We all know that Roger Ebert is a genius when it comes to film, but it turns out he’s a fortune teller as well. The year was 1987. Cable TV was in its infancy and many of us had to get up from the couch to change the channel. Betamax was still trying to compete with VHS and recording a TV show required a VCR and an alarm clock. Renting movies from a video store was a family event and the average movie ticket was around $5. In short, things were incredibly different from how they are now.
At the same time Ebert, who was currently on the air with Siskel & Ebert, was doing an interview with Omni Magazine and the famous Chicago Sun-Times film critic was asked about how fierce the competition between television and movies would be in the future. His answer, given almost 25 years ago, was just about right on the money. Read what he said after the jump.
OMNI: How will the fierce competition between television and the movies work out in the future?
EBERT: We will have high-definition, wide-screen television sets and a push-button dialing system to order the movie you want at the time you want it. You’ll not go to a video store but instead order a movie on demand and then pay for it. Videocassette tapes as we know them now will be obsolete both for showing prerecorded movies and for recording movies. People will record films on 8mm and will play them back using laser-disk/CD technology.
I also am very, very excited by the fact that before long, alternative films will penetrate the entire country. Today seventy-five percent of the gross from a typical art film in America comes from as few as six –six– different theaters in six different cities. Ninety percent of the American motion-picture marketplace never shows art films. With this revolution in delivery and distribution, anyone, in any size town or hamlet, will see the movies he or she wants to see. It will be the same as it’s always been with books. You can be a hermit and still read any author you choose.
How crazy is that? Who even knew what high definition or on demand was in 1987? Granted, he was wrong about 8mm, but his description of a technology that didn’t exist yet – DVD’s – as a “laser-disk/CD” is spot on.
Ebert also said this:
By the year 2000 or so, a motion picture will cost as much money as it now costs to publish a book or make a phonograph album.
Ignoring the archaic thought of a “phonograph album,” this sentiment also happened. You can make a movie for practically nothing now with the right technology when, in 1987, you needed a film camera and expensive films or a very large camcorder that recorded in a horribly low quality videotape.
Maybe because this fortuitous quote has been dug up, Mr. Ebert will let us know what the future holds for us 25 year from now? What do you all think?