Is the era of the Hollywood blockbuster at an end?

July 3, 2013 3:51 pm

Is the era of the Hollywood blockbuster at an end? The question might seem ridiculous to some, after all, there are still more Transformers movies in the pipeline, more Fast and Furious films to come and announcement of a new Robocop, a new Godzilla and a new Jurassic Park movie. Moreover, we seem to be living through the booming era of hyper-blockbuster super-hero movies with sequels, prequels, reboots, and spin-offs flooding the theaters (we have already ironically lived through the era of disaster and end-of-the-world big-budget films). The blockbuster seems not to be going anywhere soon, especially with the anticipation of the Star Wars saga resurrection in the next few years. Though to many these might look like the glory-days of the blockbuster film, could this perhaps merely be the climactic tipping point?

Recently Steven Spielberg and George Lucas talked about the future of the Hollywood blockbuster in an interview with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin. “There’s gonna be implosion,” said Spielberg, “where three or four or even half a dozen of these mega-budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground and that’s gonna change the paradigm again”. The ‘paradigm’ Spielberg is talking about is in fact the one he and Lucas themselves helped established in the late 1970s and 80s. Spielberg’s Jaws and E.T. and Lucas’ Star Wars series signaled a profound shift in erstwhile Hollywood, from small director driven productions such as Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider and early Martin Scorsese films, to ‘mega-budget’ or ‘event’ films. Box-office numbers became the only measure that mattered to most studios and producers.

blockbusterIt is thus with some industry expertise that Spielberg can give insights, he is after all the father of the modern blockbuster and still one of its heavy-weights. Whether or not Spielberg’s opinions have any precedence; the impending change of the film-industry is already quite apparent. Big Hollywood studios are vehemently trying to curb and hold back the inevitable tides of change that the internet has brought to the industry, especially in terms of piracy. Yet other industries seemed to have adapted to the internet era as shifts in television productions and broadcasting has shown. This is a point George Lucas makes in the interview, saying that this shift means that “there is great programming, usually more interesting than you’d see in a movie theater, and you can get it whenever you want”. Lucas further applies this internet driven model to the future of cinema, saying that “its gonna be niche marketed, which means, you know, you can really take chances and do things if you can figure there’s a small group of people that will kind of react to this”.

As much as Iron Man 3 was entertaining and enjoyable, Hollywood film production has left many potentially great movies unproduced because they would have been a financial gamble in a market where the super-hero formula has been proven to pay off again and again. Consequently, many filmmakers and viewers alike would welcome a ‘change in the paradigm’. It will be interesting, if not wholly invigorating, to see what the future of Hollywood and the block-buster might or might not hold for us.

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