Will Cable Television be a Sanctuary after the Cinematic/Entertainment Implosion?

1 Aug

By Comic Relief

Commemorating the opening of USC’s Sumner Redstone Production Building [1] 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”. [2]

“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.” [3]

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?


Essential Resources:

[1] http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/george-lucas-steven-spielberg-celebrate-419112

[2] http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/steven-spielberg-predicts-implosion-film-567604

[3] http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/spielberg-lucas-predict-implosion-rock-movie-industry-article-1.1371874#ixzz2afj9FsQe

32 Responses to “Will Cable Television be a Sanctuary after the Cinematic/Entertainment Implosion?”

  1. Open Book August 1, 2013 at 6:52 PM #

    Hi Everyone,

    This article was written by Comic Relief so please direct all your questions to him. We are having technical problems and I had to post the article under my avatar. Sorry for the confusion.

  2. ComicRelief August 1, 2013 at 7:08 PM #

    Thanks for the assist OB. I don’t know what the exact problems, yet I suspect that I need some sort of massive cyber space make over (that I promise I’m going to execute soon. You may have noticed though my avatar stays consistent my text name seems to change frequently.

    As for the article, it was a complicated one because every time I listened to the reports of the USC lecture I seemed to hear something different. Here’s a transcript as others have reported it.


    • Open Book August 2, 2013 at 8:50 AM #

      Great article CR.

      Again sorry about the mix up. I shall have it fixed later today.

      Back to your article. In discussing and reading about this issue. IMO anything new people tend to be a lot more speculative. I’m not against VOD. I really think it offers consumers a lot more access to seeing new and interesting content. Instead of the limited release they are now getting in theaters.

    • Open Book August 2, 2013 at 9:42 AM #

      Here’s my Q. How will filmmakers have an audiences full and undivided attention with VOD like they get in the Cinema?

      • ComicRelief August 4, 2013 at 6:13 AM #

        I think those filmmakers will get all of the audience the technology will allow them, and ultimately we will all be better for it.

  3. ozzie20 August 1, 2013 at 7:59 PM #

    Wow! Very interesting article CR! There’s a lot to think about too.

    • Com1c Relief August 1, 2013 at 8:11 PM #

      Thanks Ozzie, I agree, way too much.

    • Open Book August 2, 2013 at 9:37 AM #


      No worries. I was late posting the article for CR so take your time. ITA it is a lot to process. I have learned a lot from everyone on this topic.

      • ozzie20 August 2, 2013 at 7:48 PM #

        Wait, did I get the wrong day again? Isn’t today Thursday? I am totally confused! This computer says it’s Sunday… Did I get abducted by aliens and that’s why I’m missing a couple of days???

        • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:15 AM #

          You’re hilarious 🙂
          Your appearance is far better late than never. Thanks for showing up!

  4. Com1c Relief August 1, 2013 at 8:58 PM #

    I ‘m going to take a cue from OB’s last discussion and ask some questions that occurred to me while writing this article.

  5. Com1c Relief August 1, 2013 at 8:58 PM #

    Before committing to the notion that Spielberg and Lucas’s careers are well known by most film fans, I listed their accomplishments in a detailed manner. I thought their accomplishments; in contrast to what I was beginning to hear as a subliminal sales agenda for promoting cable television would be a shocking juxtaposition.

    Does anyone else hear this address as a sly promotion for cable television or direct TV?

    • Open Book August 2, 2013 at 9:02 AM #

      Perhaps, but if so then Spielberg admitting how shocked he was that Lincoln almost ended up on HBO is not the best endorsement. So I doubt they are trying to pitch Cable or VOD. They don’t seem to have an agenda and are giving an account of their experience.

      • ozzie20 August 2, 2013 at 9:02 PM #

        I hadn’t actually thought of it that way CR! Looking back at all the directors I’ve looked up, a lot of the more successful ones do have ties to TV (Ridley Scott and J.J Abrams are the only ones that come to mind at the moment).

        • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:16 AM #

          “So I doubt they are trying to pitch Cable or VOD.”

          I’m really a big fan of Spielberg and Lucas’ philanthropy and all of the humanitarian awards they have won. Part of me says why would they want to tarnish that by being pitchmen for those distribution vehicles? Their records and history of being SELFLESS are why I want to agree with you.

          Few people have walked in their shoes. I certainly don’t mind someone speaking from their experience, especially when it offers them so much ability to be exact and recall details about a unique experience.

          No doubt, that aspect of their talk was very genuine and their expressed feelings were very sincere, (hold for a more cynical perspective). Yet what I think our culture gains or loses in regard to our commitments to those distribution vehicles, really out weighs any artist’s individual experience (good or bad).

        • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:16 AM #

          I think the best way to look at it by looking at the perspectives of other filmmaking creative participants, specifically the actors. In terms of spheres of personal responsibility, obviously their contribution to the film is very different from the director’s in terms of expected output and influence.

          Still, I’m impressed by how efficiently the actors recognize their passing relevance in regard to the whole endeavor and avoid over implicating the necessity of their individual participation.

        • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:20 AM #

          “Looking back at all the directors I’ve looked up, a lot of the more successful ones do have ties to TV (Ridley Scott and J.J Abrams are the only ones that come to mind at the moment).”

          You’re so right, Steven has won so many awards. The mini series, “Band of brothers” was one of Steven’s most impressive television feats.

    • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:17 AM #

      Rewatching “Sneakers” (1992), trying to get a little clarity on this topic, I was struck by how even back in film lead actors seemed so undistracted by their prestige. You might remember Ben Kingsley won an Oscar for his portrayal of Mohandas K. Gandhi in Richard Attenborough’s “Gandi” (1982). With “Butch Cassidy (1976) “The Sting” (1973)” and “The Great Gatsby” (1974) and “All the President’s Men” (1976),”, Robert Redford has been a leading man, matinee idol and director for almost 50 years. Recently, yet independently, both agreed to roles with Marvel Entertainment films. Kingsley played the Mandarin in this summer’s Iron man 3, and in the fourth coming Captain America 2, Robert Redford is playing the Head of S.H.I.E.L.D. For screenrant.com This what Redford said about the role,

      “I think a career requires a certain amount of reinvention. If you get caught in one track I think that can be dangerous. Success has a dark side to it. You want to be careful if you’ve had success at something, that you not try and follow it by just duplicating it. That’s why I’m doing this Captain America thing.”

      Because of their respective professions, when it comes to new cinematic vision, obviously some have a much easier time adapting to industry paradigm change than others.

  6. Com1c Relief August 1, 2013 at 8:59 PM #

    Previous to this draft I also thought, this whole discussion was the desperate attempt to make audiences less impatient or more tolerant of what these now mature groundbreakers were currently promoting in their work.

    A great deal of the USC discussion is dedicated to discussing how under appreciated there recent submissions to Hollywood were.

    Does anyone else interpret, Spielberg and Lucas’s statements as being a plea for respect?

    • Open Book August 2, 2013 at 9:12 AM #

      I’ve written an article about VOD and its future awhile back. So I know how great it is for consumers to get access to independent films they might not otherwise see in theaters. The only problem I see is in making it more social. Where consumers can interact within a community of diverse people.

    • ozzie20 August 2, 2013 at 9:15 PM #

      Again, now that you say it, yes it could be interpreted as that. Given that they’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars, billions probably, that would be enough of an ego boost! The films may not be “cinematic works of art” (in quotes because art is subjective and in my opinion many blockbuster films are beautiful) but they sell. That’s a talent to be respected too. They make what the mast majority of the audience like to watch. That’s no easy feat! But I suppose they are like actors, even if they don’t admit it they do crave that attention too, even if it’s just a little bit!

      • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:21 AM #

        OB and Ozzie,

        I hear what you are saying, yet I think the concern here should far extend beyond the “ego boost.” Also so many things we encounter result from experiences that have little to do with our individual contribution.
        For instance we’re communicating because other people’s contribution to the internet and those creator’s contribution may never have considered publically viewable discussions of entertainment events.

      • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:22 AM #

        I don’t think it’s too much to have individuals (even as experienced, powerful, and accomplished as these two) recognize how minimal their position might be in the eventual evaluation in world cultural events.

      • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:25 AM #

        Maybe not over night but with the profits of 2012’s 10.8 billion dollar United States film industry at stake [1], Spielberg and Lucas’ implosion would demand that thousand of willingly stakeholders divest from the film industry as we know it. Requiring thousands of professionals to relinquish their commitments, investments, and expected earnings, an almost supreme market competitor (or collective of them) would have to persuade previous performers to release all previous financial expectations. Certainly the ramifications couldn’t be limited to purely local or national participants. Can you imagine every known theater house willingly conceding their audiences to video on demand just like that without catalyst, coercion, or any form of compensation. Not an impossible scenario, yet one that would have devastating consequences for any previous participant in this market. Since neither Spielberg nor Lucas were as dramatic (and certainly not detailed) regarding the succession of contests and conquests necessary to transfer this wealth, this article will concentrate on what the implosion duo specified in regard to the next or alternative step cinematic developers need to take when planning to evolve the film industry.

        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 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.

        [1] http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/12/31/box-office-report-2012/

  7. Com1c Relief August 1, 2013 at 9:00 PM #

    Even in this draft I thought I was going to detail Hollywood’s challenges with adapting to Television, after initially wanting, then resisting it, then wanting to support it again.
    Eventually I felt I was agreeing to what I considered Spielberg and Lucas’s goal of promoting these venues as an alternative venue to the cinema.

    Does anyone else think the cable television or direct TV is the intended beneficiaries of this implosion rant?

    • Open Book August 2, 2013 at 9:28 AM #

      IMO filmmakers really have a lot to balance. On one hand u have the business and needing to turn a profit. On the other u have the art, social awareness and innovation. How do u balance all these and maintain the films integrity? As it stands now independent films run the risk of not being seen at all with the current limited release system. So VOD offers them direct access to a wider audience of consumers by cutting out the middle man. What’s scary now they have to wait and see how well consumers adapt to the new system.

      • ozzie20 August 2, 2013 at 9:17 PM #

        What OB said, lol! 🙂

        • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:26 AM #

          Don’t get me wrong VOD is wonderful for expanding the range and diversity of people speaking. Far fewer business heads will be in the way, distracting or impeding individual artists from speaking.

          In fact in a short period of time, this age might (in the future) be considered the first time individuals really expressed their individually, uniqueness, and unprecedented vision in ways that were never possible before.

        • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:28 AM #

          How about we ignore their navel gazing, though unintended maybe we or I should really be thanking them for so generously alerting us to a changing landscape that’s in front of us.

      • Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:27 AM #

        I think we can forgive Steven and George for immediate self-absorption; on the other hand maybe they have actually earned it!!!

  8. ozzie20 August 2, 2013 at 7:38 PM #

    Hello everyone! 🙂

  9. Com1c Relief August 4, 2013 at 6:31 AM #

    Because I never got a chance to say it before, thanks everyone for coming.

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