You might have heard recently that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg lamented that the blockbuster was killing the movie industry, which is funny because they, you know, invented it. The two elder auteurs correctly pointed out that films seem to either be made for $1 million or $250 million, with the "middle class" of features slowly disappearing. Studios need that Avengers money to stay afloat, and just can't afford to work the middle because the middle rarely pays off overseas.
Lucas said, "We're talking Lincoln and Red Tails - we barely got them into theaters. You're talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can't get their movie into a theater... The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller."
Let's set aside the fact that these two men, who I freely admit are responsible for some of my favorite moviegoing experiences, are sad because they're starting to get pushed out the way they themselves pushed less explodey films out over the last 30 years. I don't expect those on high to consider those down below, which makes it a pleasant surprise when it does occur.
Lucas and Spielberg predict that going to the movies will become a luxury experience akin to going to a play. Instead of paying $9 for a ticket to all movies, Avatar 2 or whatever will cost $25. Meanwhile you'll pay, say $7 for a flick like Lincoln when you go out.
Now, the thought of there being some kind of marketplace that determines how much a movie ticket is actually is sort of appealing. I might go to the movies more if I could see, say, Kings of Summer, for $5 instead of dropping full price for a flick that was made for a fraction of Michael Bay's firework budget. The hopeful capitalist in me ponders studios choosing to price film competitively, instead of this one-size-fits-all approach we have now. After all, you don't pay the same price for Cher tickets as you do to see the Legendary Pink Dots.
The reality, though, is that nothing of the kind will happen because the studios have the cinemas over the same barrel they've been using for years. Studios take an absolute obscene amount of the profits from the theaters. Why do you think popcorn is so expensive, and the staff is poorly trained and rude, and that they're all nondescript and faceless now? Because for the first three weeks or so, otherwise known as the period when they make money, the studios take up to 95 percent of the profits.
They're not letting that go any time soon, and so movie theaters won't have any incentive to show those cheaper films at all. That's why you see places like Alamo Drafthouse showing old films or things like classic Doctor Who episodes opposite first run films as well as serving alcohol. They have to rely on established properties to ensure butts in the seats, Even Alamo supplemented showings of Kings of Summer by making it a double feature with Stand by Me.
In short, those that can dedicate $100 to $200 just to watch a movie will get to. The rest of us will end up watching them at home, probably as first runs that couldn't bring in blockbuster money.
The same is somewhat true with video gaming. Microsoft is in an absolute tail spin over the fact that its system, which will cost $500, is going to limit the ability to play used games.
I understand the hatred of the used game market by Microsoft (Sony and Nintendo hate it, too, by the way, they're just not quite as clueless). A game sells new for just three or four months after release. After that, every copy sold is used unless it's the sort of thing that people will just mindlessly pick up at Walmart or Target.
Fun fact, I spent an entire $50 Target gift card on Metroid: Other M. When I traded it back to Gamestop for credit a month later? $1.99.
That's all the time a game studio has to make back its investment, and those investments rival Hollywood. We don't know how much it cost to make BioShock Infinite exactly, but it was at least a nine figure number. That's a lot, and unlike movies, games don't get a second wave of DVD sales or a lot of tie-in merchandise. Not on the level of something like Man of Steel does.
Plus the Xbox One is requiring kinect, which means you basically have a room dedicated to gaming since it needs ten feet of uninterrupted space. Then there's the fact that some games will require a 1.5 Mbps internet connection to function... in single player. Of course, the Xbox One won't work without a high speed internet connection, which, guess what, almost a third of Americans can't afford.
Microsoft is assuming "Xbox player equals well-off" and that's the problem. Gaming is not a high end luxury. It really isn't, and that is because of the used market. I rarely buy new games because I'm the only person working in the household right now. My Father's Day presents from my wife were all old PS2 games that she picked up for less than $30 total.
One day she'll be out of school, and I will be able to not only afford more than two pairs of pants, I'll be able to buy new games and systems when they're released. Who do you think I'm going to go with? The system that said, "Sorry, dude, we want Abercrombie and Fitch people, not you scum," or the company that bit the bullet on not getting any of the used game market dollar in the name of building a loyal customer base?
Movie studios and the video game industry are on a very dangerous cusp right now. Do you really want to sequester away the wealthy watching big budget action fests while the poor are forced to be satisfied with more thought-provoking and deeper films? Do you want to build a class wall around Halo while thousands of indie developers rush to sell personal projects of daring vision on the PC, Wii U, PS4, and Ouya?
Because I'm pretty sure that's the early stages of a revolution.
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