The deeper we get into 2020 the less likely it seems we're going to have a major year for cinema. What felt like a stacked summer has quickly become a thin lineup that may not debut at all, as most major titles either push deep into the end of the year or rework themselves to come in 2021.
Aside from just major motion pictures, production had halted. That means the movies and TV shows that were shooting have stopped indefinitely.
And while some have episodes in the chamber, there are very few things ready to go.
We've covered the decision every studio has to make already—do they save what they have to try a theatrical run, or begin to distribute and sell titles to streamers in order to recoup some of the lost financials—but there is so much more going on in Hollywood right now.
The decision on what to do with a 2020 still fighting COVID-19 hangs in the balance.
Is Hollywood Punting 2020 in Favor of 2021?
So, what are we seeing happening now?
Aside from the humongous shifts, like release dates of movies for the next 2 years being affected, actors leaving movies they are attached to in order to finish movies held up in production, and delays in when TV networks debut in the fall and spring probably for another 2 years.
I think you're about to see systemic changes in the way Hollywood already works.
The first boils down to meetings. We used to rely on general meetings as a way to get people in front of execs. They know you, they might hire you, etc. But I think those will QUICKLY become Zoom meetings and phone calls. I have done several of these this week and they function almost better than a general because I don't have to drive anywhere and no one feels bad when they only last 15-30 min because you didn't waste time or gas getting there.
Other than that, I think you're going to see production insurance spike. You already pay for the safety of your actors but crew insurance will probably include viruses and shutdowns in them, making blockbusters even more expensive.
Banking on Bankable Stars
A few negatives I can see happening are that in the 2-year window after this, with dates and casts all in a crazy melting pot of awfulness, studios will probably only hire famous people and take far fewer chances because they will be so scared about recouping lost cash.
Debuts on Streaming Services
You will see A TON of movies hit Netflix - many debuting there. Theatrical costs a lot and Netflix can spend the money to acquire any mid or low budget comedy/horror/genre movie just to ensure they get subscribers and clicks.
Fewer Shows, but More Reality TV
TV will probably also scale back, we had 540 shows on the air last year, I think networks collectively decided that was too much. My bigger worry is that reality TV will get an even bigger hold because it is so easy to make, cheap, and has been binged a ton over this break.
Lastly, I think we feel these repercussions the most during the Oscar season. So many movies will go unseen, especially with people scared to go back to theaters. I assume from now on, unless it's a blockbuster, you will see so many prestige movies come out with a simultaneous release online for around $20 a rent, then like $5.99 a month later.
Will Academy rules about theatrical distribution change?
We had this debate last year with The Irishman, and now we will have to have it again post-pandemic.
Fewer Movies Will Get Made
Beyond that, look for fewer movies to be made overall. Once we get out of the 2-year period of schedules being messed up, you might see Netflix, Disney, and other streamers making a ton of small budget movies directly for their channels because they have done so well during the closures.
Now would be the perfect time for any state trying to make money to offer incentives to Hollywood productions.
Get ahead of the curve and be the place where the glut happens in 2022, especially California, who will have thousands of people itching to get back to work in their home state.
What's Happening Now?
Right now, everyone who worked in production is out of work. Thousands of people are looking for jobs and wondering when they will be allowed to come back. They're filing for unemployment and struggling.
But to come back we need to know that they will be safe as well.
Development executives are being paid to pick and package projects they want to tackle next.
And lucky for me, writers are still being employed to adapt and doctor scripts getting ready to shoot as soon as things come back.
That goes for movies and TV.
TV writer's rooms are still happening on Zoom.
So, when we come back there will be content.
Is 2020 Being Punted?
I don't think anyone is willing to say yes quite yet, but a recent Vulture article contained this quote: “We have to write off 2020. It’s already the year that didn’t happen,” says one top agent at one of the town’s powerhouse firms who, like everyone reached by Vulture for this story, requested anonymity due to sensitivities surrounding ongoing business endeavors. “We’re not going to make any money because there are no revenues with TV and movies not getting made. Anyone who says that everything is not totally fucked is lying. Everything has changed in what we do.”
But there was also optimism in that article. “Look, eventually, when the world comes back around, people will want to see movies and television and things, and I’m connected to clients who do that,” says an agent. “I know people who are like, ‘September or July we’ll be back to normal.’ We feel a bit more optimistic than the average person does.”
The truth is, we really do not know what's going to happen in the future.
Our guy here says production will halt until 2021 because we will need a vaccine to ensure the safety of crew and stars.
But who knows how long that will take.
For now, no one wants to punt the year away, but many are taking precautions and planning like they already have.
Hopefully, the best us yet to come...