Future of the MoviesRecently Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were interviewed about the state of the modern movie industry. They commented on how digital technology has changed the face of movie and TV making; how cheap digital video cameras and free distribution avenues such as YouTube have forced a change on the cinema landscape. They spoke of a time when smaller, interesting movies would migrate to TV, and cinema would consist solely of huge Blockbuster movies, available to view at exorbitant prices.

But is this really the case? While it’s true that the Internet has brought about a fundamental change in how we engage with TV, will this mean such a big change for movie distribution? The argument goes that TV can be promoted to smaller audiences, and the focused advertising makes producers more likely to finance projects. Smaller films that are going to have a less broad audience and so potentially bring in less money are going to be less attractive to film companies, but more attractive to TV.

Cinemas need to attract as many people as possible to ensure that the producers will make back the money they spent on set. If a film doesn’t have the broadest possible appeal there’s less chance anyone will put in the effort and money of a trip to see it.

Internet TV however allows a much different audience targeting strategy. People tend to subscribe to a provider that gives them only what they want to watch. It also allows them to watch shows as and when it suits them. No longer are we locked in to a single time and opportunity. Video on Demand and digital recording allows audiences to create their own schedules. As long as they’re aware the show exists, there’s a chance they will still see it, even if they miss the original broadcasting.

This leaves cinema at a disadvantage, but it’s one it overcomes with spectacle. As much as home viewing continues to improve, cinema will always offer an experience home viewers will struggle to match. While it’s possible to get home cinemas nowadays, very few will have anything to compare to the multiplexes. According to Lucas and Spielberg, it’s only these films that will remain, with ticket costs rising to compensate. They argue that cinema will become like the theatre; an expensive spectacle.

But I can’t see cinema using the same model as theatre, because what theatre provides is an experience that cannot be replicated in the home. Where a play will be subtly different each night, a movie is the same every time you watch it. People will not pay theatre prices for something they can essentially watch at home, minus the spectacle and popcorn.

Even in the past, film companies have understood that they need to fill out their roster with smaller movies between the Blockbusters. Movies don’t stay in the theatre for as long as they once did. Once, where they might have hung around for a year, now two months is impressive. If they only released Blockbusters then they would have to be making a new one every couple of months.

While I agree that TV offers filmmakers a chance to make smaller, more interesting pieces for a smaller audience, that’s not going to stop them from being able to create them for the cinema as well. Spielberg commented on how Lincoln was almost shown on HBO rather than in cinemas, but he had the clout to get it into theatres and it went on to massive critical and commercial success. This means that producers are going to be more willing to green light this style of movie in the immediate future.

While producers are always going to be looking out for blockbusters, all it takes is for a few champions to promote prestige pieces like Lincoln to keep them going. Internet TV, like traditional TV before it, isn’t going to destroy the film industry, or even change it that harshly. It’s simply the next step along the way.