“Damn, I wish Spielberg would just stand still and take it like a man.”

The Front Page – March 5, 2006:

Leave it to “Star Wars” creator George Lucas to pronounce the death of the Hollywood blockbuster.

“The market forces that exist today make it unrealistic to spend $200 million on a movie,” said Lucas, a near-billionaire from his feverishly franchised outer-space epics. “Those movies can’t make their money back anymore. Look at what happened with ‘King Kong.'” The portly Lucas, whose “Star Wars” sequel was nominated for the Oscar in makeup, was clearly in Yoda mode at Saturday’s Weinstein Co. party — Harvey Weinstein’s first Oscar bash since he abandoned Miramax to Disney last year. “I think it’s great that the major Oscar nominations have gone to independent films,” Lucas told me, adding that it’s no accident that the “small movies” outclassed the spectaculars in this year’s Academy Awards. “Is that good for the business? No — it’s bad for the business. But moviemaking isn’t about business. It’s about art!”

“In the future, almost everything that gets shown in theaters will be indie movies,” Lucas declared. “I predict that by 2025 the average movie will cost only $15 million.”

  1. Kent Goldings says:

    I don’t know what Goerge has been smoking. The movies are not about art, they’re about cash-flow. Those quirky indy movies don’t have a mass appeal of the huge blockbusters.

    Big movies that pack in the audiences can be a huge cash cow. Who cares if a move costs 200 million. The money spent generates jobs for artists. If a movie covers it’s expense, it’s a success for everyone who worked on it. If it makes an extra 50 million dollars. That’s still 50 million.

    If y ear2025 movie producers plan to spend and average of 15 million to produces their movies than the motion picture business will be dead. Fifteen million per movie doesn’t provide enough wages for the industry to survive. RIP hollywood.

  2. Didn’t Lucas also predict that nobody would want the DVD? They’d go for laserdisc instead, right?

  3. Greg says:

    Um, wasn’t Lord of the Rings not that long ago? I can’t speak for King Kong because I haven’t seen it, but I think all this shows is that you can’t shovel money into special effects to save a weak story anymore.

  4. Dave Drews says:

    Ask Jim Cameron about this. He’s finally going back into production on several very large budget films.

    Having said that, the cost of production should eventually decrease dramatically as more is shot on hidef video and the cost of digital fx drops. Of course, spending $20+ on a star (heard something about Reese Witherspoon, Oscar in hand, has bumped her asking price to $30 mil) changes things. The cost of production minus stars could get to what George is talking about.

  5. Alex says:

    Well Lucas is one to talk. The last three Star War mvies bear a lot to blame for the failure of he block buster. The only reason those movies were made was so Lucas could have some retirement money.

    The falilure of the block buster at the box office is due to three things. First DVDs, second home theaters and third the shitty experience one has at the movie theater these days.

    The first two are obvious. DVDs are much cheaper than goint to the movies and home theaters get larger and better every day. But even if you don’t have a plasma screen and Dolby 5.1 surround sound, the movie theater experience these days leaves much to be desired. Aside from the size of the screens which has shrunk dramatically in the last twenty years, people don’t know how to behave in a movie theater anymore. It used to be that people would be quiet during a movie. Now if you are lucky, the people around you just talk to each other. I still remember while watching Saving Private Ryan, in the middle of the most intimate moment some bozo’s phone in the front row rings loudly. The idiot doesn’t just answer the phone and say in a low voice, “sorry I am in a movie, can I call you back?” No he keeps talking as if he was all alone at home! And ticket prices these days are incredibly high. You have a worse experience than ever in a tiny theater with a miniature screen and loud idiots taking calls during the movie. If that wasn’t enough you pay an obscene amount of money for a soda and popcorn these days. A family ends up paying well over $100 for a couple of hours of entertaiment. Why do that if you can watch the DVD at home for under $20?

    If the movie industry wants to bring people back to the theater, they need to improve the experience of watching movies. Today, it is just too expensive to go to the theater to be surrouned by assholes who are talking on the phone and chatting between themselves. They have too much competition to have let the movie watching experience degrade like this. If they were the only entertainment in town, they might have gotten away with it. We are not in the 50’s anymore, people have many other entertainment choices. I only watch movies that I know will look best in a big screen. Why bother going to the theater for a movie I can rent for a small fraction of the cost three months later?

    Besides if are to believe Hollywood accountants, no movie ever has been in the black. They don’t count DVD sales and foreign income in their funny numbers. Hollywood needs to adapt to the 21st century and start distributing first run movies on DVD and online simultaneously. The days of people flocking to theaters are over.

  6. N. Eric Phillips says:

    As an independent filmmaker about to helm his first feature length project, I agree: The future is indie. Digital projection will open possibilities for breaking the major distributor hold on theaters, and more cable stations means more outlets looking for original programming.

    I also agree that budgets are too high to sustain the major film companies’ business model. Their model is “one hit erases the failures,” so they put out a lot of stuff and hope for that one hit. Big budget blockbuster does not always equal hit movie. There is no magic formula for a movie to become that hit. Banking 100 to 200 million dollars on a single project is risking everything on one endeavor. It breaks the strategy the studios created that has worked so well. I would put the upper cap at $80-million as the cap studios should maintain.

    As for the future: It will feature less expensive movies but, thanks to new tech, will let $15-million movies look like $50-million today.

    There is one expense that will be hard to lower: Stars. J-Lo gets more than $15-million per movie.

  7. Don says:

    Let Reese Witherspoon get her 30 mil while she can. Stars, too, may be a thing of the past in the not too distand future. Just as computers are producing effects and backgrounds, they will eventualy be used to produce the actors. And some will get followers and fan clubs. William Gibson’s “Idoru” was about a virtual star who was slated to marry a real rock and roll musician.

  8. Sangwoo Hong says:

    Believe it or not Lucas is right. If anything, I’ve been wondering what he’s been smoking all this time but this little statement makes me think he’s not as spaced out as people make him out to be.

    The movie going experience is dying. I doubt it will go away completely but no amount of improvements to theaters will make up for the fact that it just makes financial sense now to invest in some decent home theater equipment and rent DVDs instead, not to mentions the fact that it’s more convenient and quite frankly more pleasant to stay home with a projector and some friends.

    Anyway, all this makes me wonder what George’s people are thinking in order to cover their behinds when the “inevitable” finally comes…

  9. Sangwoo Hong says:

    Not only will CG replace actors, they are starting to compete with more and more obsurd sources of notoriety like youTube. The two dorky kids that started the “staring into a web cam and lipsyncing to dorky boy band songs” mini-trend comes to mind. Did you know they were downloaded 6 million times and now have their own blog? I’m sure it’s only going to be about 4 1/2 minutes of fame for these kids but that’s still 4 1/2 minutes they are stealing from people whose jobs are dependent on staying in the public’s eye 24/7.

  10. N. Eric Phillips says:

    I have to chime in here: actors will not be replaced (though digital actors will find a place in certain productions). When two actors are working together, in the moment, playing off each other it is magic, something that cannot be reproduced mechanically. For instance, I never tell actors how to say a line. We talk about circumstances and action. We do the scene several times. Each time we get something different, new, exciting, and often surprising.

    If I were to simply instruct them to move like this, say it like this, etc., the outcome would be very stilted and unreal. Actions need to cme from a need to act based upon circumstances of the moment, not because the direction is “pick up the pencil.” Digital acting is the exact opposite: you take a process that stems from creative expression and try to turn it into a mechanic. They may look real, but we will be losing the life real talent, acting in the moment, bring to the screen.

    Also, you need a team to create a digital character. Modelling, voice artist, animators (usually several specializing in face, limbs, clothing, etc.), compositors, etc. With an actor you need only… an actor!

  11. AB CD says:

    Umm, I think Lucas has the numbers wrong. It’s pretty ahrd for a blockbuster to lose money, between the followup m oney from DVDs airline showings, Pay-per-view, broadcast networks, premium-cable and cable tv showings.

  12. Gregory says:

    Steve – and record sales are dropping, people are complaining about the music produced, and quality is poor. Not the best example.

    Most of the best “bands” now will produce tracks together, they can do that because recording isolation has got better. Also musicians who are playing to other music are *playing to other music* they can hear the track.

    Green Screen’d actors can’t – when that changes then you might get something half decent. However you still won’t get the same level of performance that you can get from actors feeding off each other and a set. It won’t happen – because it can’t happen, it would be missing all the elements.

  13. Hal Jordan says:

    This just goes to show that Lucas is so out of touch with movie making that he does not understand that the blockbuster is not about expensive toys, but great stories that need to be told on a big budget. That final Vader “Nooo” scene in “Sith” is so terrible it totally destroyed the mythology of star wars for me.

  14. Pat says:


    I don’t think it is a good comparison between music and movies. In my opinion, I see music as two dimensional while movies are three dimensional. Playing music with others (jamming), however, is four dimensional. You make an excellent point about the economies of playing to a tape. I don’t think bands are spending months in the studio making an album anymore. Most will write and rehearse at someone’s house and only hit the studio when they are ready. Especially as many labels now deduct the studio cost from the band’s take.

    Outside of a few bands, most record for the exposure and make their money playing live. And there are a lot of bands I will pass on their studio work but jump at the chance to see live. As a musician, you can understand that last part.

    And your comment about the one guy making a mistake; to me that is what makes music interesting. If the same music could have been scripted from a computer in pure sound, it is blah. It is the little tweaks and misses that make a recording great to listen to. BTW, I only listen to NPR.

    Your point about the record industry only cares about profit is right on the money.

  15. Eric says:

    Hollywood will eventually suffer the same fate as every other media industry, for the same reason. It’s most visible with newspapers but I don’t think anything is immune.

    Basically, the cost of production will fall so dramatically that the barriers of entry for a talented amateur will all but disappear. Just like newspapers woke up one day and found they’d lost most of their audience to blogs, Hollywood will wake up one day and realize they’ve lost their audience to Google Video and YouTube, and that’s what will make the $200 million blockbuster unworkable in 10 years.


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