The media studies blog Antenna has posted a roundtable on Spielberg and Lucas’s recent comments about the imminent “implosion” of the Hollywood blockbuster model featuring comments from a range of media scholars, including Thomas Schatz, Alisa Perren, R. Colin Tait, Brenda Austin-Smith, and myself.
I’m not sure I have much to add to my comments here or on the Antenna blog, but I found Alisa’s observations (and Brad Schauer’s response) about the “generational” aspects of Spielberg and Lucas’s speculations to be helpful. Alisa points out that Spielberg and Lucas are reacting this way in part because they are finally being adversely affected by the blockbuster model, while pointing to Jason Bailey’s reminder that it is profoundly hypocritical for the two men most responsible for this model to be complaining about it now (especially given how much they have profited from it).
Bryan Bishop of The Verge implies that Lucas may have offered a slightly more optimistic interpretation of the current trends in distribution, pointing out that Lucas remarked that online distribution offered content that is “usually more interesting than what you’re going to see in the movie theater. And you can get it whenever you want, and it’s going to be niche-marketed, which means you can really take chances and do things if you can figure out there’s a small group of people that will kind of react to it,” while adding that such a film can be successful (and that a filmmaker can make a living) if you have a relatively small audience of even one million people or so.
Both filmmakers still seem most wistful about the speed with which movies cycle out of theaters and into other formats, with Spielberg lamenting that movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. stayed in theaters for about a year, while now, movies are “in hotels two weeks after they hit theaters.” But that has been part of an evolution that has been taking place over the last decade or so with the rise of the megaplex theaters that depend on keeping theaters seats filled week after week. Movies that have been out on the big screen for a month probably aren’t going to do that.