Future of Film: 4 Experts Predict How Moviegoing Will Change in 10 Years

David O. Russell THR Oscar Nominees Night - H 2014
Dan Steinberg/Invision for The Hollywood Reporter/AP Images

David O. Russell THR Oscar Nominees Night - H 2014

"Movie theaters are dying" — but mixologists, masseuses and manicurists might be part of the new viewing experience

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

John Sloss, entertainment lawyer/producer

All the distinctions that exist in terms of windowing and designations to pay for content will collapse. There will be two designations: One will be viewing at home, and one will be viewing in public. I think that the length designations will also disappear. Stories will be the length that serves them. All the vestiges of the 20th century that limited the inherent flexibility of film will go away." 

Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder, MIT Media Laboratory

Insofar as film equals sound plus moving images to tell a story, the biggest change will be who writes the story. For sure the technologies for audio and video will change with a few breathtaking advances in areas like holography and direct images on your retina. But the really big one will be in rendering the narrative. Here is what I mean:

We used to believe that the medium was the message, that if you told the story in print, in film or on radio, the interaction between form and substance was such that story-telling was done by people well versed in each medium — three different interpretations. Therefore, when books are turned into movies, they are, to some degree, different stories.

Now imagine that, rather than writing, recording or filming a story, you model the situation in a computer. That model is like the DNA of the story from which multiple forms can be rendered. Want to see it as a movie? Want to hear it while driving? Want to read a book about it? In each case, when you choose, it is automatically rendered in that medium, with the skill sets of great directors, wonderful actors, postproduction excellence — but no people, just computers." 

David O. Russell, writer/director

I have seen many young aspiring filmmakers from all the boroughs of New York City, of all races and colors and backgrounds, and also from Los Angeles, where the cinema high school has just begun a program, and I believe there will be stories that have heart and soul in contexts and worlds we cannot imagine until we see them. And then they will move and inspire us. They will combine humanity and place and time and narratives we have not seen or felt. Which in some ways will be maybe slightly different from what we know, but that slight difference will be significant — and there will be ways that are very different."

Faith Popcornfuturist and CEO, BrainReserve

In the future, there will be seismic changes. Bored with Hollywood dictating cinematic culture (the same millionaire directors, the same overexposed actors, the same predictable storylines), like-minded fans will connect and create their own vision, either a completely original work or a riff on, say, rom-coms or Star Wars. The accessibility of tech makes it all possible for us to produce — and own. The intellectual property of our own tales will be ours to use and repurpose in new innovative ways. We’ll see them screened and voted upon (like The Voice), with the winners getting widespread release. It will be an entirely new business model. You've heard about Fan Fiction? Get ready for Fan Film, in which self becomes film studio. 

Movie theaters are dying. As consumers hide out in their at-home binge-cocoons, devouring entire seasons of HBO and Netflix programming, theater owners will partner with hotels to create binge retreats. These will be fab private dens you can rent for a few hours or days to binge-watch whatever you like. It'll be all about decadence: Food will be catered and gourmet. Mixologists, masseuses and manicurists will be on-call. People will be unplugging from home and work, and plugging in to entertainment, fantasy and luxury.

In the future, fantasy adventure (our craving for exotic experiences) and technology will demolish the old-school movie screen. We'll have completely immersive experiences. In a decade, Imax and even Oculus Rift experiences will seem as outdated as a Walkman. Films won’t be events you go see in the theater for two hours, they’ll be gamified and will unfold in real-time all around you. You pay for a time-slot, tune in your technology, and literally become one with the action. Endings and events will be changed as you go, smells, tastes, sensations will all be experienced live. Casts will be comprised of your own avatars — you will be the star. It’ll be a totally user-centric landscape that encompasses our EGOnomics trend: a personalized way for users to offset the effects of our digital, depersonalized society."

Read more from The Hollywood Reporter's "Future of Film" special report:

Studios Will Have to Take Their Cues From TV Networks

Producers Opt for Foreign Talent, Far-Flung Locations to Boost Box Office

Even Bigger Screens and, Yep, Cinema Selfies

VFX Legend Douglas Trumbull's Plan to Save the Movies

Why Oculus Rift Was Worth $2B to Facebook