|▶The Pandemic Is Changing Hollywood Forever (2021-01-22)|
More than 100 years ago, the New York Times published a story titled “No New ‘Movies’ Till Influenza Ends." The story described the spread of the Spanish Flu across the United States.
Today, as another pandemic spreads, the future of movies is again being questioned. But unlike 1918, many new American movies have been released during the coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the films, however, did not arrive in theaters. Instead, they were released on streaming services, which permit people to watch movies on television through the internet.
Until now, the new releases were small productions, not the big budget films Hollywood depends on to make profits. But that is changing.
Last month, the Walt Disney Co. experimented with the $200 million movie Mulan. The film was released on its streaming service. Disney will also release the Pixar film Soul on December 25 on its streaming service. And WarnerMedia said last week that Wonder Woman 1984 would be released on HBO streaming and to theaters at the same time.
Much remains unknown about how the movie business will survive the pandemic. But it has become increasingly clear that Hollywood will not be the same. Just as the Spanish Flu changed the movie business by shrinking the number of moviemakers, COVID-19 is remaking Hollywood. It is reorganizing an industry that has already seen major changes over the past 20 years.
Long-time producer Peter Guber is president of Mandalay Entertainment and the former chief of Sony Pictures. “It will be a new studio system. Instead of MGM and Fox, they’re going to be Disney and Disney+, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, HBO Max and Peacock,” he said. All of those companies have streaming services.
Many of the changes in 2020 are related to the pandemic, but not all. Several studios are creating new business deals and partnerships because of streaming.
The conglomerate WarnerMedia owns Warner Bros., which was founded in 1923. It is run by Jason Kilar, who formerly ran the Hulu streaming service. Last month, Disney head Bob Chapek announced a reorganization of the company to strengthen its streaming operations.
Universal Pictures is owned by the conglomerate Comcast. It pushed hard to change its longtime agreement with theaters that movies must be shown for three months before they can be streamed. Now, it is only 17 days.
Many see the pandemic speeding up changes that have been coming for 20 years.
Chris Aronson is head of distribution for Paramount Pictures.
“All this stuff that’s going on now in the business was going to happen, the evolution is just happening faster than it would have. What would have taken three to five years is going to be done in a year, maybe a year and a half,” he said.
Meanwhile, big media companies are fighting for popularity in the streaming market. Right now, the market’s top players are Netflix and Amazon. Other streaming services - including Hulu, Disney, Apple and others – are seeking to expand their share in the highly-competitive market.
[December 04, 2020]