George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, giants of the big screen, the men behind some of Hollywood’s defining franchises, think the film industry’s headed for an “implosion.” The pair were on a panel about the future of entertainment at the University of Southern California moderated by Microsoft’s Don Mattrick last night, and a theme that emerged is one that’s not unlike what Steven Soderbergh expressed in his San Francisco State of Cinema address — studios are only really interested in funding tentpole content, and niche programming on internet and cable is the future for everything else.
Per The Verge, Spielberg pointed out that with so many viewing choices vying for audience attention these days, the studios see giant projects as the safest bet to cut through the noise rather “than make a whole bunch of really interesting, deeply personal — and even maybe historical — projects that may get lost in the shuffle because there’s only 24 hours.”
Lucas concurred, suggesting that in the future moviegoing will be defined by those big experiences: “What you’re going to end up with is fewer theaters, bigger theaters, with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies is going to cost you 50 bucks, maybe 100. Maybe 150. And that’s going to be what we call ‘the movie business.’ But everything else is going to look more like cable television on TiVo.”
Both Lucas and Spielberg pointed toward cable as being able to have more interesting, risk-taking programming than the multiplex because the measure of success is not tied to pulling in a mass audience. “All you need is a million people,” said Lucas. “Which in the aggregate of the world is not very many people,” adding that “I think eventually the ‘Lincoln’s are going to go away and they’re going to be on television.” Spielberg responded that “Lincoln” actually had been “this close” to landing at HBO rather than in theaters.
While, implosion or not, Spielberg’s got plenty of film projects in the works. He’s no stranger to TV — he directed episodes of “Night Gallery” and “Columbo” early on, and “Duel” was one of a few TV movies he did for Universal. He’s also produced everything from “Animaniacs” to “Band of Brothers,” having recently signed on to produce a “Halo” series for the Xbox.
Lucas, meanwhile, has seen his work adapted to the small screen in series like “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”