Nobody needs me to make the same big-picture Hollywood predictions that we’ve all seen year after year: The “streaming wars” will lead to consolidation; Shari Redstone will sell ViacomCBS; Apple will (or won’t?) buy a legacy studio. Blah, blah. Someday those will come true and everyone will feel smart, just as we all did this year when AT&T predictably unloaded WarnerMedia and Amazon finally pulled the trigger on MGM.
Instead, I polled some of my best sources for predictions that most people might not be thinking about, both big picture and small. Some of these actually are happening, I just can’t report them definitively yet. And if you disagree, tell me why at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are my first 11; part two can be found here.
1. The great theater contraction begins: I’m already hearing this from exhibition and distribution sources: In 2022, movie theater shrinkage will become a significant narrative. Even with Spider-Man: No Way Home, domestic box office in 2021 is on track to decline by about 60 percent from 2019, and forecasts for 2022 and 2023 aren’t great. Let’s say grosses eventually return to 80 percent of “normal;” that’s still not sustainable for mass-market theaters, which were struggling before the pandemic. This year’s lesson for studios is that most non-Marvel, adult-driven pictures should debut for the foreseeable future on streaming, which would eliminate the so-called “platform” release and those surprise breakouts of the recent past, like La La Land or Knives Out. Short of a government bailout, or studios cutting theaters in (like Universal is doing on its 17 day window), contraction from the current 44,000 U.S. screens seems necessary. And if AMC, the largest theater chain, ends its insane meme stock run, all bets are off on its future.