will be distributed through digital domains, or straight to the consumer on television.
TechCrunch, playing their role of wide-eyed acolytes to the Big Smart Businessmen, predicts “technology winning” in Hollywood. That’s like predicting “politicians winning” in Washington D.C.
Perhaps we can all glean some wisdom from the late Roger Ebert, who, in a rave review for Mr. Spielberg’s ‘Minority Report’, wrote: “Some directors place their trust in technology. Spielberg, who is a master of technology, trusts only story and character, and then uses everything else as a workman uses his tools.”
The distribution methods may change, in other words, but basic story structure and good filmmaking should only be supplemented by technology, not “disrupted.” In the best case scenario, a Hollywood ‘implosion’ would mean a wider array of independent flicks and higher standards for blockbusters.