Of all the people to sound the alarm on the decline and fall of the film industry, Steven Spielberg might seem like an improbable choice. But the director, speaking with George Lucas at a ceremony celebrating the opening of a new building at University of Southern California's film school, said that an "implosion" of his industry is inevitable.
Case in point, for him: Lincoln, which was a commercial and critical success, was apparently almost an HBO exclusive. "This close -- ask HBO -- this close," he said in response to Lucas's comment that "eventually the Lincolns will go away and they're going to be on television." Spielberg, he said, only got the film into theaters in the first place because he basically owns his own infrastructure.
As documented by the Hollywood Reporter, Lucas added, "You're talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can't get their movie into a theater."
Spielberg's advice for the aspiring USC filmmakers was, well, straight out of a disaster film script:
"Eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. 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."
That scenario, presumably, leaves established directors like Lucas and Spielberg to fight for their creative lives in a new and unforgiving world. But here's the thing: even as Lucas and Spielberg lamented the fall of their industry, they made a good case for more or less ignoring the demarkations between traditionally different forms of digital media — television, the internet (i.e. Netflix, which Spielberg specifically praised), and even video games, which both Lucas and Spielberg have dabbled in. An example: while lamenting that his industry doesn't take to kindly to riskier work these days, Lucas called cable television audiences "much more adventurous." So while the big coming implosion will be a big deal to the industry itself, it's less clear what the two famous filmmakers think it means for the people who just want to watch their work.