By Comic Relief
Commemorating the opening of USC’s Sumner Redstone Production Building  on USC’s campus, alumni Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas provoked a controversy unlike one frequently seen so close to the United States capital for cinematic entertainment. Part cautionary warning, doomsday prediction, and partial industry eulogy, there was very little about the address that wasn’t both prophetic and challenging (potentially in a negative sense). In terms of evaluating their public address the New York Daily News paraphrased the occasion and the events that provoked it this way:
“Escalating film budgets for tent-poles and rising ticket prices will lead to a doomsday scenario that will virtually eliminate the opportunity to make certain films, Spielberg prognosticated”. 
“That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown,” Spielberg told an audience Wednesday night at the official opening of a new building at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
“There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen mega budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.” 
Still mending from a recent international economic crisis, naturally statements of this sort would throw many entertainment professionals into a state of panic. The only national market that did not appear to be irrevocably damaged by the world wide depression was the international cinematic/entertainment market? What new events prompted these predictions? Why would we take these two individuals seriously? And what’s at stake for all of us regarding cinematic entertainment as we know it?
In this doomsday scenario, assuming all was lost to the previous receivers, makers, and producers of cinema, though sketchy the messengers of mayhem did appear to have a natural outcome in mind. They claimed cable television would be the logical next step, in terms audience reception and content development. In terms of suffering, these parties: (consumers and makers) appeared to be the only victims the implosion duo seemed to be concerned about.
But is this prediction really a natural sequence of events? And is it true that cable television is a natural receptacle for all that we traditionally value about these cultural institutions? Lets explore the history of the relationship between television and cinema, cable televisions rise to recent prominence, and let’s probe to see whether audiences really need or want the theater experience in their homes.
Instead, I’m not sure we’re addressing the right problem, regardless of history I’m not sure a more vibrant cable is useful to anyone. With the loss of cinema as we know it (public, social, & accessible) we may be losing our democratic ability to argue, resist, and debate programming as we know it. Today we vote with our wallets; when we appreciate a production we pay and possibly pay again. In this activity we tell the studios we approve or don’t approve of their content selection priorities.
When we go to the cinema we know how many people are there. We know who is actually laughing? We know who is actually crying? We are able to participate in the public evaluation of dramatic material and be fairly sure we understand what we and everyone else is receiving.
Video-on-demand, not only privatizes the experience but leaves us unable to publically judge the validity of the experiences we (as a n audience) are receiving. If the studios tell us the movie was a success, even if we did not like it, how can we argue with what we are being told? What would help the studios more than being able to enforce that audiences pay (in large numbers) for experiences they are not even interested in?