Future of Film: Special Report

Movies Final Large - P 2014
Illustration by: Marek Haiduk

Movies Final Large - P 2014

Chicken Little scenarios about the movie business are abundant as radical changes in technology force studios to beef up franchises, exhibitors to spend money and visual effects to explode

This special report first appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The movie industry is facing a crisis: Seduced by mobile phones and video games, younger audiences are drifting away. This year, domestic box office, at $7.5 billion, is down more than 5 percent. But there is a possible future in which the industry rebounds.

Picture it: Ten years from now, some members of the family might watch Star Wars: Episode XII at a giant widescreen theater that makes current Imax houses look puny. With the latest interactive technology, their own faces could be projected into the crowd scenes, making them, literally, part of the action. Tomorrow's "movies" could boast images so real, they're more like "the feelies" Aldous Huxley imagined in Brave New World.

Such changes won't come cheap: Laser projectors, just coming on line, can cost more than $250,000 each; new theater installations, like the concept that projector company Barco is proposing, can cost $185,000. There are more possibilities: Other family members could decide to simply stay in, paying a premium price to watch the world premiere of Episode XII on a state-of-the-art home-theater system. And once the movie's over, they might reach for a virtual reality headset to explore the caves of Tatooine on their own. The pricing will vary among the modes of delivery, but forget about buying a movie "ticket." Studios, instead of selling access to one piece of programming at a time, will be offering monthly subscriptions to whole streams of content. And that's just the beginning of what the future could hold.

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

4 Experts Predict How Moviegoing Will Change in 10 Years

VFX Legend Douglas Trumbull's Plan to Save the Movies

Why Oculus Rift Was Worth $2B to Facebook