A panel discussion at the University of Southern California had Steven Spielberg and George Lucas spouting bleak visions of the future for students.
Their supposedly magisterial understanding of the inner workings of the film distribution world came off as more of a basic statistical comprehension when the two made very dull predictions about the future of film pricing, economics, and marketing.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the two would disappoint, the last time the two film brats got together to make something together, they properly tarnished their shared legacy with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Lucas and Spielberg were keen to assume that the same trends in entertainment would continue and would render the movie industry into a state of bland dystopia, not unlike the world of THX 1138.
"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," Spielberg said, as if he didn’t event the blockbuster film himself (he did), "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 [so much media a person can watch in a given day].”
He and Lucas claimed, quite safely, that those “really interesting” films would move to television, where they could find nicer audiences for a lower profit threshold.
They also predicted that, given film’s increasingly short theatrical runs and quickfire transitions to DVD and BLU-ray, movie tickets will take on varying prices, and will run simultaneously with at-home releases. Again, predictions like these are less of a dire prophetic vision and more of a “if things keep going this way …” type speculation.
It would be unfair to expect Lucas and Spielberg to somehow anticipate the weather with the accuracy and tenacity of an exciting five day forecast, but there is something to be said about their sway at this point in time. These two gentlemen were addressing students at their alma mater, one of the finest film schools in the world, and are being treated like royalty for their rather pedestrian predictions. They are decrying the results of the blockbuster culture, even though their films created that all-or-nothing budget mentality. They talk about executives and studio heads as if they are not big executives and studio heads themselves.
When will the reverence stop for these two humans? They tapped into the sentimental, visually stimulated child in all of us time and time again, but really that should not cut it. To make matters worse, Lucas sugar-coated this slow curdling annihilation of the film industry with some clichéd nugget about this disruption of money and stable market shares that somehow make "now the best time we can possibly have." These are not filmmakers, they are confectioners, and even their doomsday scenarios are filled with soppy dross.
Minority Report is really awesome, however.