Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Robots to the Rescue?

Earlier this year, while speaking to students at the University of Southern California, Steven Spielberg foretold of the impending "implosion" of the movie industry as we know it. His reasoning was the failure of many "megabudget" movies to turn a profit. "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," he told the crowd attending the opening of USC's School of Cinematic Arts' new Interactive Media Building.

Spielberg's estimation wasn't that big-budget movies no longer would be made, but that the pricing structure for seeing such films would cost theater goers more than an independent film, for example. He suggested the ticket price to see the next Iron Man type of movie could be $25. He might not be far off base.

If you believe the words of movie producer and author Lynda Obst, then "spectacular, Cameron-inspired technology" is all Hollywood has left to showcase. Obst argues in her book, "Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales From the New Abnormal in the Movie Business," that 70% to 80% of studios' revenues are from foreign box offices – particularly China and India – places that produce their own comedies, dramas and other "small" films. Therefore, she says, all that Hollywood has to offer the overseas audiences whose entertainment spending they crave are "razzle-dazzle effects."

If this is Hollywood's future, I can live with it. There are plenty of other outlets for creative writing and storytelling – cable and network television, and online entertainment sources such as Netflix and Hulu, which already are producing their own original programming. Spielberg can see the writing on the wall; he produces the very entertaining Falling Skies for TNT. What I can't live with are continual regurgitations, reboots and unending sequels. Fewer Fast & Furious variations or Superman remakes. More Pacific Rim. If all we're going to see in theaters are "big" movies, I don't want to see another superhero remake. Clearly, the man of steel can't rescue Hollywood. But perhaps men and women fighting for our planet from inside steel robots can.

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