Back in June, Steven Spielberg predicted a coming “implosion” of the film industry, with his billionaire partner-in-crime George Lucas postulating that movies would soon become akin to bespoke, scale-priced Broadway plays. Their predictions came right at the start of summer movie season; no one except tech blogs really paid attention.
Now, as an abnormal number of $200 million+ big-budget pictures flounder at the box office, mainstream media is starting to take notice: is Hollywood being disrupted?
Pacific Rim could lose between $50 million and $100 million for Warner Brothers, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Disney will end up eating about $200 million in costs for The Lone Ranger. Even the super-charming duo of Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum couldn’t draw audiences to White House Down, which has so far scrambled for about $82.7 million out of a $150 million budget.
Some industry analysts — mainly Wall Street dudes — say that the glut of cold fish has to do with bad timing, not bad movies. If anything, modestly-budgeted movies have had a triumphant July, with The Conjuring pulling in nearly twice its production budget in its first weekend, according to Slate. Summer box-office revenue is currently 13.8% ahead of 2012; so what do the high-profile failures really mean for the industry?
It means it’s a good time to be an indie producer — something Spielberg basically predicted back in June, when he pointed out that Lincoln was almost shown on HBO. Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” filmed in black-and-white in his backyard, was a critical darling and easily recouped its meager costs, and Spike Lee has somewhat controversially turned to Kickstarter to finance his next film about “the addiction of blood.”
Guys like Joss Whedon, Spike Lee and Steven Spielberg can win because they are artists and business-savvy — they’re not beholden to the any paradigm of film financing. But for those recent film-school grads hoping to make their living with tentpole blockbuster flicks….better pay attention to which way the industry tradewinds are blowing.