Steven Spielberg And George Lucas Predicted Variable Movie Ticket Prices In 2013

AMC, the largest theater chain in the U.S., recently made some big waves by revealing that it will begin experimenting with variable ticket pricing. Essentially, this means viewers will pay more to see "The Batman" this weekend, as it is the most desirable new release by a wide margin. This caused quite a bit of chatter on social media, with many people irritated and others arguing this is the logical conclusion, given that superhero movies are virtually the only sure thing in terms of drawing big crowds anymore. Yet it was two cinematic titans, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who predicted this variable ticket pricing approach nearly ten years ago. 

The two friends and directors of such classics as "Jaws" and "Star Wars," respectively, participated in a panel discussion about the future of entertainment at the University of Southern California back in 2013. Incredibly enough, Spielberg hit the nail directly on the head at that time, saying, "eventually there's going to be a price variance. You're going to have to pay $25 to see the next 'Iron Man.' And you're probably only going to have to pay $7 to see 'Lincoln.'" While the gap isn't quite that extreme just yet, the core point is spot-on. Spielberg also had this to say at the time:

"What you're going to end up with is fewer theaters. Bigger theaters, with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies is going to cost you 50 bucks, maybe 100. Maybe 150. And that's going to be what we call 'the movie business.' But everything else is going to look more like cable television on TiVo."

Indeed, with the streaming revolution that advanced dramatically during the pandemic, our landscape does look more like on-demand, a la carte cable. Fewer people are going to theaters regularly, and lots of theaters have closed. And it should be noted that Cinemark is also experimenting with variable pricing. Don't just get mad at AMC here; this is what happens when movies like "Nightmare Alley" continue to flop while "Spider-Man: No Way Home" shatters box office records.

But it didn't stop there

Spielberg and Lucas saw the writing on the wall so clearly, it's amazing we all didn't listen. To that end, the director of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" kind of laid out exactly what is going on at most major studios right now, pointing towards a grim future that we're now living in.

"You're at the point right now where a studio would rather invest $250 million in one film for a real shot at the brass ring than make a whole bunch of really interesting, deeply personal — and even maybe historical — projects that may get lost in the shuffle because there's only 24 hours [in the day]. There's going to be 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 and that's going to change the paradigm."

Indeed, most studios want grabby blockbusters while filmmaker-driven stuff either fails spectacularly at the box office or gets sent to streaming. Spielberg's own "West Side Story" tragically tanked at the box office despite a great deal of critical love and an Oscar nomination for best picture. This may well be one of the bombs that helps to change the paradigm.

Meanwhile, Lucas had his own prophetic thoughts, saying that most filmmaker-driven stuff will go to TV. Lucas also pretty much laid out the streaming world as it exists now.

"[VOD and TV offerings are] usually more interesting than what you're going to see in the movie theater. And you can get it whenever you want, and it's going to be niche-marketed, which means you can really take chances and do things if you can figure out there's a small group of people that will kind of react to it."

So yeah, for better or for worse, these two wildly influential filmmakers saw the writing on the wall nearly a decade ago, and Hollywood (pushed aggressively by the pandemic) steered us in that very direction.