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Steven Spielberg And George Lucas Predict Gloom For Hollywood
'There’s going to be a big meltdown'

13 June 2013  |  Written by Phil de Semlyen  

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Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, E3

Last night Empire's focus switched from high-octane Forza Motorsport 5 news at the E3 gaming to a high-profile Q&A down the road involving two of cinema's elder statesmen. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, helping to open the University of Southern California’s new Interactive Media Building, offered a rather bleak prognosis of the future of cinema. Revealing that Lincoln was "this close" to appearing on HBO, Spielberg predicted that a few high-profile blockbuster flops will spark a radical overhaul of the Hollywood business model.

"The big danger is that there’s eventually going to be a big meltdown", Spielberg said, "where three or four, maybe even a half a dozen of these mega-budgeted movies are going to go crashing into the ground. That’s going to change the paradigm again."

"You're at the point right now where a studio would rather invest $250 million in one film for a real shot at the brass ring", he added, "than make a whole bunch of really interesting, deeply personal projects that may get lost in the shuffle."

The pair's big worries - of fragmenting distribution channels, the vast choice open to audiences and a breakdown of the narrative form – add up to a world in which their own passion projects, Lincoln and Red Tails, struggled for distribution.

Citing the popularity of premium cable networks such as HBO, the rise of on-demand streaming services and consumers with increasingly large screens in their homes, Lucas believes that the multiplex will gradually become a luxury product - with prices to reflect. "You’re going to end up with fewer but bigger theaters [and] going to the movies is gonna cost you $50, $100, maybe even $150." That, even for the most hardcore of blockbuster fans, isn't pretty.

Adds Spielberg: "You’re going to have to pay $25 to see the next Iron Man and you’re probably only going to have to pay seven dollars to see Lincoln."

These two grandees of cinema - the fathers of the modern blockbuster, lest we forget - echoed some of the concerns raised recently by Steven Soderbergh (see Empire's July issue). Like Soderbergh, they pointed to the emergence of television as a threat to moviemaking, as well as an opportunity for up-and-coming talent. "The Lincolns are going to be on television," predicted Lucas, to which Spielberg added, "Mine almost was: ask HBO. This close."

Not all filmmakers share their apocalyptic vision. Duncan Jones tweeted that the pair were "out of touch" with emerging moviemaking ideas.

Check back later this morning for the full E3 transcript. In the meantime, post your thoughts below.


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Your Comments

LOL. True man, and nicely put ... look at the sullen faces on the poor hapless billionaires. They look like they haven't had a 7-course meal all week More

Posted by krishnan.virivada at 16:29 on 24 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Scared
L: danielthompson99 Yeah, with Joss Whedon, JJ Abrahms, Zack Snyder and Chris Nolan at the controls, we are all in trouble. Jealous much ? am pretty fearful of a future where braindead gym-bunny Captain Awesome (Zack Snyder) is a power-player. So sick of CG-slathered videogame cutscenes passing for cinema. And Nolan's po-faced miserablism doesn't do much for me either. I think the point to take away from this is that there are too many executives who are from business school More

Posted by Garth_Marenghi at 15:32 on 17 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Agree to an extent
LOL. True man, and nicely put ... look at the sullen faces on the poor hapless billionaires. They look like they haven't had a 7-course meal all week. More

Posted by Nicky C at 16:41 on 16 June 2013 | Report This Post

This is what they get ...
... for giving their most powerful executive roles to people who don't watch movies for a living and greenlight projects based on bullshit profit projections. People do and always have wanted nothing more than to be engaged and surprised. Be interesting and stop spending so much money on marketing techniques that are out of date! Go small, go quirky, go viral. More

Posted by Nicky C at 16:37 on 16 June 2013 | Report This Post

no you idiots
Some of you must live with nothing but box art to read. The reason that the film business is imploding is for the same reason every other thing is collapsing, we're in a Depression. In the US, first run movies and top venues cost you between $12-$15 to get through the door. Concessions for two will set you back nearly another $20. A decent meal will cost at least $40. So the quintessential date, dinner and a movie, is going to run you nearly $90. Who the hell has that kind of money? Far fewer, t More

Posted by chapstick at 19:31 on 14 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Steven Spielberg And George Lucas Predict Gloom For Hollywood At E3
Bollocks. Lucas hasn't directed a good film since the 70's, and Spielberg is a shadow of the director he once was (if you disagree, watch Raiders then Crystal Skull right after, then get back to me). They're talking shit because others have taken over from them. Four films made over a billion dollars last year, one so far this year and there will be more. With the "foreign" market expanding vastly recently, Box Office grosses will continue to rise. More

Posted by My name is Legion at 14:35 on 14 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Hollywood needs to up it's game
L: dolfinack What are these guys on? It costs me £6 to see a movie. £3 on the cheapo deal days. TF? Are you a student or something? I may be wrong, but I don't believe that 3D will be around in 10 years and if it is, it will probably be the the tent-pole movies (or even just a few of them) that will use it. It hasn't been the success that the likes of Cameron were saying/hoping it was going to be, and the only reason it's being pushed with any kind of vigor is because of th More

Posted by Filmfan 2 at 12:41 on 14 June 2013 | Report This Post

then don't make Tin Tin 2
all that money to do CGI humans?! JUST USE HUMANS AND SAVE $100 MILLION AND YA.... LEMON JELLY! More

Posted by Hughezyvstheworld at 10:03 on 14 June 2013 | Report This Post

Agree to an extent
I think they're right that the business model needs to change. They're talking about cinema's having a tough time making it work - well, how does that reconcile with Hollywood? Sounds to me like they need to make things easier for the middle-men, because they're right that Netflix has changed the game. They can't blame Netflix et al. for bringing the content to the fans - the bigger beasts like Paramount, Fox etc need to change the way they think. It's also worth noting that you're going More

Posted by Don_Lyall at 09:03 on 14 June 2013 | Report This Post

Reminds me...
of an Eric Clapton interview on the Frank Skinner show in the late 90's where he declared rock n roll all but dead and it was "all DJs now". Not saying some change isn't afoot, but I detect a hint of incredulity at the journey of their recent films. More

Posted by partybee at 07:00 on 14 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Scared
I doubt there is any jealousy here. They are speaking in terms of films going to TV formats to avoid costly theater releases. I'm sure the Directors you named are concerned as well. But keep in mind that Box Office amounts put up by their movies was put up with probably half or less ticket sales than say Spielberg's E.T. or Lucas's original Star Wars. More

Posted by mmoreloc21 at 06:38 on 14 June 2013 | Report This Post

Industry better listen.
I read a report last year that predicted theaters would have to lower prices due to lack of audience. I can see that already. I am an avid movie goer and didn't think I would ever quit going. With today's technology and home entertainment getting so much better, it is becoming more logical to stay at home. I just attended sneak peek of Man of Steel and after several reminders to turn cell phones off people still had them on. One guy answered two calls and carried on conversation during movie. Pe More

Posted by mmoreloc21 at 06:29 on 14 June 2013 | Report This Post

CGI may ultimately kill Hollywood
The other reason for movies to implode in future is numbness to CGI. Starting from Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park, and probably Avatar being the notable benchmark, we've seen directors able to tell absolutely ANY story, no restriction any more and able to tell it on camera via CGI. But once audiences are dulled to that, there is nowhere to go. Already we are seeing big budget films needing to go bigger, further, more ridiculous - because if they don't have these epic chases/battles/landscape More

Posted by sifter132 at 23:54 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Hollywood needs to up it's game
L: Cool Breeze There have always been and will continue to be box office flops but since box office records are being broken seemingly every year now it looks like cinema is going to continue to thrive while they churn out safe bet comic book movies and reboots. hurn out being the operative phrase. I think I'm more concerned with the quality of films these days. I'd say the percentage of good films is down at about 5% and that's being conservative. 19 out of 20 films I see are c More

Posted by dolfinack at 21:12 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Hollywood needs to up it's game
I respect lucas and Spielberg very much because they are responsible for many of the best cinema experiences of my filmgoing life, however i think they are wrong on the idea of hollywood heading for some sort of '' implosion ''. There have always been and will continue to be box office flops but since box office records are being broken seemingly every year now it looks like cinema is going to continue to thrive while they churn out safe bet comic book movies and reboots. More

Posted by Cool Breeze at 20:57 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Hollywood needs to up it's game
What are these guys on? It costs me £6 to see a movie. £3 on the cheapo deal days. More

Posted by dolfinack at 20:49 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Hollywood needs to up it's game
I agree completely. It's all about the quality of the writing for me. How much does it cost to make a season of Breaking Bad compared to a meaningless, needless turd like Battleship? More

Posted by Nicky C at 20:17 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Keep calm and make films
Care to prove it? 3D conversions cost about $5M. Recouping that means only having to take an extra $10M at the box office. Marketing a worldwide release, however, costs $60M. Recouping that means having to take $120M at the box office. Are you seriously saying that 3D creates more of a financial risk than the current, piss-poor, marketing model? Just do the maths, man. More

Posted by Nicky C at 20:15 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

Hang on, no one's talking about 'demise' or 'fall of Hollywood'
... they're talking about a much-needed change to the business model, and I think a change is needed. I'd love Hollywood to cap budgets and keep films in theatres for longer. Right now, they have a 'smash and grab' mentality where they spend a quarter of a billion and the metric for success is a 72-hour period i.e. opening weekend. Why not spend less, charge less and keep films in theatres for longer? Smaller, local theatres as well, not soulless multiplexes, which are just awful. Also, expand t More

Posted by Nicky C at 20:00 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

Scared
Yeah, with Joss Whedon, JJ Abrahms, Zack Snyder and Chris Nolan at the controls, we are all in trouble. Jealous much ? More

Posted by danielthompson99 at 19:34 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Keep calm and make films
Stop bringing out movies in unnecessary 3-d. The money being spent on this dead end technology is responsible for the increase in cinema prices. More

Posted by Charles B. Potatoes at 19:32 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

Hollywood needs to up it's game
TV is catching up because HW is lazy,sequel after sequel and remake after reboot,all full of shiny teeth and the rejects from 90210. More

Posted by danbo1138 at 19:31 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

Keep calm and make films
If you are passionate enough about something enough it doesn't matter... More

Posted by Alex M... at 18:25 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

they have a point
in fact i think one of the highest contributions to the fall of Cinema is going to be illegal downloads More

Posted by FlashyCactus at 17:19 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

But didn't everyone think cinema was over when VHS came about? And now look at it. Despite the prices, cinema is too popular to just dwindle away. More

Posted by Whistler at 16:26 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

Look what you created
Odd comment from the pair of them considering Spielberg and Lucas were responsible for the birth of the blockbuster in the first place with Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders, Jurassic Park etc. More

Posted by fish that roared at 16:24 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

These two
Raped our childhood and messed up Star Wars and Indie 4. More

Posted by nybras at 15:23 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

Surprise surprise, Lucas doesn't know the value of money
Also unsurprising; the people who championed 3D as the next big thing in cinema are now predicting the doom of the medium. The issue, as with all modern entertainment, is price. $250 million on one film is completely unsustainable and unnecessary. I agree that simultaneous digital and theatre releases are probably the best ways to beat the pirates but that only works if people are being charged a fair price to watch the film in the first place. Example: I love superhero films but I will no More

Posted by lsdbaby at 15:17 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

they speak the truth
the young upstarts may snort their derision at this coupla old movie brats moaning on about how 'it ain't like it used to be' and maybe that's fair comment but let's just assess for a moment. What movies are being made now? Comic book movies. Pretty much across the board blockbusters have been swallowed whole by the comic industry. And even if your movie isn't an adaptation of an actual comic the visuals are so ludicrous it might as well be. We all love a bit of silly nonsense in our movies More

Posted by leroythemasochist at 13:19 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Already Here
L: marlo the $50 movie experience is already here. That's about £33. By the time you have bought 2 3D Imax tickets at nearly £15 each then add a couple of drinks and sweets/popcorn at extortionate cinema prices and you are spending about £40. It certainly makes me think twice about which movies to see at the cinema and which to wait for on DVD. I definately go less than I used to. o stop bothering with Imax, get a Cineworld pass that gets you as many cinema trips as you want for More

Posted by Osric at 12:39 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

Already Here
the $50 movie experience is already here. That's about £33. By the time you have bought 2 3D Imax tickets at nearly £15 each then add a couple of drinks and sweets/popcorn at extortionate cinema prices and you are spending about £40. It certainly makes me think twice about which movies to see at the cinema and which to wait for on DVD. I definately go less than I used to. More

Posted by marlo at 12:34 on 13 June 2013 | Report This Post

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