Steven Spielberg’s multi Oscar-winning Lincoln was nearly a TV movie

Speaking with George Lucas at the University of Southern California, the director predicted an inevitable "implosion" of the film industry


Lincoln actor Daniel Day-Lewis scooped most of the movie awards going earlier this year, but according to the film’s director, Steven Spielberg, his performance came very close to being shown exclusively on television instead. 


Speaking with George Lucas, CNBC anchor Julia Boorstin and Microsoft’s Don Mattrick at the opening of a new interactive media building at the University of Southern California, the Oscar-winning director revealed that this year’s awards season darling Lincoln came “this close” to being an HBO movie instead of having a theatrical release, before Lucas hinted at a growing trend as the cinema landscape features less and less small-budget projects.

“I think the Lincolns will go away and they’re going to be on television,” predicted the Star Wars and Indiana Jones creator, before Spielberg interjected, “As mine almost was. This close – ask HBO – this close.”

“We’re talking Lincoln and Red Tails – we barely got them into theaters. You’re talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can’t get their movie into a theater,” added Lucas, before Spielberg quipped, “I got more people into Lincoln than you got into Redtails.”

Cast you mind back to 1982 and Spielberg’s box office sensation E.T. the Extra Terrestrial was shown in cinemas for a year and four months, but at Wednesday’s event he predicted an inevitable “implosion” that will change the industry forever. “That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion – or a big meltdown. 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.”


The director went on to forecast a resulting period of price variance where “you’re gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man, you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln.” Lucas concurred, lamenting the high cost of marketing movies which target the masses at the expense of niche audiences, calling cable television “much more adventurous” than film nowadays.