Thursday, October 05, 2006

Star Wars mogul: small is beautiful

Thirty years ago George Lucas was prepping Star Wars, a science fiction film that transformed the movie industry. Together with Spielberg's Jaws, it initiated the summer blockbuster cycle that has dominated much of Hollywood's thinking since. But now Lucas believes big-budget franchises and tentpole features are fast becoming akin to the Empire in his movie: lumbering dinosaurs, about to swept away by a new rebellion. And where does Lucas think the future lays? Television production for new media outlets.

Lucas is quoted in today's Variety in an interview conducted after the ground-breaking ceremony for the renamed School of Cinematic Arts at USC. He gave $175 million -- $100 million for endowment and $75 million for buildings -- to his old school for the project, but he doesn't believe spending that much money on making and promoting single movies is wise.

To prove his point, the Star Wars creator said his Lucasfilm company is getting out of the movie business. [Don't fret Indiana Jones fans, he's still working on Indy 4, apparently. Probably to be called Indiana Jones and the Stairlift of Death at this rate.] Anyway, here's an excerpt from what Lucas told Variety:

'We don't want to make movies. We're about to get into television. As far as Lucasfilm is concerned, we've moved away from the feature film thing, because it's too expensive and it's too risky. I think the secret to the future is quantity, because that's where it's going to end up.

'For ... $200 million I can make 50-60 two-hour movies. That's 120 hours as opposed to two hours. In the future market, that's where it's going to land, because it's going to be all pay-per-view and downloadable. You've got to really have a brand. You've got to have a site that has enough material on it to attract people.'
Lucas also predicts Americans will lose the movie-going habit, but he's in no rush to embrace on-line distribution yet, until a more stable financial model evolves.

While I don't believe people are going to stop going to the movies altogether, the current model for distribution and exhibition is undergoing a revolution. One big shift will be digital distribution, saving filmmakers the cost of producing hundreds or even thousands of copies of their movie. The advent of great home cinema systems is also eliminating the need to sit in a room with a thousand people you don't know and quickly grow to dislike when they won't shut up.

Broadband acceleration and widescreen monitors are another tipping point. Once somebody creates a relatively foolproof computer/TV interface, that will be another - something even a technical idiot like me can operate without a manual. Yes, it's a shame that the shared experience of cinema is becoming endagered, but such is life.

Theatre was the dominant entertainment medium [or artform, if you prefer] in centuries past. Opera was common experience for common people. Radio had its day in the sun, before being usurped. In twenty years, going to the cinema to see a movie might be as quaint as the notion of going to a play or an opera for most people today.

1 comment:

Reel Fanatic said...

No offense to Mr. Lucas, but if you look at his output recently, he stopped making GOOD movies a long time ago, so if he now doesn't make any more beyond Indy 4 I don't think he'll really be missed