Movies, as we know them today, will be dead in 10 years.

Ever wondered what the next big entertainment format will be? Back in the old days we invented music. We invented theatre. It evolved into musicals, operas and later movies and TV shows. It’s time to take the next small step for mankind. Follow me.

Have you been noticing? Big movie actors and directors have been migrating to the TV show format the last couple of years. Kevin Spacey went for “House of Cards” along with director David Fincher (“The Social Network”, “Seven”). Steven Spielberg gave us “Falling Skies”. Martin Scorsese (“Goodfellas”) dragged Steve Buscemi into doing “Boardwalk Empire”. Dennis Quaid went for “Vegas”. And the story goes on.

Ad agencies and commercials are history

In these days of Netflix and on-demand television a new TV standard is emerging. Ad agencies are dying faster than ever and converting themselves into something else, because they know that we won’t need them within the next 10 years. Why? Because humans don’t want commercials. They want to get inspired by new products and services, yes. But they want to be in control of where they are getting that inspiration. Not as a way to be allowed to watch TV shows and movies. But all this is old news.

So let’s say commercials are gone in 10 years. Then what? What will finance the big TV networks? And if they lose their financing, who will pay for the production of TV shows? And how the hell does that relate to the fact that some of the biggest movie actors and directors are migrating to TV shows, which are .. supposedly dying. And will that be the end of flow TV as we know it, making everything on-demand? I was a bit confused myself.

I can see why the (smart) actors are migrating to the TV shows format. It’s basically an on-going movie that will keep you busy for years (seasons). And if the future looks like everything is becoming paid on-demand, these “on-going movies” will potentially be bigger cash cows than any movie will ever be, creating bigger and more interesting acting roles.

Apple’s model

What would be the right model to make this happen? We need to make sure that we keep it “flowing”. Keep the “on-going” part of things, but still make people be in control. And no commercials. But a way for the viewers to only subscribe to the shows that they want to follow. I guess that Apple figured that one out already. As always. But where does that leave the big TV networks? Will they just become big TV show factories that serve content through Apple TV and their own version of it?

Let’s jump back to movies. I guess we can call the Batman movie series a big ass TV show. And of course it creates a lot of anticipation and hype: “Uh, who will be the next Batman villain?”, “Uh, who will be Batman’s latest flirt?”. But what matches the fact that you are following your hero every week? That all of your friends are too? That you are constantly served with conversation subjects for the lunch table chats? What can beat that? And why isn’t there a term called “binging”, when talking about movies? Because the TV shit gets addictive. And the fact that your friends are ahead of you is close to massive pain. And how many start-ups are not secretly working on ways of getting real products into TV shows (I’m not talking oldschool product placement concepts), being served as real-time or post-watching interactive content?

Survival of the fittest

There’s another very important thing about TV shows. Actors evolve together, when spending so much time together season after season. If you watch the first couple of episodes of J.J. Abrams’ “Fringe”, and then jump to season 4, you will notice the difference. The characters start knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and start amplifying each other to become better actors, which leads to better shows and more fans, faster. That’s why it gets addictive. They grow with the show. And we eat it raw.

Can you feel this narrowing in? If we end up only having TV shows — because they are so much more addictive (and selling better on-demand), what happens to popcorn and going to the cinema? The big actors can’t both be doing a 6 season TV show, while doing movies on the side? Or can they?

Let’s create something entirely new

I think it’s time to create a new entertainment format. A new way of doing things.

Let’s imagine that movies are just “big TV show episodes”. Let’s go back to Batman. Who wouldn’t want to follow Christian Bale kill out-of-this-world villains every week? And we are not talking the production and story quality that we had 10 years back. We are talking the quality that was put into TV shows like “Lost” and “Breaking Bad” or even better.

Let’s also imagine that every season has a big climax or two. Big climaxes require bigger productions, better special effects, longer playtime (2+ hours). And who wouldn’t order the cinema tickets to the big Batman climax, if they have been following the series every week for the last year?

If this happened viewers would be locked in. Because the “big episodes” would be following a story that was created over time in people’s living rooms and you would need that background story to get the full experience of watching the “climax episode”. People would never not want to see that climax. Imagine people talking about “Breaking Bad” every week, and then not going to see the final episode in their local cinema? Not gonna happen. Locked in. Period.

So basically, movies, as we know them today, would be … dead.

We don’t want an outrage

Would there be an outrage against being “locked in”? Even though we actually let ourselves be “locked in” with the commercials, it’s never a good thing to be locked in.

Let’s go into a galaxy far, far away…, or maybe just 5 years into the future. There’s a lot of buzz about Disney doing the next Star Wars movies in multitudes. Han Solo’s story gets its own movie. Boba Fett too. Might only be rumours, but still it’s an interesting strategy. Let’s apply this strategy to our “locked in” situation and see if it works.

Let’s imagine that this new entertainment format works in multitudes. Let me explain. Let’s say we get to Batman episode 7. In that episode he goes face to face with Superman. That ignites the Superman series. From that exact point in time after meeting Superman, the viewer can decide to change tracks and go with Superman instead. Or they can just decide to get back to Superman later. Would that feel less “locked in”? Or would that just make our heads explode, since every story could potentially be intertwined?

Let’s play with that thought for a minute. Could Superman be playing one of his scenes in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he accidently destroys Walter White’s (from Breaking Bad) house, by flying through it with the speed of sound? Could that be the start of Breaking Bad? Besides being diagnosed with third stage cancer, Walter also needs to rebuild the house, which makes it a more obvious choice to become a drug dealer to both buy his family a new house and secure their future because of his cancer.

If I could make “entertainment jumps” like that, I know I wouldn’t feel locked in.

And since this is turning everything into an even more fluid ecosystem, the format would be even more ready for the next generation ad framework (look for my post about that next week).