Back To The Future: 21st Century Movies

Davis Freeberg —  May 4, 2007

As a digital TV blogger, I spend a lot of time writing about where I think television is heading. Given the impact that technology is having on the television experience, it hard enough to know what is going to happen next week, let alone 25 years from now.

This is why I was surprised at how eerily familiar things seemed, when I was reading Paleo-Future’s review of the The Omni Future Almanac. The book was written in 1982 by Robert Weil and offers his vision into what the television industry would be like, in the 21st century.

We’re only a few years into the 21st century of course, but considering that it’s been 25 years since the book was published, I couldn’t help, but be impressed with how many of the predictions he got right (except for the whole people loving westerns thing, he was way off base on that one.) In looking over the list of predictions, here are a few, that I think we’ll continue to see throughout the rest of this century.

*Instant classics will be created by increased Hollywood hype and intensive advertising. Aggressive marketing techniques will also be used in the promotion of pay television and home video media.

It’s no longer about the quality of the content, it’s about the marketing. A third of most film’s budgets goes towards commercials, billboards and hyping the films on the net. As we see the barriers of film distirbution break down, marketing will play an even more critical role.

*Trends at the theater concession stand may come and go, but popcorn will remain America’s favorite movie-going snack.

Even with the spike in corn prices popcorn is still ridiculously cheap for movie theaters. The gross margins that they earn will ensure that popcorn stays a part of the movie theater experience for as long as people keep seeing films.

*Movie studios will continue to become electronic entertainment conglomerates. With their vast financial resources, these will be the only organizations capable of funding the giant spectaculars of the future. The trend is already exemplified by Universal, Paramount, MGM and Warner. Smaller experimental movies, on the other hand, will flourish with the availability of video to independent producers.

The Omni future almanac could not have nailed this one more perfectly. Media companies will always have an insatiable thirst for consolidation. It’s part of their DNA. It’s hard to see how this one plays out when you look at the explosion of consumer generated media, but there is little doubt in my mind that the conglomerates will figure out a way to buy into it, if they can’t build it themselves.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. No matter what effect technology has on the film industry, people will always love movies and there will always be people willing to make them. How we make them, how we distribute them and how we sell them may end up changing a lot, but at the end of the day, there will always be an audience, regardless of how the economics work out.

Davis Freeberg is a technology enthusiast living in the Bay Area. He enjoys writing about movies, music, and the impact that digital technology is having on traditional media. You can read more of his coverage on technology at www.davisfreeberg.com.