Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Future of Film

Last month Steven Spielberg and George Lucas gave a talk at the University of Southern California talking about the future of cinema. The Hollywood Reporter had the story here. The two of them have created some of the most iconic movies of all time and are responsible for changing cinema. So, when they speak about the future of cinema and how it will implode people should listen.

What will this implosion look like? Well the first thing we will see is giant flops of big budget movies. We have already seen this a few times. Last year Disney lost a lot of money with John Carter and this year Warner Brothers lost a lot of money on Jack the Giant Slayer. Both studios were saved by comic book movies. Last year with the release of The Avengers Disney made back almost all the money they lost on John Carter in the opening weekend and this year with the success of Man of Steel Warner Brothers offset their losses with Jack the Giant Slayer. But neither The Avengers nor Man of Steel were slam dunks. Both could have been huge flops then what? If a studio gambles and loses with more then one big budget movie it will quickly get in trouble and that is what Spielberg and Lucas are talking about.

Their prediction is that after multiple flops studios will do a couple of things. First thing they will do is create a tiered ticket system. The highly anticipated big blockbuster movies like Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 will have higher prices then smaller movies like Spielberg's Lincoln. There has already been some evidence that this is happening. Just days after they gave this talk Paramount announced a World War Z Mega Ticket. The Mega Ticket cost $50 and would get you to see the movie a day earlier and include a digital copy of the movie when it is released on video. They only offered it in 5 markets and I haven't heard how successful it was but I think this is something we will see more of.

We are also starting to see a change in the way smaller movies are seen. Instead of getting released in theaters they are getting released on VOD and HBO. What does it say about the movie industry that a movie like Behind the Candelabra has to be shown on HBO because no one would distribute it. It has an Oscar winning director, an Oscar winning actor and an Oscar nominated actor. It is also one of the best reviewed movies of the year but it wont be seen on the big screen. Spielberg says that Lincoln was almost released on HBO which isn't too surprising since he has a history with HBO with shows like Band of Brothers and The Pacific. But how sad is it that the man who invented the modern day blockbuster can barely get his movies released in theaters.

As VOD becomes more and more profitable studios are starting to release more of their smaller movies there. They are even trying to come up with ways to increase profitability For example the Sundance movie Two Mothers had its name changed to Adore because in theory titles that start with A are more visible on VOD. Studios are also trying to see if they can charge more for bigger movies while they are still in theaters. Universal tried it with Tower Heist in 2011. They were going to offer it for $60 just 3 weeks after it was released in theaters. Theater owners complained that it would hurt their profits and Universal changed its mind. But Disney and Sony recently had a trial run in Korea showing Django Unchained and Brave 5 weeks after it was released there. No idea if it worked yet or if they have plans to start doing it in the U.S. but if it turns out to be profitable you know it will show up here sooner rather then later.

George Lucas also mentioned that movies will follow the Broadway model of releasing movies.  Meaning that fewer movies will be released and they would stay in theaters longer.  Which means movies like Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel would hang out in theaters for over a year. This model works for Broadway but not sure if it will work for Hollywood.  But as Spielberg pointed out E.T. was in theaters for over a year when it was released.  It's hard to imagine studios going to that kind of model at least in the near future but as things change you never know.

Cracked recently but their spin on the news here.

An aside:
One of the other thoughts that came to mind when I was writing about Behind the Candelabra was how sad that none of the people involved will get recognized come Oscar time.  I realize that they will get tons of Emmy nominations but imagine if Spielberg had released Lincoln on HBO Daniel Day Lewis would not have received his well deserved 3rd Oscar.  Which brings up the question if the way studios release movies should the Academy change their rules to allow these types of movies nominations or should studios like HBO release those movies in required number of theaters to qualify it before releasing it on TV.  Documentaries already have this pleasure.  If a doc plays in certain film festivals it becomes eligible for an Oscar even if it ends up getting released on HBO.

1 comment:

  1. One lengthy comment...I think the days when movies ruled, in terms of creative content, are over. Top notch writers, directors, cinematographers are flocking to TV not because they have to, but because they have greater freedom through HBO, AMC, FX and other networks that produce high concept TV.

    Steve Buscemi, Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Alicia Silverstone, Diane Kruger, Mira Sorvino, Matt Damon, Laaura Linney, Gabory Sidibe, Kelly McDonald, Anna Paquin, Kate Winslet, Guy Pearce, Dustin Hoffman, Vera Farmiga, Nick Nolte, Alec Baldwin, Robin Wiliams, Jessica Lange, Laura Dern...these are just a few movie actors who have committed to TV projects including series in many cases. Directors like Scorsese, Sodebergh, Van Sant, Haynes and Oliver Stone have done TV projects recently. When Judd Apatow wanted to add the talented indie darling, Lena Dunham, to his stable; he sidestepped movies and chose HBO to showcase her writing/directing/acting chops.

    I think part of the paradigm shift for the entertainment industry will be a recognition that TV is no longer inferior to film...different, perhaps, but not a lesser medium.

    As a viewer, I find series like Breaking Bad and Justified, for example, to be more original, exciting and better crafted than most of what I've seen coming out of the movie studios in recent years. Series like The Wire are on a par with the best Hollywood has ever had to offer.

    This may also, eventually, affect the impact of the Academy Awards on the industry. The Emmy's have become as competitive as the Oscars and the caliber of nominees is on a par with those for the Oscars.

    Is Bryan Cranston's 62 episode performance in Breaking Bad, for which he may well earn a record fourth Emmy, any less remarkable than Daniel Day Lewis' recreation of Abraham Lincoln? I don't think so.

    As the studios continue to roll out these big, bloated, often disorganized and incoherent blockbusters; the lean, mean denizens of TV land are dancing circles around them.