Hollywood’s Off Year for Movies

“2022 may be remembered as the year when Hollywood’s expectations and reality collided like a four-car pileup on the 101,” Friendly writes. Photo: Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures
David T. Friendly
February 5, 2023

“It’s been an off year.” At dinner parties, industry screenings, or at the gym, I’ve been hearing this with alarming frequency. My sister Lisa, who lives in Northern California, bluntly asked on a family chat, “What has happened to movies?!” 

Good question. As a voting Academy member, I was stuck early on in finding 10 movies to nominate for the best picture Oscar. I’m not going to tell you how I voted, but I stopped at five—and it wasn’t easy getting there. (One of my picks, the Indian epic RRR, did not make the cut.) When the 10 nominations appeared last week, I found myself longing for the good old days when we were limited to half as many.  

What happened? Box office was down about 35 percent in 2022 compared to 2019. The media constantly tells us that audiences are still afraid of Covid, or that the streaming services are to blame, or ticket prices are too high, or TikTok and video games are more interesting to Gen Z than movies. The problem, I think, is much simpler than that: We need to make better movies. And we need to tell stories that resonate more with general audiences.