Are movies going to undergo a fundamental change?

Our youngest has said for years that he wants to make movies. Unfortunately, he doesn’t actually do so, but that is a story for another time. This does, however, lead to another discussion – the movie industry. We want to try and get him to think about what it may mean for his future.

Namely, with all things technological changing as fast as they do, it’s important to understand that “making movies” may not be just what he thinks it is – and though he doesn’t even make movies now, knowing that the opportunities that are presented in the future may be different from those know is equally important.

What is perhaps most important to look at is that though many areas of communication have undergone a shift from longer writing (an actual hand-written letter, for instance) to shorter (blogging, anyone) to shorter (Facebook) and shorter (Twitter) to almost non-existent (Tumblr).

Meanwhile, video has had some changes in the form of animated GIFs and Vine videos, which allow you to watch things in short clips, but when it actually comes to feature-length movies? Not so much.

Sure, there is YouTube – and similar sites, including offerings from both cable and networks online (think Hulu or even Netflix), but the content is very much the same length. About the only thing that has changed? The amount of money that is spent – a blockbuster movie now easily costs many hundreds of millions of dollars ($200 million is not uncommon) and stays in the theater for only a couple of weeks.

When the Kevin Costner film Waterworld was released barely twenty years ago (I know, this seems like a long time ago), it was laughed at because of the amount of the budget, which ended up around $175 million. Now, that amount just won’t do – and I should mention that eventually, Waterworld likely made the money back. If you look at John Carter, with a budget of $250 million, it’s much less likely to break even, since the worldwide box office numbers weren’t that far off.

In any case – the point here is that movies are getting larger and attention span is getting smaller. That doesn’t make much sense, does it? When is this going to cause an implosion in the movie industry? There are already those who develop for smaller media. such as YouTube or its variants. I suspect – and what I told our son – is that before long, the traditional movie theater is likely on its last legs.

There is simply no way that a family can justify spending the kind of money necessary to go out to a theater each week to see a new movie, which is where we are headed. Add to that the fact that doing so is just not a fun experience any longer. It used to be that, like flying, it was fun. Now it’s crowded and overpriced. The experience at home is so much better – now you can even get movies at home almost as quickly as they are released (and you probably have a screen at home rivaling the screen in the theater). It seems the movie theater industry is likely in trouble.

Update: It seems that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg agree that the industry is due for an implosion. However, they think it means that films are going to go back to playing for a year. I’m not sure that I agree – but then, they have a lot more money than I do and are definitely more in the know than I am, so you can decide who to listen to on this one.

Update: Perhaps the future is already here. Just revealed is a $50 mega ticket to World War Z, which includes a 3D showing of the movie, a small popcorn (really, a small?), a copy to take home and collector glasses. I’m thinking if they are going to do this sort of thing you need a VIP booth in the theater to shield you from all the noise of the riff raff below. Think luxury suites at the game.