Thu Dec 08 16:21:59 SAST 2016

The business of film has to go small to make it big

Jackie May | 2013-09-03 00:14:28.0
Jackie May. File photo.
Image by: Times LIVE / Times Media Group

A few short months after big names in the international film industry spoke about doom and gloom for cinemas, a local cinema chain called a round-table discussion. There was an appeal to journalists for ideas on how to grow a local cinemagoing audience. I didn't say anything then but I'll say something now.

Directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, speaking at the University of Southern California, made predictions that would make any sane young person either run away from entering this competitive and expensive business, or change it.

Lucas said some people - the elite - will be watching a few big movies on big screens at a high price, "and everything else will be on a small screen".

Spielberg and Lucas, who are blockbuster-makers, said filmmakers are always going for gold, but this business strategy will not work forever.

We've seen this going-for-gold. Feature films are noisier, more technologically sophisticated, and more about the action hype than ever before. For the effort, reviews are mostly lukewarm. Too much effort and money is spent on bigness and not enough on story and content.

Spielberg said: "People are going to get tired of it. Eventually there is going to be a big meltdown. There is going to be an implosion where three, four or maybe even a half-dozen of these mega-budgeted movies go crashing into the ground, and that is going to change the paradigm again."

I'm surprised the implosion hasn't happened already. And more surprised that the industry isn't already changing the paradigm, rather than flogging a dying horse.

I might be wrong. I am just a consumer. But I've watched Generation Y. People born after the '80s are glued to small screens, and I wonder why filmmakers aren't adjusting their skills to framing shots that suit mini-screens. It would mean spending less money on time-consuming special effects, and more on acting and script development.

Straight-to-DVD is what filmmakers fear. What about straight-to-mobile? But with piracy and downloads isn't this already reality? We think there will always be a small elite in luxury cinemas eating expensive snacks, watching blockbusters the lucky few filmmakers will occasionally make. But won't most people be watching films streamed directly to phones?

Local cinemas were where people once used to escape for a small cost. Now the cost is no longer small, and there are many ways to escape without leaving your bed.

The business of film has to change.

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