How Spielberg's "Hollywood Implosion" theory isn't that crazy after all

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Last week, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas made a bold prediction regarding the future of the film industry, saying prices will skyrocket for blockbusters after a few 250Mil+ failures. Online, the reception of these comments has been pretty harsh to say the least, with Duncan Jones summarizing the comments as a "a fascinating insight into 2 out of touch, old men." That pretty much sums up the viewpoint of the internet, but really, people are forgetting how much Lucas and Spielberg know about the industry. The most common criticism of the statement is simply mentioning the prequel trilogy and Crystal Skull. But really, those two films are irrelevant to the directors' insights and knowledge of the industry. Spielberg continues to make highly acclaimed films, such as Lincoln from just last year. Is the internet's attention span so short that they actually forgot about Spielberg's award-nominated blockbuster. Lucas, on the other hand, has a different perspective- one of failure, after he fought with studios to make Red Tails and even after its completion, Lucas failed to get the marketing he desired, resulting in lackluster box office returns. In essence, the two are saying that in the near future, studios will lose huge amount of money on blockbusters. As a result, high-budgeted films will then have higher ticket prices, while lower-budgeted films will actually see a reduction of prices. Spielberg says that something like Iron Man 3 will cost $25 to see, while something like Lincoln will cost just $7. Spielberg goes on to say that in the future, blockbusters will be major events, like live sports or concerts, and thus will have premium prices. Many people claim that this is unrealistic, since today, films are almost instantly available online via a pirated copy, and people will simply stop going if prices raise that much. However, these critics seem to forget several things about Hollywood. First, Hollywood has always been about gimmicks designed to put people in seats, and have been doing so since the dawn of television. Be it 3-D, Imax, or a new experience, studios and theaters will invent ways to get people into theaters and if needed, make going to the cinema a major event. However, there's surely a limit. At some point, prices will be so high that people will just download a bootleg. But perhaps the biggest step in Spielburg's prediction coming a reality is Hollywood cracking down on piracy once and for all. Copyright laws will soon be altered, and very well could give studios more power to prosecute those that supply the illegal copies of movies, and even those who download them. If prices are raised drastically, studios would be able to force cinemas into hiring additional employees who monitor theaters looking for those with recording equipment. These could be trained studio employees, working at individual theaters with licenses to "high-piracy" releases, equipped with special tools, knowledge and legal powers to stop would-be bootleggers and pirates. If the theater refuses to comply, then they simply stop getting blockbusters, driving down their attendance and revenue. Watermarks can be subtly placed over images, which is already being done with the Prima Cinema, a $35,000 device which allows individuals to watch first-run Hollywood films in their own home. the watermarks are undetectable to the human eye, but can be seen by computer programs easily. If each theater had a personal watermark on each print of a film, a leaked copy could be tracked to the theater, and even a particular screening. So, with raised security and strengthened legal powers, piracy can be seriously halted. If piracy is stifled, films could play for longer periods of time, and an eventual home video release could take place over a year after a theatrical release. I personally have no doubt that if something like Iron Man 3 was exclusive to cinemas for an entire year or more, people would flock to see it, no matter the price. Sure, less would likely be sold, but since the price of a ticket would be up 250%, and it would be screening for several months at a time, its budget would be quickly recovered. I am not saying Spielberg and Lucas are correct. Many variables are in play, but it is foolish to write off their predictions as two out of touch old men. At the very least, the world of high-budget cinema will soon change radically.

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Andrew W

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