Commentary: Two legendary filmmakers predict a movie industry 'implosion'

Paul Bond, The Hollywood Reporter, 6/12/13

[At an event last week] Steven Spielberg predicted an "implosion" in the film industry is inevitable, whereby a half dozen or so $250 million movies flop at the box office and alter the industry forever. What comes next -- or even before then -- will be price variances at movie theaters, where "you're gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man, [while] you're probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln." George Lucas agreed that massive changes are afoot, including film exhibition morphing somewhat into a Broadway play model, whereby fewer movies are released, they stay in theaters for a year and ticket prices are much higher. His prediction prompted Spielberg to recall that his 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial stayed in theaters for a year and four months. The two legendary filmmakers were speaking at USC, [with Spielberg telling] students they are learning about the industry at an extraordinary time of upheaval, where even proven talents find it difficult to get movies into theaters. Lucas lamented the high cost of marketing movies and the urge to make them for the masses while ignoring niche audiences. He called cable television "much more adventurous" than film nowadays. [They] also spoke of vast differences between filmmaking and video games because the latter hasn't been able to tell stories and make consumers care about the characters. Which isn't to say the two worlds aren't connected. Spielberg, in fact, has teamed with Microsoft to make a "TV" show for Xbox 360 based on the game Halo and he is making a movie based on the game Need for Speed.


Reply: Spielberg & Lucas are right, but we've been here before

Drew McWeeny,, 6/15/13

Ultimately, what Spielberg is describing is something that I think has to happen and should happen. More importantly, it's something that has happened before. Hollywood had lost its way completely in the late '60s, and the things they were cranking out were increasingly aimed at an audience that did not exist, an audience that used to exist but that simply wasn't there anymore. Audiences were hungry for something new, and in a post-Easy Rider world, they got it. Someone finally started speaking to audiences in a language they recognized again, and the power order shifted completely, and the industry managed to grow back in a new and different way. Well, that time is here again, and the real lesson to take from history is that filmmakers will find a way to bend the system to their will, and the ones who figure out how to reach this new audience and how to speak to them in a way that connects will help create whatever the next version of our industry is. Distribution may change, the places and the ways we watch things may change, but deep down, it will always be about filmmakers telling stories that people want to see. Big stories or small stories is not the point now, and it never really is. What matters is that we stop chasing the money and we stop pretending that cranking out pre-processed crap is the way to fix anything. Audiences deserve better, and so do filmmakers. I have no doubt change is coming. But I refuse to be afraid of it.


Commentary: Technology is why Hollywood is at the end of its latest Golden Age

Excerpt from Lynda Obst's new book Sleepless in Hollywood posted on, 6/15/13

[Movie producer and former studio head Peter Chernin explains:] "People will look back and say that probably, from a financial point of view, 1995 through 2005 was the golden age of this generation of the movie business." He paused. "That golden age appears to be over.... Let me give you the simplest math. The movie business...runs at about a 10% profit margin... The DVD business represented 50% of their profits. The decline of that business means their entire profit could come down between 40-50% for new movies." Peter said [the decline in DVD sales] "was partially driven by the recession, but I think it was more driven by technology." There it was. Technology had destroyed the DVD. "The international market will still grow," he said, "but the DVD sell-through business is not coming back again. Consumers will buy their movies on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon et al. before they will purchase a DVD." What had been our profit margin has gone the way of the old media. Then Peter said "...a few studio heads said to me privately about two years ago... 'We don't even know how to run a [profit-and-loss statement] right now. We don't know what our P&L looks like because we don't know what the DVD number is!' ...Those studios are frozen. [They] are...terrified to do anything because they don't know what the numbers look like." Of course they are. It was like a cold shower in hard numbers. There was none of the extra cash that fueled competitive commerce, gut calls, or real movies, the extra spec script purchase, the pitch culture, the grease that fueled the way things had always been done. We [are] running on empty, searching for sources of new revenue.


Commentary: A big problem is that Hollywood doesn't care about women

Linda Holmes, National Public Radio's "Monkey See" blog, 6/14/13

In many, many parts of the country right now, if you want to go to see a movie in the theater and see a current movie about a woman -- any story about any woman that isn't a documentary or a cartoon -- you can't. You cannot. There are not any. It's pretty much a solid, impenetrable wall of movies about dudes. Dudes in capes, dudes in cars, dudes in space, dudes drinking, dudes smoking, dudes doing magic tricks, dudes being funny, dudes being dramatic, dudes flying through the air, dudes blowing up, dudes getting killed, dudes saving and kissing women and children, and dudes glowering at each other. Somebody asked me this morning what "the women" are going to do about this. I don't know. I honestly am at the point where I have no idea what to do about it. Stop going to the movies? Boycott everything? You can apparently make an endless collection of high-priced action flops and everybody says "win some, lose some," but it feels like every "surprise success" about women is an anomaly and every failure is an abject lesson about how we really ought to just leave it all to The Rock. Nobody remembers, it seems, how many people said Bridesmaids would fail. And it didn't! But it didn't matter. I have no idea what the women are going to do about it. It helps when critics, including men, care about the way women artists are treated and make it their problem to share. It helps when people go out of their way to see any kind of film that's about people other than themselves. It helps when we acknowledge that what we have right now is a Hollywood entertainment business that has pretty much entirely devoted itself to telling men's stories -- and to the degree that's for business reasons, it's because they've gotten the impression we've devoted ourselves to listening to men's stories. But for crying out loud, let's at least notice.


Changes ahead at the influential Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences?

Michael Cieply, The New York Times, 6/17/13

In theaters, it's blockbuster season. But inside Hollywood's film business, summer is the time for sly winks, silent nods and the barely visible ritual of an annual realignment of offices and membership at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This year, the process -- never say "campaign," because one is invited to join or take office -- is more consequential than usual. A successor [to the current president] will be selected who may be in place for as long as four years. That should be time enough to finish a $300 million movie museum; to sort out contract renewals for two top executives; and to wrestle anew with perennial questions about the sustainability of the annual Oscar ceremony, [which last year] provided nearly 87% of the organization's $103.2 million in revenue. Across time, steady growth in the academy's wealth and reach changed the character of its [unpaid] presidency. One school of thought holds that a paid management team is now solid enough to manage the academy's day-to-day business. That would allow for the selection of a part-time president with a top-flight executive day job. That camp is leaning toward Robert G. Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate's busy motion picture group. But others contend [the paid staff] have yet to completely find their footing after a year that brought hitches in the conversion to digital Oscar voting, and a widely criticized, though much-watched, performance by a notably rude Oscar host, Seth MacFarlane. Some of those are more inclined toward Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is seen as the consummate [Academy] insider. And as an African-American, she has helped wrestle with one of the group's thornier problems, calls for more diversity within the academy's membership and leadership.

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