Monday, August 10, 2020

What I hope changes about the Movie Industry Post-COVID

Once COVID-19 is in our rearview mirror, we will notice that the world around us has changed.

Now, spare me the tin foil hat, I'm talking about the many conspiracy theories plaguing the internet. I can't begin to explain how or what those changes will entail. But a new world is on the horizon. I see people complain about the world as it is today, saying that there is nothing normal about anything happening right now. Good observation. The fact of the matter is, our government blew it. There's no arguing that point and I am not trying to turn this into a political screed, but its true. We blew it. We possibly could have had opened businesses on the rise by now, but it didn't happen for us. So we are going to be waiting a little bit longer to see how the world changes after all of this.

We are starting to see some changes, happening right under our noses and nobody noticed. Once COVID-19 really took off, the country shut down. That includes movie theaters. No big releases were coming to any of our screens any time soon. Major studios started pulling films off the release schedule with a new date to be released at a later time. In the mean time, streaming services have stepped up to release brand new content that you wouldn't think of, drive-in theaters are having a revival, and VOD has been getting its hands on some cool new content, stuff that probably would maybe play for a week or two at your local theater and those have been the big winners during this global pandemic.

Seems almost the same? Not quite. You see, the 2010's ended as the decade of the fan. The studios all came together and allowed us to indulge in nostalgia. The movie business didn't push creative ideas with A-List Actors. Each studio found its brand and they pushed that brand. These "tentpole" movies were only meant to keep the studios afloat, not become the business themselves. If you look at each year in the 2010's, the top ten highest grossing films, each year features a bunch of superhero movies, a bunch of stuff based off books, a bunch of revivals...there is barely a new, creative idea anywhere. Instead of feeling a sense of pride with this, it turned its fans into a bunch of rabid animal keyboard warriors, ready to trounce on anybody who would talk smack about their beloved franchise.

This is something that's been bothering me for awhile, and I've written about this issue a couple of times before on this blog. But when each year looks the exact same, going to the movies feels a bit bland. And trust me, I'm not the only one who thinks so. Look what happened to Disney and "Star Wars." We were supposed to get a new movie a year for the unforeseeable future, now Disney is retooling their plans for that brand. When the credits rolled for "Avengers: Endgame," I knew more Marvel movies would be coming. But at the same time, do we really need this franchise to continue? "Avengers: Endgame" felt like such a satisfying conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it wasn't the conclusion. While I trust and respect Kevin Feige without hesitation, most people are starting to get bored with the Marvel model. Plus, if Feige is planning to tell another huge story across 23 movies, can I just pay 1/23rd a ticket price?

Part of any great story is the ending, and we are living in a movie culture that doesn't end. Do we need revivals of "Saved By The Bell" and "Full House?" Do we need a TRILOGY of films based on a book-within-a-book from Harry Potter that never played a significant role in the greater story? Does "Game of Thrones" really need three fucking spin-offs? If we live in a pop culture where nothing ends, we run the risk of that pop culture getting stale, then all of those tentpoles we talked about fall down.

I've enjoyed several movies during this quarantine. Just this passed month, there have been some fun horror films like "Relic" and "Amulet." Are they necessarily great? No, but they've certainly scratched a particular itch with fashion. I found "An American Pickle" to not be the typical Seth Rogen vehicle, but still worth seeing and still very funny. Beyonce's "Black Is King" is psychedelic and often mesmerizing. I think Dave Bautista is on his way to be a formidable force in Hollywood, the next big movie star after seeing "My Spy." Had COVID not happened, I am not sure how well most of these movies would have fared at the box office, but they are keeping people busy right now during the pandemic and they are ruling the box office right now.

Here's what I hope changes after this pandemic is over. I hope we go back to genuine storytelling in the movies. I hope we get flashes of the big, nostalgic stuff in smaller doses. I hope we allow our franchises to end properly and give them time to settle before we milk the cow for all that it's worth. I want our pop culture to live and breath, I don't want it to be treated like its a freaking puppy mill. I want filmmakers to get creative, and I want the studios to back those ideas up with the money and the swagger and the connections that they bring along. Let's start to take chances of all kinds going forward, because clearly its working. 

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