Steven Spielberg saw the end of New Hollywood in the late ’70s as studios took control back from the directors they’d put so much faith in and now he seems to be predicting a similar meltdown, this time as a result of studios putting too much control in the hands of marketing teams and studio attempts to make movies for everyone.
Speaking alongside George Lucas at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the duo that most recently collaborated to bring us the modern day classic Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull spoke to an audience of film students about the current state of cinema.
“There’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown,” Spielberg said. “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.”
He talks of rising ticket prices and how films such as Man of Steel will soon cost audiences upwards of $25 (they already cost upwards of $21.50 in New York), though Lucas suspects the opposite for films such as his very own Lincoln. “I think eventually the Lincoln‘s will go away and they’re going to be on television,” Lucas said. “As mine almost was,” Spielberg added, “This close — ask HBO — this close.”
Lucas added that he sees the future of films potentially playing out with something of a Broadway play model where they are in the theater for a year or longer and ticket prices much higher. “We’re talking Lincoln and Red Tails — we barely got them into theaters. You’re talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can’t get their movie into a theater,” Lucas said. “The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller.”
Has Lucas seen his output lately? And he dares to compare Red Tails to Lincoln?
Yes, George, you can’t get a movie into a theater. The last three movies you produced were Red Tails (2012), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and all three were terrible. Add to that the Star Wars prequels and why would studios want to release anything you make without the words Star Wars or Indiana Jones in the title? Even the latter now sounds like a lost cause.
Even Spielberg couldn’t help but joke at the comparison adding, “I got more people into Lincoln than you got into Red Tails.” Forget people, let’s just stick to quality, but even Spielberg’s mentioning of getting people into his film is counterproductive to their entire argument as they lamented the high cost of marketing movies and the urge to make them for the masses while ignoring niche audiences. Lucas called cable television “much more adventurous” than film nowadays.
What is adventurous about more Star Wars and Indiana Jones films Lucas? Okay, Red Tails was a little outside the box, but director Anthony Hemingway essentially turned the film about World War II’s Tuskegee airmen into a glorified biplane version of Star Wars, overloaded with CGI battle sequences… or was that you?
Meanwhile Spielberg seems to be wanting to cut into his own business. Yes, he produces films such as Lincoln, True Grit, Super 8 and Christopher Nolan‘s upcoming Interstellar, but the majority of his producer’s credits belong to films such as Men in Black 3, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Cowboys & Aliens and Transformers 4. Aren’t these the very films they’re lamenting? You can’t eat your cake and have it too fellas.
I’d respect what they were saying more if they started producing the very films they’d like to see more of rather than Spielberg’s upcoming slate, which IMDb lists as a When Worlds Collide remake, Real Steel 2 and Jurassic Park IV.
Following Steven Soderbergh‘s “State of Cinema” speech at the San Francisco Film Festival last April this appears to be a common trend from filmmakers and I hope it continues. It’s just interesting the first speech comes from a man supposedly retiring from the business and the second comes from two men who continue to contribute the very films they say will spark the downfall.