Title: The Future of Film: A Battle Between Auteurs and Blockbusters Unfolds
The landscape of TV and film has experienced a significant transformation in the past five years, leaving its mark on both audiences and the industry. The Barbenheimer phenomenon, which enthralled moviegoers with its vibrant allure, has now faded away.
There were genuine concerns about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the film industry. Many feared that it would deal a severe blow, or even lead to its demise. However, in 2023, the industry has managed to bounce back, quelling doubts about its survival.
Nonetheless, the recent strike by SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) has caused a disruption in the post-Covid trajectory of big-budget cinema. The strike, which stems from issues surrounding residual payments and the potential outsourcing of actors’ work through the use of AI, is the most significant action taken by actors and writers (WGA – Writers’ Guild of America) since 1960.
The state of the film industry holds relevance not just for industry insiders but also for audiences in Luxembourg and beyond. According to a 2021 Forbes survey of over twenty thousand Americans, a striking 20% of respondents expressed no intention to return to movie theaters even after the widespread availability of a Covid-19 vaccine. These were challenging times for the film industry as we knew it.
However, fast forward to the summer of 2023, and two movies have captured everyone’s attention: one is a thought-provoking reflection on the postmodern era, delving into the consequences of human hubris through the creation of monstrously powerful artifacts with seemingly supernatural abilities. The other is Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan’s latest film about the father of the atomic bomb. Surprisingly, the joint release of these two movies has become a cultural phenomenon, with both performing exceptionally well at the box office.
Both movies represent different ends of the spectrum in the film industry. Oppenheimer, a brainchild of director Christopher Nolan, epitomizes auteur cinema by entrusting a single artist with an enormous budget, solely relying on their unique vision and craftsmanship to captivate audiences and critics. This unconventional approach has paid off, confirming that Hollywood auteurs have successfully weathered recent challenges, alongside Wes Anderson’s film Asteroid City.
However, when examining the box office numbers, it becomes evident that Barbie outperformed Oppenheimer, generating nearly twice the revenue. This underscores the fact that nostalgia-driven summer blockbusters still dominate Hollywood’s flagship strategy. Tom Cruise’s latest installment in the Mission Impossible series, titled Dead Reckoning Part 1, premiered a month earlier and boasted a jaw-dropping budget of $291 million (€266 million), showcasing the inflation in film budgets over the years. The enduring success of this long-running action blockbuster series, competing against the likes of Indiana Jones and Barbenheimer, is a testament to the health and diversity of today’s cinematic landscape.
However, the film industry faced significant challenges due to the impact of Covid-19 and streaming platforms. At one point, it seemed as though mid-budget films, known for their high quality and the ability to experiment with content and form, would disappear entirely.
In this regard, production studio A24 deserves substantial credit for their innovative model. Movies like The Lighthouse, Uncut Gems, Beau is Afraid, and Brendan Fraser’s comeback in The Whale have proven to be extraordinary cinematic experiences, albeit at a fraction of the cost of blockbusters like Mission Impossible or Indiana Jones. A24’s model may have been the turning point, narrowly avoiding the demise of mid-budget films.
Undoubtedly, the film industry has undergone a significant transformation. Non-franchise movies, whether nostalgic spectacles like Barbie or visionary creations like Oppenheimer, continue to thrive in theaters. Simultaneously, big-budget films in the vein of Mission Impossible also retain their prominence. However, the future is uncertain as the SAG-AFTRA strike looms. Major delays in upcoming productions are likely, and the aftermath of this strike could potentially reshape the industry forever. Will studios resort to manipulating actors’ likenesses using AI, reducing writers to struggling artists? Or will a more equitable partnership between artists and executives emerge? Only time will provide the answers. A24’s cooperation with SAG-AFTRA, as they have met all of the union’s demands, serves as a model for other studios to follow.
As the film industry faces its next significant challenge, all eyes are on the outcome of the SAG-AFTRA strike. However, it is comforting to know that the industry has demonstrated its resilience and adaptability thus far. Whether it’s a thought-provoking auteur film, a nostalgia-driven blockbuster, or a mid-budget gem, there is room for varied cinematic experiences. It remains to be seen how the industry will evolve, but one thing is for certain – the magic of the silver screen persists, delighting audiences across the globe.