It might be a new decade, but as far as the movies go, nothing’s really changed: ticket prices are creeping up, exhibitors are desperate to find new ways to draw people to the megaplex and people are still electing to watch anything that isn’t a megablockbuster at home. In 2010 industry-watchers blamed piracy, but now it’s supposedly streaming’s fault; I suppose that’s progress.
And even as the movie business gets more blatantly commercial, I continue to believe the art of cinema will evolve and grow, because that’s who I am – and because some of the best movies I saw last year were produced for (or acquired by) streaming services. Also because I’m stockpiling Blu-rays and DVDs for the apocalypse: the internet might go down and the ravagers may rise, but so long as I have a generator, that 4K disc of 2001: A Space Odyssey will still spin up. And I’ll be able to electrify the perimeter.
The megaflops won’t stop
The cocaine-and-hairball nightmare of Tom Hooper’s Cats wasn’t just the biggest disaster of 2019: it was also the death blow to the idea that movies built on existing properties are guaranteed moneymakers. The new Men In Black and Terminator movies opened weakly; Charlie’s Angels and Cats tanked outright. The industry will spin it by arguing that Cats was a full-blown conceptual disaster, and pour more money into the marketing of their 2020 tentpoles (like, um, Robert Downey Jr. in the upcoming Dolittle).
Meanwhile, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out earned $100 million in North America and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite earned the same amount worldwide, which demonstrates that people are still willing to seek out new, original projects – no matter what the subject matter or country of origin – if word of mouth is strong enough. Here’s hoping for more of those… and also that very expensive, very IP-based properties like The King’s Man, Top Gun: Maverick and Disney’s Jungle Cruise are worth our time. The Mulan remake looks like it might work, but we’ve been burned before.