Monday, July 22, 2013

Laurie P.: Contemplating the Implosion

(TODAY'S GUEST: Pleased to bring in Laurie P. to get her opinion on a Hollywood "implosion" predicted by some of our biggest filmmakers. Laurie's other writings can be found at Klat, and we encourage you to follow her on Twitter.)

As we enjoy the dog days of summer, most film fans are squarely focused on the epic summer blockbuster movie season. We're all watching to see which films will come out on top each week, rising above the competition to rake in millions at the weekend box office. It's a tradition, the blockbuster movie - but is it about to become extinct?

Just as we're waiting to see which tent pole films soar at the box office, we're also anticipating a few massive failures. It happens each year: A studio puts out a high-budget, massive blockbuster and within days, it is deemed a colossal disaster. So far, in the summer of 2013, we've seen some truly epic bombs, including After Earth, The Lone Ranger and White House Down. We're not done yet, either, because, as I suggested last week, R.I.P.D. seems to be tanking as well.

What does all of this mean? If you believe two of Hollywood's most iconic film heavyweights, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, it signals doom and gloom for the movie industry. In June, Spielberg and Lucas told USC students that the industry as a whole is due for an "implosion." Spielberg, in particular, said that once you have multiple blockbuster failures in a row, studios will freak out and ticket prices will soar - but only for the so-called "big" films. Based on what I'm seeing this summer, this apocalyptic prediction is already beginning to happen. We're just a few more failures short of Spielberg's prediction.

Spielberg says it's entirely possible that movie goers will eventually shell out "$25 for the next Iron Man" and just "$7 to see Lincoln." So wait, is he suggesting that perhaps it would be better to make a non-commercial film? Will more people be willing to pay lower prices for Lincoln than oh, say, Avengers 2?

Both filmmakers warned that big changes are coming, with George Lucas suggesting that in the future, fewer blockbusters will be released and when they are, they'll stay in theaters for a long time (and cost much more than they already do).

Here's the thing: I get what both men are saying here. If I'm being really honest, this summer's blockbusters have left me fairly cold. Everything is getting recycled; everything is a sequel. I don't see a whole lot of originality. I find it downright painful to shell out $15 for less-than-stellar film, even if I'm reviewing it. Maybe an implosion wouldn't be such a bad thing? It might actually help to usher in a new golden age of movie making. Maybe a tiered pricing system would mean we won't have to deal with Transformers 11 and Grown Ups 7? No, never mind: Some will still shell out $15 for that kind of drivel, just as they did over the July 4th holiday this year.

In terms of genuinely original movie making, an implosion wouldn't necessarily be a disaster. If studios raise prices on major films, we as movie goers might stay away, putting the studios/distributors in dire financial straits. Ultimately, we, the cinephiles of the world, might benefit eventually. For argument's sake, let's look at what happens when a movie studio/distributor has huge financial problems: In the late-1960s, Paramount Pictures was in big trouble. Why? Quite frankly, the studio had put out some really, really stinker films. Things looked incredibly bleak, until lo and behold, Robert Evans was appointed head of production for Paramount (which was on the verge of bankruptcy). Over the next six years, under Evans, Paramount put out some incredibly creative films: Rosemary's Baby, Serpico, The Godfather, The Conversation, and Love Story. Evans took chances. He didn't necessarily go for big budgets. He wanted quality. Evans took a chance on a young screenwriter, Robert Towne, and one of the greatest movie scripts in history (arguably) was born with Chinatown.

Will something like this come to pass if things get wobbly for the entire film industry? Possibly. Think about it: Some of the aforementioned Paramount films were done on (relatively) lower budgets. They are all brilliant, and way better than much of what we see in theaters today. Personally, I'd pay $7 or $17 to see films of that kind of caliber, though $7 is certainly more in line with my own budget. Backing the movie industry into a collective corner could result in the studios and the directors coming out swinging.

I do take issue with the fact that the two filmmakers screaming that the sky is falling are the very people responsible for the "blockbuster" movie model. Of course, I'm sure Spielberg had no idea Jaws would take off the way it did, but still, his movies changed the way studios promote and finance these tent pole films. For Spielberg and Lucas to cry foul about how hard it is for even them to get movies made these days seems more than a little hypocritical. So now they're victims of the monster they helped to create?

Anyone disagree? Agree? Do you think these kinds of massive changes are coming and, if they do, will you ever pay $25 to see any movie, even the next Star Wars?

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