Sometimes you really need to sit up and pay attention. That was clearly the case at USC last night as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg predicted the immiment demise of the movie business—or at least, the movie business as we know it. Because Lucas and Spielberg aren't just two super-successful directors who've made a bunch of blockbuster films. They are the two directors who essentially invented the blockbuster back in the '70s, and in the process saved Hollywood the last time it was headed for oblivion. When they say, as Spielberg put it, “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen of these mega-budgeted movies go crashing into the ground and that’s going to change the paradigm again,” it matters, because they're the ones who set in motion the paradigm we have now.
The occasion for this pronouncement was significant as well: the opening of the School of Cinematic Arts' new Interactive Media Center, a $50 million high-tech playground that boasts such toys as Oculus Rift headsets, Microsoft Kinect motion sensors, a 3-D printer, and 55-inch interactive screens from MultiTouch. Whatever takes the place of movies will as likely as not be invented here.
Spielberg and Lucas aren't the only ones who see an implosion ahead. Last month in the Times, James Stewart observed that "the studios seem to be headed over a blockbuster cliff"—and sooner rather than later. Between May and July, he noted, 17 would-be blockbusters are due to hit the theaters. And yet, as Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Creutz pointed out, “we’ve never had a summer where more than nine did well, and often it’s fewer."