The movie industry is absolutely changing. That's undeniable.
But exactly where will these changes lead us? Steven Spielberg thinks to an implosion. And George Lucas agrees.
Speaking at an event at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Spielberg and Lucas predicted a not-so-distant future where major blockbusters cost $25 per ticket, while films like Spielberg's own Lincoln will cost $7.
Spielberg also revealed that Lincoln came very close to becoming an HBO movie. Add that to Lucas' Red Tails, and both filmmakers have had to fight to get their last movie made. These are the people that brought us Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars.
"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,” says Spielberg.
While I agree that the low-concept franchise film is indelibly altering the landscape of the film industry, it's hard to imagine a world where a half-dozen mega-budget films fail to at least break even, given the giant, under-discussed influence of foreign markets.
Take a film like John Carter, which was considered a disastrous flop. The $250 million movie only made $73 million in US theaters. But add in foreign ticket sales, and Disney actually made $32 million (not a great profit margin, but still not a loss).
But this all serves to further Mr. Spielberg's point. A great little film like the recent Kings of Summer is not worth making, because the Chinese market won't care about it.
Slap a recognizable franchise title and a huge movie star onto it, and all of a sudden it's viable. If it were Call of Duty: Kings of Summer starring Channing Tatum, it'd do great (just me typing that out made a studio somewhere $600 million).
Believe me, as someone who writes hundreds of film-related headlines a week, the colon is ubiquitous in Hollywood (and it makes headline-writing a lot harder). Colons generally mean franchise films with insane titles (Giant Dude: Fall of the Sun Beast, Undercurrent of Destiny: The System of Malice, or Jump Higher! 3D: A Lunchtime of Malcontentment).
The mega-budget franchise is not a bad thing. Some good films have been borne from that concept. But the fact that American teenagers and foreign markets have basically all of the buying power means that they may quickly become the only thing we see in theaters anymore. Television is already outdoing film in the "compelling story" department, and that will likely only become more true.
The biggest problem I see with this trend? Low-concept. Low-concept is dreadful. It's an utter disaster. Hollywood, I beg you, stop making movies where the plot is just "oh, it's the new Star Trek movie" or "Batman's there!" Those are not plots!