The $11 Billion Year and how the film industry is imploding

By José Arroyo In June 2013, at a University of Southern California event with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg predicted an implosion of the film industry. The failure at the box office of “tentpoles”, mega-budget movies that are designed with potential sequels in mind and anchor a studio’s release schedule, “are going to go crashing to the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm,” he said. This may not seem to be happening, but Anne Thompson shows us in her interesting and illuminating new book, The $11 Billion Year, that the prediction has already come true. White House Down, After Earth, The Lone Ranger, Turbo and R.I.P.D. all tanked at the box office and the whole cinematic apparatus, the paradigm of production, distribution, exhibition and the technological, economic and political structures that underpinned it, have indeed changed. “In 2012 US domestic movie box-office delivered a record-breaking $11 billion, up 8.4% on the previous years,” Thompson writes. “If record foreign box office is added to total it would have been a $35 billion year.” But she goes on to show that “despite appearances, the movie business isn’t thriving. The seeds of the industry’s destruction were present in 2012”. The reasons for this that emerge from the book are dominated, unsurprisingly, by the influence of digital. The book shows how and why in 2012 the word “film” officially became an anachronism: by 2012 the changeover to digital was pretty much complete. What becomes clear from Thompson’s book is that the whole system has changed, at least as it pertains to the “global” film industry of the United States. Movies are now made digitally. On one hand, this permits all kinds of additional special effects which can potentially make them very expensive; on the other hand, more personal dramas that don’t require much post-production can now be made on a micro-budget. As a result, in 2012 Sundance logged more than 4,000 feature submissions: the problem becomes one of finding screens for all these films. Read the full article here:

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