"I have great hope that the films this year that did all this business will spawn more adult films and more films that have thoughtful content. I hope that will be the case, I really do," says Guber. "But if you look at the lineup for this year, what you'll see is sequels, remakes, re-dos, prequels and franchises."
This year's class is still missing a heavyweight, like "Avatar" or "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (which drive viewers to the telecast), or the drama of something like Kathryn Bigelow and "The Hurt Locker" going up against ex-husband James Cameron and "Avatar." ''Argo" vs. "Lincoln," as many believe the competition has come down to, "is not much of a horse race," Gruber says.
That idiosyncratic movies by talented filmmakers from Ang Lee to Quentin Tarantino can be so lucrative, albeit not on the scale of the $1.1 billion-making "Skyfall," suggests that risk-taking can pay off. (There still are cautionary tales like Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," which earned only $25.7 million worldwide, a fraction of its budget.)
The trend for adult dramas had been going in the other direction, prompting worries about the diminishing appeal of the theatrical experience in a time of ceaseless digital entertainment, the loss of independent studios specializing in films for adult audiences, and television's rise as the first destination for today's best dramas.
All of those concerns still have credence, but much of the critical discussion in 2012 turned not merely cynical but downright dismal. Many, including New Yorker critic David Denby (who released the book "Do the Movies Have a Future?") pondered the shrinking stature of movies in American public life.
But at least this Oscar's batch has vibrancy, with films that have provoked audiences. Bigelow crafted "Zero Dark Thirty" as an almost documentary-like early draft of history, leading up to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. She intended, she said, "to ask the audience to lean into their own conclusions" — and, boy, have they. No movie has been more hotly debated, from the corridors of Washington to the multiplexes of suburbia.
At a time when teenager-targeted extravaganzas increasingly crowd out quality films for adults, this year's best picture films made the argument for being a little daring.
"Every movie is unknown," said Lee. "If it's known, then no studio would lose money."
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jake_coyle