In the world of film there is one name that is synonymous with success. Steven Spielberg. Since 1974, Steven has been showing the world that he has the talent to produce and/or direct motion pictures that leave an imprint in our minds and that have set the bar for what defines a movie as a “blockbuster”. When you browse through his filmography there aren’t many box office or critical failures that tarnish his qualifications as a titan of the movies. Empire of the Sun, Always, and Amistad are the only films that are considered as box office failures even though they still brought in modest yet not typical Spielberg numbers at the box office. His only critical failures were the somewhat of a comedy 1941, starring Dan Akroyd and John Belushi, and the fantasy adventure film Hook, starring Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams. (*note… If you have never seen Hook then your childhood was left incomplete.)
Steven’s net worth is somewhere in the $3 billion dollar range which places him and his good buddy and loyal companion, George Lucas, as the highest grossing directors in Hollywood. And while Steven and his films continue to rake in the dollars at the box office there is a dark cloud that he says is hanging over Hollywood that may doom the megabudget movie system forever.
In a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter, Spielberg talked about how he worries that it is getting harder and harder for film makers like himself to get movies released in the theater. The troublesome thought that lurks inside his mind is that movie theaters may one day lean towards the Broadway theater model where there will only be a select few movies at a time in theaters that run for 1 1/2 to 2 years while charging ridiculous amounts of money for a single ticket. He goes on to talk about how it was difficult for him to get his 2012 biopic Lincoln into theaters and how it almost became an HBO aired film. He claims that the mindset for film making is getting smaller and the days of the blockbuster might be numbered when there are back to back financial failures of big budget movies and the theater chains change the system. With the instant excitement that comes with a movie where the name Spielberg is attached it is hard for me not to wonder if this could actually happen and if it did………would this really be a problem for him?
Going to see a movie in the theater is and always will be an experience. Sitting in the movie theater gives us a chance to escape from our lives and live in a world of endless possibilities for a couple of hours. We already spend ridiculous amounts of money to enjoy a movie at the theater. $12 for a ticket, $5 for a soda , $6 for a hotdog, and if your a good little boy or girl…..$4 for an ice cream sandwich that you could have bought at 7-Eleven for $2. While most of us have found ways to sneak in food and drinks we still are willing to shell out the money for a ticket to experience that feeling we have while our eyes are glued to the enormous screen in front of us. Even if the movie is terrible we still say to ourselves in the parking lot ” At least I got out of the house for a while.” We hold these truths to be self evident. (Sorry….had to throw in the Lincoln reference) If you don’t already know, it is the major theater chains that dictate what is released into the theaters and pressure the studios to produce films that are guaranteed to draw huge crowds that are pounding down their doors to get in to see the movie. The reason why they don’t allow outside food and beverages is because it is the concessions where a theater makes their bread and butter.
The theater chains only receive a fraction of the box office sales. If the day comes that the major theaters do change the system that Spielberg is predicting then yes it will be even more difficult for up and coming directors like myself to get our movies shown in theaters but I doubt that the theater chains are stupid enough to try and adapt that way of movie experience. The studios won’t allow it because they know that if they are limited to the amount of movies that they can get into theaters then their bank accounts are going to become a lot smaller.
Even if this were the case and they do decide to pull the plug on the traditional system, I highly doubt that this would pose a threat to Spielberg and the other major film makers that are already guaranteed carte blanche. If this were to happen then I predict a major revolution within the film community that is actually long over due at this current point. What is Steven’s advice for us new film makers? Think smaller. Sure thing Mr .Spielberg. We’ll forget about making our big budget ideas so that you can continue to dominate at the box office. Shut up America. Steven Spielberg is talking.
This article was first posted on June 19, 2013