What sounds like hyperbole coming from the Oscar-winning director, really isn’t. Steven Spielberg is watching studio after studio put all its chips on one tent-pole film after another and understands that eventually “a half dozen or so $250 million movies flop at the box office and alter the industry forever.” You can’t gamble this way forever without it eventually blowing up in your face.
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, you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln.” He also said that Lincoln came “this close” to being an HBO movie instead of a theatrical release.
Some ideas from young filmmakers “are too fringe-y for the movies,” Spielberg said. …
[George] 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.
With the surcharge for 3D, Hollywood is already seeing that they can charge more for spectacle films.
The entire film industry is now all about elephant hunting: franchises, superheroes, CGI… And rather than diversify and spread their bets across a number of cheaper films, they gamble on one or two; and should they flop, it is game over. And rather than attempting to alter the film industry into a safer, smarter business, the studios are instead pushing to get their tent-poles into countries like China, hoping that those markets can make most any film profitable.
Of course, when dealing with Chinese censors, Hollywood is eagerly selling its artistic soul. Suddenly what is essentially another form of McCarthyism and the Production Code don’t seem so bad.
What you can trace all of this back to is, in my opinion, the death of the movie star. Since audiences were first charmed by Mary Pickford’s blonde curls almost a century ago, it was the power of the movie star that created the best insurance for the film studios. People went to see Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, Steve McQueen, and Doris Day movies. Therefore, it didn’t much matter what the movie was “about.”
Today, there are no movie stars, no insurance to put enough butts in seats to squeak a profit. So what the movie is “about” is suddenly everything; and what it is “about” had better be spectacular enough to capture the attention of millions of teenagers only weighted down with too much free time and money.
But those films cost a quarter to half-billion (yes, billion, with a “B”) to market and produce.
So now, instead of playing the stock market, Hollywood is playing roulette.