2022 in Review: Entertainment Headlines
Every year has its share of important entertainment industry stories. Why “important”? It could be because the stories demonstrate how consumers respond to the products offered. Other times it concerns behind-the-scenes developments that will influence future products in the months and years to come. Then there are instances of a film, tv or streaming show, or even a personality that strikes public consciousness so there is no turning back (Grogu in The Mandalorian, who captured hearts in 2019).
2022 is no exception, with the business experiencing its share of ups and downs. Tilt Magazine looks back at what shook Hollywood, highlighting some of the more significant stories, as well as awarding lighter ones some glow of the spotlight.
Dollars Make Sense
Anyone familiar with some of the author’s previous articles knows that the money side of movies and streaming is what keeps them going. Artistry and expression are fine and dandy, but they cost money and subsequently need to earn money if the creatives wish to extend their careers. It’s called show business, after all.
This past year witnessed several high-profile developments that took the industry by storm. Some examples have yet to produce fallout but shall in the not-too-distant future. Others quickly followed with plenty of drama and supplemental headlines worthy of dissection.
1. Amazon Buys James Bo-…uh, MGM
Initially announced in May of 2021, the deal for mega-company Amazon to take ownership of MGM studios and its back catalogue was made official in March after a thorough examination by regulatory bodies, both in the United States and Europe.
It was never any secret that Amazon, through its Prime Video streaming service and the founding of Amazon Studios, wanted to be a player in the entertainment industry. They’ve backed a series of art-house films for some limited theatrical releases and put the pedal to the metal since the pandemic into producing content for Prime. One need only consider their acquisitions of some Paramount projects to keep people entertained when there was nothing to do during the pandemic.
Now, with MGM under its umbrella, the company can reap the potential rewards of a few notable intellectual properties, chief among them James Bond.
2. Changing Big Wigs at Disney and WB Discovery
Some of Hollywood’s biggest homes saw changing of the guards at the very top of the echelon. In the spring, after many trials and tribulations, the famed WarnerMedia and titanic Discovery merged into one. The new entity, Warner Bros Discovery, was also headed by a face new to most people. Enter David Zaslav, formerly of just Discovery. It didn’t take long for the new CEO to start rustling some feathers, and by rustling, we mean making quick decisions that left many gobsmacked. WB had not been in the greatest financial state. The pandemic didn’t help, nor did key decisions made by its previous chiefs. Head over to our article about the Batgirl controversy for a small taste of the action.
Warner Bros Discovery wants to make its stake in the DC Comics brand count for as much as possible. With so much of what Marvel touches turning into gold, it was only a matter of time before birthing their very own version, ergo, D.C. Studios. Furthermore, it appointed two leaders, Peter Safran and James Gunn, the latter who, perhaps not so incidentally, had worked on successful Marvel projects. Just like Zaslav’s taking over WB Discovery saw the axe fall on several projects already in production, the Gunn-Safran regime at DC Studios has commenced with guns blazing. Just ask Patty Jenkins and Henry Cavill.
Disney’s leadership also went through a metamorphosis, albeit one of a different variety. Late on a Sunday night in November when people were either having supper or taking it easy after a long week, the company’s CEO Bob Chapek was shown the door, replaced by a familiar face: Bob Iger. Iger had led Disney for well over a decade, from 2005 to 2020. What’s more, his retirement was frequently delayed. But in the short time during which Chapek operated as boss, Disney’s stock took some hits (the pandemic made matters worse, to be fair), revenue didn’t meet expectations, and certain creative decisions failed to impress. Clearly, a change was needed. Iger signed a two-year deal to right the ship. An unexpected demonstration of the old expression about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.
3. We’ll be Back After a Word From our Sponsors
After years of refuting that such a change would ever be made, streaming platforms finally hit the harsh economic wall and realized that, yes, their services needed ad support. Either that or, should one prefer to enjoy their streaming films and shows sans interruptions, they can pay more monthly.
In November, Netflix got in on the action with a menu of ad-supported and ad-free plans. Disney+, at least in the U.S., followed suit in December. There is no guarantee that they will be the only major platforms to give in to the budget-expenses-revenue pressures that compelled them to adopt the strategy. We dedicated an entire article to analyzing the situation. Tough choices have been made by major platforms, and tough choices will have to be made by a portion of the consumer market. Certain people simply won’t be inclined to oblige. Others will be monetarily prohibited from indulging in all the content they used to. Just one of the many industry stories to follow up on in 2023.
4. The Box Office’s Comeback. Sort of.
At the risk of slightly contradicting another article Tilt published in November, the 2022 box office is a curious case. A few academic notions should be kept in mind. First, numbers can’t lie. Second, multiple things can be true at the same time.
Total box office earnings, both domestically and globally, are up from 2021, which itself was a breath of fresh air after the apocalyptic 2020 theatre landscape. The easy lesson to take away is that things are getting back to normal. Not untrue, but also not the complete picture. Even with Wakanda Forever out and Avatar: The Way of Water finally upon us, 2022 will not match 2019. Even if James Cameron’s sequel somehow reaches the $2B mark, 2022 will be less successful. Domestically (U.S. and Canada), the market is way off from that year’s astonishing $11.39B. When the article linked above was written in early November, $5.6B in tickets had been sold. Wakanda Forever will tap out at around $425M. Let’s say Way of Water makes $1B domestic. That’s a total of approximately $7.025B, notwithstanding the tally earned by the many much, much smaller films in the interim. It’ll be $4B short, give or take.
This might read silly to some when discussing the “problem” an industry has when generating literally billions of dollars in ticket sales. $4B isn’t a number to sneeze that, though. Only two films so far have crossed the billion-dollar mark globally: Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World: Dominion. There were nine in 2019!
Trend Setting and Following
Every calendar year is seemingly littered with trends. Some could very well be the product of coincidence, others entirely calculated. Be that as it may, here are some that caught our attention in 2022.
-2 films about the stories of U.S. Navy fighter pilots: Top Gun: Maverick and Devotion. In a funny twist, actor Glen Powell appears in both. In fact, he spearheaded the creation of Devotion as a producer. One of those films was a global hit, while the other made little to no noise, though through no fault of its quality.
-2 films with major underwater scenes, action, and civilizations with ties to the marine world: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water. James Cameron likes to push filmmaking technology to its limits and then push further. The reviews are in, and it would appear he has once again succeeded. Wakanda Forever may not have gone to such lengths, but at least it provided its director Ryan Coogler with the opportunity to learn how to swim.
-2 films about the stories of African female armies: The Woman King and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This is a case of art imitating life, then life imitating art. In the MCU franchise, the kingdom of Wakanda is protected by the Dora Milaje, an all-female platoon of highly skilled soldiers. The fictional military unit was based, at least in part, on a real-world female army that existed in the 18th and 19th centuries in Western Africa: the Agojie. In September, The Woman King was released, which tells a story about the Agojie from that very epoch.
-Movies about the power of cinema. Hollywood loves movies about the making of movies and their emotional pull. In 2022, particularly the final lap consisting of November and December, everyone appeared to be in on the action, including those from outside Hollywood. No fewer than four films on the subject have or will come out soon: The Fablemans, Empire of Light, Last Film Show, and Babylon.
-The battle of fantasy stories for streaming supremacy: House of the Dragon (HOTD) vs. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (ROP). In a bold move by Amazon and HBO, each side opted to either continue (HBO) or begin to (Amazon) cash in on the popularity of two notable fantasy-based intellectual properties, those being Game of Thrones and LOTR. It was one thing to produce a prequel to GOT in the form of HOTD and spend unspeakable sums on ROP. The instant rivalry intensified when HBO and Amazon opted to premiere and air them during the exact same window. Both played on weekends – ROP on Fridays and HOTD on Sundays – from the end of summer and through the fall.
Surprise Successes Stories
–Wednesday on Netflix was no ordinary hump day, pardon the lazy joke. One got the sense that there was a level of anticipation for the Jenna Ortega-starring, Tim Burton-produced, and partially directed series. Few predicted the early numbers it posted. In no time at all Wednesday became Netflix’s 2nd most popular English-language show of all time (based on figures during a show’s 28 first days on the platform).
-For Wednesday to earn second place, it had to leapfrog the series, which already ranked there. Dahmer is now 3rd on the Netflix all-time list. Disappointing news perhaps for those who championed the show and its incredible ranking. Even so, the reality is that in the span of a couple of months, Netflix released two new series that skyrocketed and ranked in its top 5 all-time most-watched English-language shows. Oh, small detail, but they released a new season of Stranger Things in the summer which solidified its place at the top. No biggie.
-With the release of Everything Everywhere All at Once in the spring, a new generation of film fans got to discover the talent that is Michelle Yeoh. She has been working in entertainment in Hong Kong since the 1980s and in Hollywood since the 1990s. Every few years she elects to participate in a project that expands her circle of fans, from Tomorrow Never Dies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Lady, Star Trek: Discovery, and now Everything Everywhere All at Once. A tireless talent that works around the globe and in multiple languages. This was one of the more emotionally satisfying stories of 2022.