While I was at the San Diego airport, I managed to grab a snack and a seat while waiting for my flight. The Netherlander next to me struck up a conversation, and after a bit of pizza and a vodka tonic, I had inexplicably pulled out my crystal ball and started to foretell the future of movies. Opinions I didn’t even realize I had, or at least had largely ignored up to this point. So here they are. We can check back in 10 years and see how I did.
1. 3D will once again go away. Reasoning? No one seems to care too much about it anymore. Sure, I saw Coraline and Avatar in 3D, and of course Life of Pi. But a few days ago I went to see The Great Gatsby, and had the choice between 2 and 3D. I chose 2. It just didn’t seem like something I needed to see in 3D. What was that third dimension going to do to enhance my experience? I was fairly certain that Baz Luhrmann had already put together a spectacle enough without adding artificial depth. Although in retrospect, that third dimension may have been the only depth the film had.
2. Film will come back. We all know the planned obsolescence of our phones and computers. It’s pretty much the same with digital projection. But in this case, we’re talking about something that costs $100,000 to replace. Per screen. That means your local multiplex with 10 screens would have to spend a cool million every two to five years in order to keep up. They already struggle to get people in the doors, so raising prices is not going to help. Film, on the other hand, is a robust and stable format that has changed little in the last 100 years. We are still able to watch film prints from fifty or sixty years ago almost as easily as we can watch a film print from last week. The only question is whether film will return before there are no projectionists left who know how to work the machines.
3. The industry is going to have to become leaner. Marketing budgets will have to streamline. Actors will need to be paid less. Profit margins will be smaller. There is a caveat to this, however, in that vertical integration is taking place in the film industry. This was something that was outlawed in the 40’s as monopolies, as studios made films, then owned the theaters that showed them, forcing movie houses to play only their content, good or bad. Today most theaters have the freedom to choose what they want to exhibit, but there are some that are already integrated into particular studios, which I personally believe is a dangerous trend. What will really happen if this continues is that the smaller, independent theaters will disappear, and movie-goers will have fewer choices as to what they are able to see. So I guess this third prediction about the streamlining of the industry could happen in a positive or negative way. Either the indies will once again be able to compete for viewers, or they will be squeezed out and you will only be able to choose between Iron Man 6 and Iron Man 6, and points of view that are not mainstream will never be disseminated. That would be a very sad day, indeed.
What do you think of the industry? Are movies going to stay in theaters? What will they be like in the next ten or twenty years?