The current Blockbuster Age of Hollywood is an era where marketing and spectacle have dominated in contrast to the creative freedom and excesses that marked the New Hollywood era of the 1970s. It has also created a new "studio-system", built upon the ashes of the old. This time however, there are only five major studios: Sony (releasing films under the Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures and Screen Gems imprints), Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (formerly known as Buena Vista Pictures)—20th Century Fox and MGM still exist, but the former was acquired by Disney in 2019 and now only exists as a brand name and nothing more, and the latter is a shadow of its former self owned by its creditors, and a major studio only by virtue of its history. But fundamentally, this is a studio-system In Name Only. The studios have become part of larger conglomerates instead of being independent companies like in the Golden Age. In addition, actors still operate on a "free agent" basis instead of being contractually tied to a studio.
"Blockbusters" in both senses of the word
There is significant overlap between the end of New Hollywood and the start of the Blockbuster Age. While New Hollywood is generally held to have ended in the early '80s after a string of expensive, high-profile flops, the beginning of the Blockbuster Age is generally pinned much earlier, in the year of 1975, which marked the arrival of one Steven Spielberg into mainstream Hollywood, with his classic shark film Jaws. Jaws was a revolution in cinema, marking a shift towards advertising, High Concept and disciplined production as ways of producing high-quality, commercially viable films. This was followed up two years later by the success of Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and George Lucas' Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), which revitalized the science fiction genre. Star Wars also showed Hollywood how merchandising, spinoffs into other media, and sequels could be used by the studios to return to profitability. Together, Jaws, Close Encounters and Star Wars invented the Summer Blockbuster as Hollywood's new paradigm for film-making.
Notable is the fact that these science-fiction thrillers were in genres that in the Old Hollywood days would be B-Movie (and Star Wars was called such by Roger Corman during a visit to the set on hearing George Lucas' ideas) and would have been made on low-budget or No Budget with limited technical resources. The above films more or less structured on similar concepts with a much higher production standard and better visual effects. This trend continued with the wild success of Superman in 1978 and Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, which showed that adaptations from media previously scoffed at by Hollywood, such as the Comic Book Super Hero and genre TV series, had potential to become big-time film genres and that the supposedly niche teenager, geek and nerd concepts could in fact appeal to a big part of the mainstream. The huge success of these films — and another '79 entry, The Muppet Movie — with children was also noted. For all its rebelliousness, New Hollywood fundamentally was built on the old genres of the Golden Age Hollywood (The Musical, the Screwball Comedy, The Western, Film Noir, the women's film, the Epic Movie) and either made Deconstruction of those genres, or updated or reconfigured it. What Lucas and Spielberg achieved was a Perspective Flip whereby the disreputable serials, science-fiction and adventure stories suddenly went from micro-budget B-Movie to more or less epic spectacular made on a scale and budget comparable to a Cecil B. DeMille production. This realignment of the audience kicked off the Blockbuster Age.
More importantly, both films were among the first to have "wide" releases (The Godfather was the first) instead of being released first in major cities. This eventually blurred the line between the different kinds of movie theaters existing until then.
Rise of Home Video
The name "Blockbuster Age" also has another origin: Blockbuster Video. It is very difficult to overstate how great an impact the invention of the videocassette had on the film industry. It started a golden age for independent cinema, the full impact of which is described below. (It also started a golden age for the porn industry, but that's for a completely different article.) It also effectively killed second-run theaters, grindhouses, and porn theaters, as people could now watch movies in the comfort of their living rooms instead of having to go to sleazy, run-down theaters in that part of town — and in the case of porn theaters, not worry about getting caught at an establishment that was only one step above a brothel or a bathhouse. In addition, home video and cable television offered the studios additional revenue streams for their films after they'd left theaters, allowing them to continue making money off of older films — some of which could see a second chance at success when they came out on video or on a movie channel. Last but certainly not least, the videocassette seriously spooked Hollywood's traditional arch-enemy, the over-the-air television industry, which feared people recording shows just to fast-forward through all those lucrative commercials.
Of course, there's a catch to everything. Video camcorders also opened the doors to bootleggers, the pre-internet manifestation of digital pirates, who hawked their wares on the street and packed everything up in seconds the moment they saw a cop. In the early '80s, the film industry, having not yet learned what a potential gold mine it was, feared that the videocassette would destroy them; MPAA head Jack Valenti went so far as to compare the effect it would have on cinema to the effect of the Boston Strangler on a woman alone at home. (Any similarities to the hysterical reaction of the MPAA to file-sharing are completely coincidental.) Persuaded by calmer voices like Fred Rogers, the Supreme Court's decision in the "Betamax case" in 1983-84, which held that the makers of VCRs couldn't be held liable for copyright infringement committed by the devices' users, ultimately settled the matter, with the film industry getting in on the booming home video industry not long after.
When the LaserDisc appeared in the 80s and, more importantly, DVDs came around in The '90s, the studios were able to make even more money by putting out a Limited Special Collectors Ultimate Unrated Edition for each of their big films, packed with commentaries, deleted scenes and "director's cuts", "making of" featurettes, feelies, and other bonus features. The high-end Criterion Collection series emerged as taking the greatest care in preservation and supplementation of classic films.
Rise of the multiplex
Another factor in the return of Hollywood to profitability was the rise of the multiplex theater, something that began during the New Hollywood era note but truly took off in the Reagan years and after. The multiplex follows a fairly simple logic: if you have more screens, then you can run more showings of more movies, and can therefore make more money! Six-screen theaters were opening by the end of The '70s, and by The '90s, they had gone Up to Eleven with 20-screen "megaplex" theaters and beyond. It is no coincidence that the rise of the multiplex occurred at the same time as the boom of malls and big-box stores; most multiplexes were part of such complexes, and like their retail cousins, were a driving force behind suburban sprawl through The '80s and the early years of The '90s, the decade when downtown theaters slowly got squeezed out of business, unable to compete with the massive profits made by this new breed of theater. Multiplexes caused the moviegoing experience to undergo a fundamental shift, and very few would argue that the shift was for the better — it went from large, well-appointed theaters with well-dressed, butler-like staff (something that is now seen only in the few remaining "legacy" movie palaces, like the Kodak and Chinese Theatres in Hollywood) to small, fairly spartan auditoriums with floors covered in dropped popcorn and spilled soda (both of which are ridiculously overpriced), staffed by young people making minimum wage and not particularly happy about it — movie theater jobs are often considered to be just a step above fast food and supermarket jobs in terms of crappy, humiliating employment for teenagers.
None of this really mattered to the studios, who were mainly pleased with the fact that a movie could make back its budget, no matter how big it was, in a matter of days instead of weeks or even months. The goal of the studios had shifted from making movies with "legs" (i.e. movies that would keep marching on to large, stable box office numbers week in and week out) to movies that could rake in a colossal take on opening weekend. Who cares if bad word-of-mouth causes it to take a 50-60% drop for round 2? However, there was some push back from the opposing camp of viewers who tried to encourage more discerning tastes, such as when two movie critics from the Chicago newspapers, Roger Ebert of the Sun-Times and Gene Siskel of the Tribune, starting doing TV on the PBS show, Sneak Previews, on the side. As such, they later created the long running syndicated movie review TV show, Siskel & Ebert, that became a popular mainstay for decades spreading insightful film reviews from the wordy newspapers and magazines to a more easily digestible medium. While obviously it could not raise all the public's taste, the duo and their imitators at least could help make good artistic work pay off and any halfway ambitious movie studio still knows that credible praise is valuable stuff in marketing. After all, there's a reason that S & E's trademarked catch phrase, "Two Thumbs Up," was front and center for any advertisement for movies earning it.
There are many waves and stretches for the Blockbuster era. The first wave is 1982 which saw the release of a slew of summer blockbusters that are now regarded as classics, including: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Thing (1982), Rocky III, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Conan the Barbarian (1982), Blade Runner, Poltergeist, TRON, and The Road Warrior with the caveat that Blade Runner, TRON and The Thing were flops. 1982 is often regarded as Hollywood's second "golden year" in terms of creativity and classic films, not unlike how 1939 is considered to be the highpoint of The Golden Age of Hollywood. Other memorable films released around this time include Ghostbusters (1984), Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, and the first film to be released with the new PG-13 rating, Red Dawn (1984). However, unlike 1939, 1982 most certainly did not come at a high point for the studios financially. Hollywood spent much of The '80s reeling from the fallout of the New Hollywood era, and the combined share of the six surviving major studios from the Golden Age had fallen to just 64% by 1986 — the lowest it had been since the days of silent film. Two young studios — Orion and Tri-Star (the latter initially a joint venture of Columbia, CBS and HBO) — maintained about 6% market share each, Disney had about 10%, and smaller independents (the largest being New Line Cinema, "the house that Freddy built") would together make up 13% (more than any one studio besides Paramount).
It would be in The '90s — after a new round of corporate acquisitions (Columbia was purchased in 1982 by Coca-Cola, which sold it in 1987 to Cineplex Odeon which sold it to Sony in 1989; Fox became part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in 1985; Warners merged with Time Inc. and HBO to form Time Warner in 1990 [the Turner Broadcasting merger of 1996 brought New Line Cinema into the fold]; Also in 1990, Universal came under the control of Matsushita after it bought MCA, only to sell them in 1995 to Seagram, which was bought in 2000 by Vivendi, which sold it in 2004 to GE, merging it with NBC, it was finally absorbed into cable giant Comcast between 2011 and 2013; and Paramount Communications [formerly Gulf+Western] was acquired by Viacom in 1995) — and the Turn of the Millennium that the rebirth would finally come. Orion would go bankrupt in 1992 (and eventually get eaten by MGM), Tri-Star would merge with Columbia (HBO and CBS having since sold out) in 1998, and New Line would merge with Warner Bros. in 2008 (after getting into a dick-swinging contest with Peter Jackson). By 2006, the six major movie conglomerates' share of the box office (counting Disney) had climbed back to 89.8% of the North American market. The two largest independent studios, Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company, would share 6.1%, MGM would have 1.8%, and the remaining indie studios shared the remaining 2.3%.
While Hollywood in the 80s became associated with family-friendly films like Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters (1984), Back to the Future and the like, adult audiences did not go away that quickly. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis became even more famous for appearing in ultra-violent action movies like Terminator, Rambo and Die Hard, whose colorful shoot-outs and thinly-veiled glorification of vigilantism greatly contrasted with the self-pitying demeanor of 1970s-era films.
The 1980s also brought two important things that would change Hollywood forever: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial made Product Placement ubiquitous in most films. By the end of the decade, Back to the Future Part II rolled out internationally over a few weeks in November and December 1989, an unprecedented move probably sparked by the popularity of home video (contrast this with the fact A New Hope had its European premiere in France three months later, while it didn't get released in the UK until Christmas, seven months after it premiered stateside).
The faltering animation industry got a badly-needed kick in the pants at the end of the 1980s with the releases of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. The "Disney Renaissance" became one of the main factors of a new age for not only cartoons, but also for the film industry as a whole as studios began to take interest in animation. However, the success of 1995's Toy Story meant the end not only for the in-house animation divisions, replaced by up-starts like Dreamworks and Blue Sky, but also caused the decline of the live-action family film.
More importantly, it revived the fortunes of the Walt Disney Company, which declined after its founder's demise and during The '80s saw a lot of defections and came close to becoming a theme park-based company with film-making as a side-business. By the mid-1990s, Disney became a major money-spinner with a huge slew of valuable properties; in the 2000s it acquired Pixar, Star Wars (via Lucasfilm) and Marvel Comics, becoming far and away the biggest studio in Hollywood.
The second half of the 2010s has seen a trend for greater consolidation with some controversial merger proposals: The first being AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time-Warner, which has been subject to congressional scrutiny. Meanwhile, Disney's takeover of Fox has given way to concerns about a potential near-monopoly of the industry, as two of the largest media conglomerates would amalgamate, even if both will keep their separate operations.
There has been an independent cinema in America since The '50s (with John Cassavetes being seen as The Pioneer) but until The '70s, the understanding was that with independent cinema was a proving ground for talented artists to transition into the mainstream. Now of course some independents will stay independent and be better off for it, but most people who made independent films could conceivably expect some kind of audience and a shot at the big league. In The '80s and The '90s, independent film-makers were more or less expected to make a career in the margins and remain there and at best hope to break through by carving out some niche or the other, or somehow reinventing themselves into a mainstream film-maker (such as Steven Soderbergh who was a Sundance discovery who later made Ocean's Eleven and Out of Sight). The real hope of revenue for these films was home video and international sales. Home Video provided wide accessibility but also greater marginalization and invisibility from the mainstream. Prior to home video, independent films would often get (at best) limited releases in "arthouse" theaters that would limit their exposure, and films with controversial subject matter or offensive content often found themselves getting consigned to the "grindhouse" circuit by virtue of the X or NC-17 ratings. Now they could bypass theaters entirely and go Direct-to-Video. Much of the DTV sales model was built by independent studios that couldn't afford theatrical runs for their films. But this meant that the audiences for these films were largely niche fans or genre-specialists and cinephiles and provided little room to reach audiences from other demographics. Film critics note that before one could say that both the mainstream and the independent scene had great talent and visionaries, now the independent scene had the bulk of the innovation, much of it was unrewarded, little-known and had little to no cultural impact.
The major positive effect of home video was that it provided a channel for young film geeks who had spent much of their lives watching old films on TV and video, picking up the various techniques used by classic directors, and deciding that they wanted to become filmmakers themselves. People like Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Spike Lee and Steven Soderbergh made such films as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Clerks, Do the Right Thing and sex, lies, and videotape, sparking a renaissance in independent film that lasts to this day. Other directors, such as The Coen Brothers, worked with both independent and major studios interchangeably. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the big studios started their own subsidiary labels devoted to independent films such as Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, Universal's Focus Features and (prior to 2008) Paramount Vantage, in order to farm Hollywood's award-season arsenal, with recent films like Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, (500) Days of Summer, The Hurt Locker, and way too many more to list (although feel free to do so) winning critical acclaim and, sometimes, commercial success. In addition, many independent studios, such as Lionsgate, Annapurna, STX and Magnolia (as well as the now-defunct PolyGram, Miramax, The Weinstein Company, FilmDistrict, New Line and Summit), have gained footholds in the mainstream market by both distributing independent and foreign films and, increasingly, making films in-house (Lionsgate's Saw franchise, Summit's Twilight adaptations), often raking in enough money to blur the line between "indie" and "major".
The Franchise Age of Hollywood
While 1990s film-making was marked by a resurgence of New Hollywood tropes, Corman alumnus James Cameron stumped Hollywood in 1997 with Titanic, an update of the old-fashioned epic blended with disaster movie elements, featuring the then little-known actors Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. It became the first film to gross over one billion dollars, thanks in no small part to its marketing campaign, aimed at the teen/young adult audience in addition to the more traditional female audience an old studio head honcho would have targeted thoroughly, something that was seen as a huge gamble back then as it was thought that youngsters would not be interested in an old-fashioned love story. Not only Cameron's vision had paid off but it would set the pattern for an ever-increasing focus not only on how a film should be made, but more importantly how it should be sold. Movies now had to appeal to the widest audience possible to be successful, putting special attention to the Fleeting Demographic Rule.
While movies have always depended on other media for material, adaptations of popular works would not be a dominating force in the industry until 2001, the year Warner Bros. released films based on the literary sagas of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, which would become the two biggest films of a year that also saw the debuts of Shrek and The Fast and the Furious. The success of both The Sorcerer's Stone and The Fellowship of the Ring changed the industry entirely, even establishing the modern storytelling structure found in Hollywood films. Their successes immediately sent waves to the other studios, now urged to look for a) "fantasy" material, as it is attractive to audiences of all ages, b) a propriety that could be used in the long-term, and most importantly c) get your hands on anything popular (extending the previous point), either a video game, a 1980s TV show (preferably a cartoon), a comic strip, toys or even internet symbols, to take advantage of existing fandoms and merchandising.
But one source, carrying all these attributes, would prove by far, the most popular to be translated to the screen: superhero comic books, something that actually came off as a surprise at the beginning, considering that it had been confined to low-budget fare for decades, except for WB's attempts to cash on its newly-acquired DC Comics properties in The '80s (Superman) and The '90s (Batman), with both attempts eventually crashing. Then, 2000's X-Men (released by 20th Century Fox) became a surprise hit (following on the footsteps of 1998's Blade by New Line Cinema) and Sam Raimi's 2002 film Spider-Man (released by Columbia Pictures) turned out to be an unprecedented success that set the trend for more superhero films: Universal attempted to turn Hulk into a franchise to no avail, while Fox had mediocre results with Fantastic Four (2005) and Warners decided to give their DC characters another chance, but they would only have success with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. With time, Marvel decided to get a larger piece of the cake and started their own film studio, 2008's Iron Man kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and revived Robert Downey Jr.'s career). By the time The Avengers was released in 2012, the MCU became a major player in Hollywood, also helped by Disney's acquisition of the publisher in 2009. By the mid-2010s, Warner Bros. launched the DC Extended Universe, which has also been commercially successful (although not to the extent of Marvel) although it has been generally mauled by critics, with the exception of Wonder Woman (2017).
The main reason for this flood of adaptations, sequels, remakes, reboots and the like was a series of improvements on the home entertainment field during the second half of the 1990s and the early part of the 2000s: Cable TV became ubiquitous, with channels upping their ante on terms of original content, especially in the case of "premium" networks such as HBO and AMC, both of which launched series with unheard-of production values. Meanwhile, the booming Internet, game consoles and the fact that the over-the-air networks were skewing towards younger audiences kept the coveted 15-34 demographic from the movie house. To complicate matters, the arrival of DVDs meant that people could enjoy a movie at home not only with reliable, high-quality image and sound, but also with added features. Their popularity and later decline led to the "theatrical window" to shrink from six months (or more) to 90 days, which added to the urge for higher first-weekend grosses at the box-office. All this also contributed to the use of gimmicks to attract audiences: IMAX offered high-resolution images at a time HDTV was a novelty while 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems attempted to counter the popularity of "home theaters". Later on, movie circuits began adding "premium" services with reclining bergere-type seats and dine-in options. These changes eventually translated in a general increase on the prices of tickets throughout the mid-2000s, and grosses have increased in a sustained basis even if attendance hasn't reached the heights of the late 1990s and early 2000s (peaking with 2002's 1,575,700,000 admissions, with no year reaching above 1.4 billion tickets after 2009).
The post-9/11 landscape also bolstered escapism, a trend that would establish in the 2005-06 film season—As the late 90s/early 2000s-era prosperity began to wear thin, studios were compelled to make flashier pictures to keep moviegoers in theaters. By the end of 2006, studios rolled back their mature and independent projects while investing at the same time on more family-friendly franchises, big-budgeted epics and adult comedies, a pattern that would define film-making for the rest of the decade. The 2009-10 season became another turning point yet as 3D films took off and raunchy comedies reached a peak at the same time dependence on adaptations and franchises increased.
The releases of James Cameron's Avatar (which surpassed Titanic's record, holding the title of the highest-grossing movie for nine years) and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) led to a three-dimensional craze, although it did not take long for the arrival of a glut of poorly-made films with 3-D added in post-production mostly to make them marketable. All this alienated audiences, which saw in 3-D an excuse to rise prices further instead of actually using it to improve storytelling or experience, the fact some theaters had no "flat" prints becoming an annoyance to many who did not have the money or the inclination to see a 3-D movie. By the end of 2011-12, 3-D pretty much became the province of animated films and superhero movies, both genres taking it for granted.
Adult comedies, which had been successful during the late 1990s and early 2000s with films like American Pie and Scary Movie, came to the forefront with the surprise success of 2005's The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which sparked a trend for outrageous humor, including genre satires in the vein of SM, ethnic humor and stoner comedies. The trend hit its peak in 2009, when The Hangover became one of the ten highest-grossing films of the year. But tastes change quickly, and the genre was no exception: after 2010, the genre fell out of favor with the public, with the exception of 2011's Bad Teacher and The Hangover II, 2012's Ted, 2013's The Hangover: Part III and 2014's Neighbors (even though the sequels for Ted and Neighbors as well as Teachers' TV spin-off became massive failures). By this time, the genre had gained a reputation for the excessive use of borderline-vulgar humor. The constant use of discriminatory language became particularly criticized as audiences got more sensitive regarding it. With the exception of a few comedies and films that got the rating because of language, films aimed at women became pretty much the only commercially-viable type of R-rated films during the first part of the decade, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy being the most successful and controversial, sparking a trend for female-oriented adult movies. This, coupled with the success of 2016's Deadpool, led to the renewed success of films geared to adults, although much less raunchy.
While there has been criticism about the alleged "kid-ification" of Hollywood, family-oriented films have also lost popularity as children preferred superhero movies. PG-13 films have taken the lion's share of the box office since 2010 (taking over the whole top 10 for 2014) and very few G-rated films have been made in recent years outside of IMAX and nature documentaries (in 2016, there weren't any new non-documentary G-rated films released) with the number of PG films also in a steady decrease, by the second half of the 2010s, the number of G- and PG-rated films released per year combined was not more than twenty. At the same time complaints arose about the increased presence of raunchy situations on films aimed at families (as opposed to films geared to teens and adults as in the mid-late 2000s, when the issue was hotly debated).
This has meant a shift on the animation industry, the irreverent humor of films like the Despicable Me saga and The LEGO Movie put Universal's Illumination Entertainment and the Warner Animation Group respectively on the map. In addition, Disney's in-house feature animation studio regained pulse with the enormous success of films like Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen and Zootopia. Meanwhile, the already-established Pixar and DreamWorks Animation faced numerous problems: "The House Woody and Buzz Built" faced its first critical failure with 2011's Cars 2 after the magnum opus that was Toy Story 3, released the previous year, and would not redeem itself until the release of Inside Out in 2015. They would however face their first domestic Box Office Bomb with the The Good Dinosaur that winter, not returning to top form until 2017 with Coco. That same year, DWA released Home, which ended a parade of flops which coincided with the studio's shift in tone towards more character-based stories following 2010's How to Train Your Dragon. The studio behind Shrek and Madagascar was absorbed by Comcast in 2016, becoming Illumination's "second unit".
The 2008 writers' strike heavily affected the film industry as these became more expensive. The solution came in the form of making less films, and more of them based on popular works. Budgets also grew higher to make up for the lesser quantity. However, this has brought concerns over a narrowing landscape, the bulk of mainstream releases being epics mostly aimed at young adults. As other audiences drifted to other platforms, numerous voices aired their concerns about the future of movies: Steven Spielberg commented on the disappearance of the "middle film", defending himself from cries of hypocrisy by pointing out he made a wide variety of movies instead of just action/adventure films. He also joined George Lucas in his concerns that the current business model could collapse like in the 1960s if too many films bombed, in that case the model could shift into a system similar to live theater (or the "roadshow" treatment high-profile films often got during the Golden Age), with movies playing at certain locations for years on end. Between late 2010 and 2014, it didn't seem too far-fetched to see this scenario play out in the near future: In 2010-11 a number of family films flopped even if some of these were released in 3-D, killing the genre for live-action productions. The following years meanwhile saw much-hyped productions like John Carter, The Lone Ranger and Dracula Untold tank at the box-office.
However, the second half of 2014 became a turning point as films like Guardians of the Galaxy became an overnight success in spite of not being backed by a particularly popular property while the middling reception The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 became harbingers that the YA literature craze was reaching its peak. 2015 and early 2016 had originally-sourced films like American Sniper, Inside Out, Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets as well as adaptations of less prominent works such as Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Martian, The Peanuts Movie and Deadpool becoming critical and financial successes. In addition, domestic gross records were broken twice during 2015, first by Jurassic World and then by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, demonstrating that the reports of the death of the film industry and appetite for original content had been exaggerated. The second half of the 2010s has also seen a resurgent prominence of auteur filmmaking, which has enjoyed a renewed credibility, financial success and mainstream influence at the same time that numerous franchises, genres and actors popular at the turn of the decade took a beating.
With films becoming more expensive, the international market for Hollywood films has grown more prominent than ever, and has even begun to overshadow the once all-important domestic North American market. For instance, the true biggest animated feature film of 2011 worldwide, Kung Fu Panda 2 earned a gross of $665,692,281 with 75.2% of it from international markets, including $95 million from China alone.note Furthermore, many films since the 2011-2014 period were saved from bombing by overseas rentals. For instance, the Steven Spielberg film The Adventures of Tintin earned $230 million (more than covering its budget) before it ever opened in North America outside of the Canadian province of Quebec, and a remarkably short-sighted failure to account for the international popularity of The Golden Compass ultimately destroyed New Line Cinema as an independent studio.note And films like the Fast & Furious series, Transformers and Minions among others have become more popular overseas than in the domestic market.
The growing importance of global markets has also marked a shift in focus towards the story and visuals instead of relying on "star power". This, coupled with the fact many 2000s-era headliners basically disappeared from prominence by the end of the decade led to doubts about if movie stars could be still capable of pulling a film on their own as it often happened for decades.
Unfortunately, The New Tens has brought a major Dork Age for two of Hollywood's major studios, Columbia Pictures and Paramount. Both studios suffered from lack of preparedness for challenges from the tech world, poor creative decisions brought on by Executive Meddling, turmoil within their parent companies (Sony and Viacom, respectively) due to their core businesses suffering continued financial losses, lack of synergy between their various subsidiaries and divisions, and movies that were considered mediocre at best and atrocious at worst. This has resulted in many of their Cash Cow Franchises dying off, a number of their films being considered some of the worst of the decade, executives being shuffled around, and the two studios falling behind even mini-majors in terms of box office share. Viacom even tried at one point to sell a majority stake in Paramount just to make a profit, only to see their plans torpedoed following objections from their controlling shareholders, the Redstone family, which attempted to merge it with CBS, only to be rebuffed by their minority shareholders. Columbia, meanwhile, has had to deal with rumors of Sony contemplating selling off their entertainment properties due to loss of box office share and continued turmoil, rumors that both companies have repeatedly denied.
The Web Goes to the Movies
The internet offers several new revenue streams for the studios, most notably streaming movies from home. With Netflix leading the way in this area, the studios can look ahead to a future where they can charge customers every time they want to watch movies at home — something that was attempted in The '90s with the DIVX disc system, but which didn't take (chiefly because DIVX was a physical format). Many of the major film companies are now planning to try out a "premium download" distribution model to offer downloads of their theatrical feature films only one or two months after their theatrical release for around $30 each, which means that, for a bit of patience, whole families could be able to forgo going to the cinema altogether. Of course, this has run into heavy resistance from theaters — Universal was forced to cancel plans for a limited VOD release of Tower Heist after the Cinemark and National Amusements theater companies responded by threatening to refuse to show the film. Keep in mind that this VOD release was to happen in just two cities (Atlanta and Portland), and at a price of $60 per viewing. However, while many have feared this might be the end of the blockbusters, theatrical runs have not been replaced just yet.
In 2014, Sony Pictures got the necessity to do it for real with the film, The Interview, when vague terrorist threats against showing it caused all the major theatre chains to drop the film. As a result, Sony decided to shelve the film, which drew a storm of criticism ranging from media pundits to US President Barack Obama himself about "giving in to terrorists." As a result of the pressure, Sony decided to open it not only in the few independent theaters willing to show it, but also simultaneously made it available online such as on iTunes and Google Play as well. The result of this move was that it earned about $31 million.
After achieving success with their own TV programs, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have begun producing their own movies as well as buying the rights to others. While Amazon productions tend to get a rather traditional theatrical run before hitting the streaming service, Netflix tends to prefer to give their films a very limited release (usually the minimum to qualify for Oscars) while putting those films on the streaming service at the same time. This has received mixed reception amongst the people in the film industry.
With the decline of print journalism and movie review TV shows having all but disappeared (and replaced by "hype-shows"), online reviewing has exploded with both professionals from the remaining print publications' websites and exclusive website and amateurs. Furthermore, ways have been found to make their influence more organized as a whole with the rise of aggregate review sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic providing scores that now have the influence that "Two Thumbs Up" used to have.
Key filmmakers of this era include:
- J. J. Abrams (Star Trek, Star Wars)
- Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)
- Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil)
- Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up)
- Michael Bay (Armageddon, Transformers)
- Tim Burton (Batman, Alice in Wonderland (2010))
- James Cameron (The Terminator, Titanic, Avatar)
- John Carpenter (Escape from New York, Halloween (1978))
- The Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski)
- Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter)
- Ryan Coogler (Creed, Black Panther)
- Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream)
- Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth)
- Richard Donner (Superman, Lethal Weapon)
- Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012)
- Jon Favreau (Elf, Iron Man, The Jungle Book (2016))
- David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Gone Girl)
- Mel Gibson (Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ)
- James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
- Ron Howard (Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code)
- John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off)
- Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong (2005), The Hobbit)
- Patty Jenkins (Monster, Wonder Woman)
- Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi)
- Joe Johnston (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, Captain America: The First Avenger)
- Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi).
- George Lucas (Star Wars)
- James Mangold (Walk the Line, Logan)
- George Miller (Mad Max, Babe)
- Michael Moore (Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine)
- Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar)
- Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us)
- Sam Raimi (Spider-Man Trilogy, Evil Dead)
- Rob Reiner (This Is Spın̈al Tap, The Princess Bride)
- Guy Ritchie (Snatch., Sherlock Holmes (2009), Aladdin (2019))
- Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Spy Kids)
- Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever)
- The Russo Brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier & Civil War, The Avengers: Infinity War & Endgame)
- Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner)
- Tony Scott (Top Gun)
- Seltzer and Friedberg (Scary Movie)
- M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense)
- Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men)
- Kevin Smith (Clerks)
- Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
- Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven)
- Steven Spielberg (Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones)
- Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction)
- Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kick-Ass)
- Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Ring)
- James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Aquaman)
- The Wachowskis (Matrix)
- Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok)
- Joss Whedon (The Avengers)
- Edgar Wright (Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, Baby Driver)
- Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump)
- Rob Zombie (The Devil's Rejects)