$150 movie ticket? George Lucas says it could be so

Lucas and Steven Spielberg see a collision course as studios pile on mega-budget films, one that will make a movie outing like going to Broadway and put thoughtful pictures on Internet TV.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
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George Lucas (from left), Xbox exec Don Mattrick, USC School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth Daley, and Steven Spielberg all spoke on campus Wednesday. Microsoft

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg -- the two men perhaps most responsible for the model of the summer blockbuster -- see the studios' obsession with such hits putting the in-theater film experience on a crash course -- perhaps with Internet TV there to pick up the pieces.

Studios would rather pour $250 million into one movie to have a shot at a mega-blockbuter than invest in personal, interesting, or historical projects that can get lost in the hubbub of a entertainment-saturated world, Spielberg said Wednesday during a panel discussion at the University of Southern California, according to The Verge and the Hollywood Reporter.

Lucas' and Spielberg's comments -- alongside those of Xbox executive Don Mattrick at the panel on the sidelines of the E3 gaming conference -- come as the movie industry is starting a record season of "tentpole" films -- the mega-budget film that studios place all their bets on.

This year's slate has the most tentpoles in recent memory, stuffed with as many as 19 expensive action and animated movies coming to theaters through August. While that could tee up the box office for its best summer ever, it also makes gigantic flops an inevitability.

Spielberg sees the tentpoles buckling soon. He predicts an "implosion where three or four or maybe even half a dozen of these mega-budgeted movies are going to go crashing into the ground." That's what will upend the paradigm again, he said.

Hints that demand for films outside the tentpole model are already there. The first weekend of this month, Lionsgate scored a win as its modest magician heist movie, "Now You See Me," trumped Sony's mega-budget Will Smith vehicle "After Earth" at the box office their opening weekend.

After the tentpoles buckle, Lucas predicts a shift that makes going to a movie like going to a Broadway show -- an entertainment outing loaded up with bells and whistles that may cost you up to $150 per ticket. "Everything else is going to look more like cable television on TiVo," he said. In other words, pictures like Spielberg's "Lincoln" will run on television screens, not movie screens.

And they won't be on cable or broadcast, he said. They'll be on Internet television.