Lately there has been an article from the Hollywood Reporter making the rounds entitled "Steven Spielberg Predicts 'Implosion' of Film Industry". The gist of the article is this: Hollywood is having an increasingly difficult time luring audiences into movie theatres. Studios are committing more and more money to a few extravagantly big budget films to try to stand out from the herd. Bigger budgets make it harder and harder to break even at the box office and it is only a matter of time before enough big-budget films fail at the box office at the same time before the Hollywood model as we know it passes on into history.
This is not, in fact, news.
Consider the last time you watched a movie. Now consider the last time that you went to a movie theatre. Back before televisions and VCRs and DVD players and Internet streaming and Netflix the only way you could see a movie was to go to a movie theatre. Movies made a lot of money at the box office because a lot of people went to the theatre- there wasn't any other option. Now we have more options than we know what to do with: we can watch a movie on the 1" screen of our iPod nano or on our 60" home theatre system. We can watch movies on the bus. We can watch movies while standing in line at the DMV. The movie theatre still holds a special place in our hearts because it is a special outing, not because the experience is markedly better than we could get at home.
So yes, the minute that it became easier to watch movies at home than to go to the theatre Hollywood began its decent towards implosion.
Should we be worried?
Filmmaking, like many art forms, gets better when forced to solve problems creatively. And the complete breakdown of How The Industry Works is a big juicy problem with lots of creative solutions. Perhaps we will at last be able to see a major movie that doesn't end in a number or that concentrates on things like "character" and "plot" instead of CGI and "wow factor". There is already an extremely healthy generation of independent filmmakers ready not only to tell new kinds of stories but to find new screens to put them on.
For the current generation of filmmakers the so-called implosion of Hollywood is going to be an obstacle, certainly, but it's not going to set us back considerably: we will have to learn the new system but we won't have to unlearn the old one. In fact, the people with the most at risk for this kind of industry wide shake-down are the proven talents- the George Lucas' and Steven Spielbergs of the world who are undisputed masters of the blockbuster. These are the people who will have to give up the methods that made them successful in the first place "on-the-big-screen" in order to stay successful in the new "world-of-many-screens".
So it may be the end of an era for filmmaking, but it isn't the end of filmmaking itself. Stay tuned: it just gets better from here.
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