'Movie industry will implode'
Movie-goers will have to pay a premium to see big budget films like Iron Man, Steven Spielberg predicts.
But smaller budget movies like his Oscar-winning drama Lincoln will cost audiences a fraction of the price.
Speaking at a special event to mark the opening of the new School of Cinematic Arts building at the University of Southern California, the director said the movie industry was in danger of self-destructing.
"There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm," the Hollywood Reporter quoted him as saying.
The result would be a two-tier price system for movie tickets. "You're gonna have to pay $US25 ($30) for the next Iron Man, you're probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln."
Most blockbuster movies carry price tags of $150m plus and can cost as much again to market, making it extremely difficult for movies to break even if they don't do gangbuster-style business at the box office.
Mega-flops like last year's John Carter and Battleship and this year's Jack the Giant Slayer have cost studios dear. Ironically, costly failures have made them wary of making mid-budget movies.
Spielberg, who is seen by many as the director who ushered in the era of big budget movie spectacles, said he had personally struggled to get his last film released because of a lack of interest from studios and movie chains. Lincoln came "this close" to being an HBO movie instead of being released at cinemas, he told USC students.
His experience reflects that of fellow Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh, whose latest film, Behind the Candelabra, was rejected by every Hollywood studio because they thought it was too niche and too gay. HBO agreed to release the movie on cable.
Spielberg was joined at the event by Star Wars creator George Lucas, another director charged with fuelling Hollywood's appetite for expensive blockbusters.
Lucas agreed that the film industry would change, and predicted fewer movies would be made but would stay in cinemas longer, for up to year.
The current Hollywood model is geared towards squeezing as much money out of a film's opening weekend. Blockbusters tend to stay in cinemas less than three months.
Lucas said cable television "much more adventurous" than film. "I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they're going to be on television," he said.
Cinema chains and movie studios have already embraced the idea of a two-tier pricing system, with the premium they attach to tickets for 3D movies. Most if not all this year's expensive blockbuster movies have been converted to 3D, in the hope they will boost box office takings.