Since its inception, filmmaking has always been a collaborative art form that made money through people paying to share an experience together. With the onset in TV, films took a small hit, but there was still nothing that could compete with the theatrical experience.
Well, times are changing, as the pandemic has brought Hollywood to a harsh truth: people enjoy staying in and watching films, and the future of this industry is going to be about how many people you can get to watch your stuff at home, and not in theaters.
2020 brought one of the hardest years in history for the biz. Thousands of people were laid off, and companies had to look at the way they were spending money and where it was going.
While it's in vogue to blame these layoffs on the coronavirus, the financial hits many of these places took came from not seeing the future and having a profitable outlet when theaters were closed.
“We’ve been saying that at some point the studios were going to have to rethink their business models, and now they’re actually doing it,” said Michael Nathanson, a media analyst with MoffettNathanson. He told Variety, “I think these companies should have been planning this pivot earlier.”
But they were not. We saw every studio and many production companies get rid of people. We saw agents and managers lose their jobs, and entire groups of assistants liquidated. Story departments were sent packing.
Hollywood cleaned out people to save money.
Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst for the Washington, D.C.-based National Employment Law Project, was quoted in Variety as saying, “We’re seeing it now because of the pandemic in the restaurant world, in the industrial janitorial world, in parking garages, and all these areas that have been completely disrupted by COVID-19.”
Film and television are no different. They now have to pivot into a great unknown and have no idea how many people it will take to accomplish the goal of "creating a new way."
That new way is pivoting the industry toward streaming. Streaming is a smart way to get entertainment directly into people's homes. But how many people does it take to effectively run a streaming company? Or to develop content for streamers?
We are figuring that out right now in real-time.
The focus is going toward streaming, but it will not be smooth. Tentpoles are still seen as viable ways to make a lot of money. But looking at how HBO Max was willing to shift a movie like Wonder Woman 1984, which they could rightfully assume might make $1 billion dollars, into a play to attract more people to their platform, we have to recalibrate.
That recalibration means job openings, but no one really knows how many. And we don't know how much content these streamers can support and still make money. Will people watch 52 movies a year if they release them? More?
We're about to find out.
For the first time since the dawn of television, Hollywood has to decide what the future looks like.
Got any predictions?
Let us know in the comments.