Going Extinct

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had a discussion about the future of the film business. If anyone can predict events in movie making it should be these guys, right? Click through. The quick synopsis is that the expensive blockbuster is going to break the system as we know it. Smaller-budgeted films will be (and are now) produced on cable TV or at Netflix.

What makes the article noteworthy to me is the tone of lament. The guys don’t seem happy with the idea that things change. Much to their possible chagrin, Lucas and Spielberg (known political liberals) have come out as artistic conservatives.

Stuart’s comment on my Anna post has continued a thought I’ve been developing. I (much to my chagrin) am becoming an artistic liberal.

Is it possible that my love of Anna, a very arty film, is a product mostly of my generation? In that regard, George and Steven and I would fall within the same baby boomer classification. These are the kind of films we were raised on. We enjoy movies that require you unsuspend some of your disbelief and remain consciously engaged. Nothing is wrong with that.

The error is to devalue other kinds of films just because they may not fit a preference. Those kids and their rock ‘n’ roll! I happen to enjoy the summer popcorn movie. How ironic that the inventors of that exact genre now disdain it. Their predictions for the future make the industry sound bleak. I would only say that the future looks . . . different. Home entertainment systems now rival the movie theater experience. Why in the world would I regret leaving my own house for content? The movie business will change based on customer preferences. Win-win.

Most of the men’s commentary I chalk up to nostalgia. However, they decide to open their mouths about gaming. Rut-roh.

[quote]Lucas and Spielberg 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.[/quote]

Gentlemen, video games aren’t supposed to make us care about characters. I am the character in a game.

Game developers are just Dungeon Masters with sophisticated drawing programs. Sometimes they provide a story (and can do an excellent job at it) and sometimes they provide the outline of a story for me to finish. Each playthrough is a new story if I want, and a new character.

I’m really cranky when non-gamers pontificate about gaming.

Anyone who predicts the future of visual entertainment without knowledge of the gaming culture will predict wrong. I’m very curious to see what Spielberg will do with his Halo project. I’m not convinced that he knows how to develop a gaming IP. If Neill Blomkamp were heading the project my interest would be through the roof. He games.

Spielberg and Lucas have become old guys. They seem to have made no effort to learn the next generation’s art form. As time passes, their opinions will become less and less relevant until no one listens to them at all.

This is why I am persuaded to become more liberal. Some traditions are important to conserve. I would hate to see all funding for a movie like Anna dry up. Not all movies will be or should be in this “small movie” style. Only when the critic can look at all entertainment forms, including the gaming experience,  and value what they deliver will that person’s criticism resonate.

I mean, day-um, guys. You wouldn’t even be giving your “big budgets are taking over” speech if Jaws and Star Wars hadn’t broken the blockbuster wide open. Have you no sense of your own place in film history? How sad that such great innovators have not chosen to maintain their relevance.

The world doesn’t stand still for us. Culture will leave us behind if we earlier generations don’t try to keep up.



  1. What fascinating irony. I can’t help loving it, even though, like you, I’m kind of sad to see these two drain their own cinematic relevance.

  2. I had read that article prior to reading your post about it and I came away with some different observations. I found their main point to be that IF several blockbusters were to fail at once (I think he even guesses at the number required to tip the scale) THEN there would be a paradigm shift resulting in higher ticket prices for blockbusters (he mentions $25 per ticket). Then they whine on and on about how ET stayed in theaters for a year…Lincoln… how all the creative risks are being taken on the small screen …Lincoln… blah blah, whine, whine… Lincoln…
    As you point out, they are idiots who have “Grand Kasdened” themselves into irrelevance.

    But it did make me think of a few things…
    First, I find the idea that a system, in this case the film industry as we know it, is being recognized by its own insiders as in jeopardy of collapse due to its extreme over leveraging of one of its products, in this case the blockbuster, as being strikingly similar to the film Margin Call, wherein the over leveraging of mortgages collapses the entire banking industry. I think Lucas and pals are fools to believe that the result will be higher ticket prices, although that might be a stop gap before the real effect, namely that all movie theaters will go the way of the drive-in, and the home theater will become king.
    I had more, but alas, we over leveraged our wine consumption and a crisis has befallen the household … to the store!

Leave a Reply