Spielberg and Lucas Predict Tough Times Ahead

Photo Credit: Empire Online

Photo Credit: Empire Online

Implosion expected when large budget films fail

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

At a forum at the USC film school, film icons George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg peaked into the future and saw a bleak outlook for the motion picture industry. With high ticket prices and even higher film budgets, both producer/directors believe it’s only a matter of time before a series of high profile box office flops will turn the movie business on its head.  Are they right?

There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm. – Steven Spielberg

Speaking as part of the celebration of the opening of the USC School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building, George Lucas said that the high cost of marketing movies is causing lower budget independent or niche films to be either lost in the shuffle, or relegated to cable television where more limited audiences will see them.   Spielberg agreed and said that his Academy Award nominated film “Lincoln,” almost ended up on HBO.

“The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller,” Lucas said. “I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they’re going to be on television,” Lucas said. “As mine almost was,” Spielberg interjected. “This close — ask HBO — this close.”   And in a quip that only close friends can utter, Spielberg took a playful jab at Lucas by reminding him that Lincoln sold more tickets than Red Tails.

Spielberg also envisioned that once the inevitable meltdown comes, movie fans may find that the films they want to see will be extremely expensive, in the same real as a Broadway show.  “… “you’re gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man,” predicted the ET director, “you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln.”  Citing Spielberg’s ET as an example, Lucas agreed and said that not only that, but fewer movies will be released and they will play longer in theaters.   ET played in theaters for nearly a year in a half during it’s 1982 initial release.  I remember that because I was a theater manager in college and we had the film the entire time.

But that was also before a matured home video market, video on demand, and streaming.  In the last 30 years, the release to blu-ray window has dropped from a year to as short as three months. But Lucas and Spielberg have a point on ticket prices.  They are climbing, and rapidly.  In fact, ticket prices have gone up every year, and sometimes more than once in that year, since ET was in theaters.  And there’s no sign that ticket prices are going to peak.  And as a result, fewer people are going to the movies and choosing instead to have home theater systems and blu-ray players.  Since the release window is so brief, why not?  Then, they end up going to movie theaters only for big budget films like Iron Man or Man of Steel.

But both are dead on their prediction that a half dozen high budget box office flops will change all that.  And then, all bets are off. And suddenly, Lucas retiring and selling Star Wars is really starting to make sense.

Hat Tip – THR

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.


  1. Bradley says:

    If hollywood put out great films like star wars,saving private ryan,the hurtblocker,zero dark thirty and NOT crap like avitar and remakes of movie that were out already such as total recall there probably would not be as much of a concern.

  2. Eric Jolley says:

    Lucas retiring made sense before any talks of a movie industry meltdown. I think he’s a better businessman than he is a director and he simply ran out of good ideas for his franchise. And I think it took him way too long to realize that.

    They could be right about the imminent crash, but I’d love if they were proven wrong. Lucas and Spielberg have had their day(s) in the sun and more. I think it’s too tempting to yell, “the system is broke!” on your way out. Not to say the system isn’t broke; I think it is, but is that why they’re on their way out?