Los Angeles - Hollywood legends Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have sparked a surge of debate in Tinseltown after warning that the film industry is set to implode, amid soaring budgets and cable TV rivalry.
E.T. icon Spielberg revealed that his Oscar-winning political biopic Lincoln almost didn't make it into theatres last year, while Lucas said the path to release films in theaters is "getting smaller and smaller".
Pricing structures could also change with, for example, theaters charging $25 for the next Iron Man blockbuster but only $7 for a ticket to see Lincoln, or even a Broadway-style structure, with much costlier tickets and longer runs.
There has long been a trend in the major Hollywood studios towards more sure-fire commercial hits, either with bankable A-list stars or blockbuster sequels to already tried-and-tested franchises.
Movie meltdown is coming
But the constant introduction of new technologies, from DVDs to BluRays to on-demand entertainment, as well as the widespread illegal peer-to-peer sharing of movies, have steadily eaten into the industry's bottom line.
Speaking at a debate Wednesday at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, Spielberg said some young filmmakers' ideas were often "too fringe-y for the movies".
"That's the big danger, and there's eventually going to be an implosion - or a big meltdown," he said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
He added: "You're at the point right now where a studio would rather invest $250m in one film for a real shot at the brass ring... than make a whole bunch of really interesting, deeply personal" films, he was quoted as saying.
"There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen mega-budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm," he said.
Prices will rise drastically
Star Wars legend Lucas added: "You're going to end up with fewer theaters, bigger theaters with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies will cost 50 bucks or 100 or 150 bucks, like what Broadway costs today, or a football game."
Lucas said: "I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they're going to be on television."