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Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predict implosion of film industry

War Horse, Steven Spielberg

Story by Jack Foley

STEVEN Spielberg and George Lucas have predicted an implosion of the film industry that could lead to yet more big changes in the way films are distributed and viewed.

Speaking at the opening of a new USC School of Cinematic Arts building in the US, Spielberg took the lead by suggesting that the effect of blockbuster flops would have a knock-on effect for viewers in the future.

He also revealed that films like his own Oscar-winning Lincoln would struggle to find a place in cinemas, noting that the historical epic almost went straight to HBO instead.

Fewer risks are already being taken among the major studios as they seek to pin their hopes for financial return on tried and tested formulas such as superhero franchises and remakes or reboots.

Both Spielberg and Lucas told the Californian event that the industry was facing an extraordinary time of upheaval, where even proven talents find it difficult to get movies into theatres.

“Some ideas from young filmmakers are too fringe-y for the movies,” Spielberg said. “That’s the big danger, and there’s 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 mega-budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

The effect of that would be that audiences are “gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man, [but] you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln“.

Lucas went one step further, by stating “I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they’re going to be on television”, prompting Spielberg to reveal: “As mine almost was… this close – ask HBO – this close.”

Furthered Lucas: “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 also lamented the high cost of marketing movies, which almost inevitably led to distributors seeking out mass audiences and ignoring smaller, more niche audiences.

He said cable TV was more adventurous nowadays, once again holding HBO up as a shining example of a risk-taker. Spielberg also praised Netflix.

The duo’s comments come at a time when HBO has recently won praise for financing Steven Spielberg’s Liberace biopic Behind The Candelabra, which bigger film distributors shyed away from for being too gay.

The HBO movie subsequently debuted to some of the channel’s highest viewing figures and won widespread praise for Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in the central roles, with some critics lamenting the decision not to give it a cinema outing and thereby deprive its leading men of any chance of awards recognition at ceremonies such as the Oscars.

Ironically, Behind The Candelabra has enjoyed cinema success at Cannes and in the UK, where it debuted at No.8 at the box office despite being on limited release.

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