George Lucas has a TV series coming to a theater near you. And that theater is in your living room--or maybe on the desk that holds your laptop.
The creator of the legendary "Star Wars" movies and other big-time "tentpole" films won't be raising any more poles. Or putting up more canvas. And he advises his competitors to do the same.
Small, niche films--the ones that have won all the Oscars over the last few years--should be the new model. The trend is smaller scale, plus, Lucas believes Americans are abandoning the movie-going habit for good.
"We don't want to make movies. We're about to get into television. As far as Lucasfilm is concerned, we've moved away from the feature film thing--it's too expensive, and it's too risky," Lucas told Daily Variety.
Major movie studios have been cutting back their slate of movies. Where the majors could churn out as many as 30 a year, now they are thinking of 18 or so. Of those, there will be some major 'tentpole" movies--big blockbusters that come out in the summer or the winter hoping to make $150 million in U.S. revenues in the first weekend. They may or may not star Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks or a wise-cracking Thomas the Tank Engine.
Lucas now says producers are crazy. Setting the limbo bar ever higher for theatrical film producers is a fool's chase--with increasingly diminishing returns.
It's all about niche audiences. And Lucas speaks like a man who knows TV, where the word "fractionalization" has been in vogue over the past two decades. Now that increasing digital electronic distribution systems seek more content, his movies, and those of his competitors, are being pushed to debut on two screens at the same time: smaller digital personal screens and the traditional theatrical cinema screens.
That's the end, he says. "The secret to the future is quantity," he said. "Because that's where it's going to end up."
Quantity! That's has been TV mind-set for years. Make 10, 15, or 20 pilots before you get one that works. Or, in the Jerry Bruckheimer mode, make a "CSI", then maybe a "CSI: Hoboken," then a "Cold Case" and maybe a "Cold Case: Fargo." Or, look at it from the cable prospective. Start one channel, and then launch several networks, digital networks if necessary.
Quantity and shelf space is Lucas' mantra. TV is his new revolutionary medium. May the small force be with you.