George Lucas & Steven Spielberg: Studios Will Implode; VOD Is the Future
Looking into their crystal ball, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg predicted the imminent arrival of a radically different entertainment landscape, including pricey movie tickets, a vast migration of content to video-on-demand and even programmable dreams.
Speaking on a panel at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Spielberg and Lucas took a grim view of the future of the majors and predicted theatrical motion pictures will become a niche market.
“They’re going for the gold,” said Lucas of the studios. “But that isn’t going to work forever. And as a result they’re getting narrower and narrower in their focus. People are going to get tired of it. They’re not going to know how to do anything else.”
Spielberg noted that because so many forms of entertainment are competing for attention, they would rather spend $250 million on a single film than make several personal, quirky projects.
“There’s eventually going to be a big meltdown,” Spielberg said. “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen of these mega-budgeted movies go crashing into the ground and that’s going to change the paradigm again.”
Lucas predicted that after that meltdown, “You’re going to end up with fewer theaters, bigger theaters with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies will cost 50 bucks or 100 or 150 bucks, like what Broadway costs today, or a football game. It’ll be an expensive thing. … (The movies) will sit in the theaters for a year, like a Broadway show does. That will be called the ‘movie’ business.”
“There’ll be big movies on a big screen, and it’ll cost them a lot of money. Everything else will be on a small screen. It’s almost that way now. ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Red Tails’ barely got into theaters. You’re talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can’t get their movies into theaters.”
Both see “quirky” or more personal content migrating to streaming video-on-demand, where niche audiences can be aggregated. “What used to be the movie business, in which I include television and movies … will be Internet television,” said Lucas.
“The question will be: Do you want people to see it, or do you want people to see it on a big screen?” he added.
The longtime friends appeared on a panel on the future of entertainment at the grand opening of the Interactive Media building at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, along with Don Mattrick of Microsoft. Julia Boorstin of CNBC moderated.
But Mattrick took a back seat as the two old movie pros dominated the hour-long talk, teasing each other at times and agreeing at others. When Lucas complained about how hard it was to get “Lincoln” or “Red Tails” into theaters, Spielberg quipped, “I got more people into ‘Lincoln’ than you got into ‘Red Tails,’” drawing guffaws from the crowd.
Addressing the evolution of vidgames, Spielberg said so far, games have not been able to create the same empathy with onscreen characters that narrative forms have. Though gamers might empathize with characters in the cut scenes between game play, he said, “The second you get the controller something turns off in the heart, and it becomes a sport.” Lucas was more sanguine, saying the game industry can and will create empathetic characters, but it hasn’t so far because it’s been driven by hard-core gamers who enjoy onscreen violence.