In a speech to mark the opening of the Interactive Media Building, part of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Steven Spielberg warned of an "implosion" in the film industry.
All it would take, said the Lincoln director, was a box-office fail of, say, half a dozen or so megabuck movies—the ones with astronomical marketing budgets, and it would mean that cinemas would have to move into a two-tier pricing model.
In addition, Spielberg said the rise of gaming and original content on the Internet, courtesy of providers such as Netflix, are conspiring to give movie theaters a bumpy ride.
"You're gonna have to pay $25 million for the next Iron Man; you're probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln," he told students, also warning them that niche and "fringe-y" ideas from young filmmakers wouldn't get them to Hollywood in these days of big budgets.
Speaking alongside the legendary Jaws auteur was another director who came of age in the 1970s, George Lucas, who told the audience that cable TV was currently taking more risks than the Hollywood studios.
"I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they're going to be on television," said the Star Wars creator. "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."