The 2010’s was a decade of turbulent change for the film industry. From production to distribution to exhibition, all aspects of the industry were in some way or another impacted by the trends that took hold over the last ten years. Some of these trends have a bigger influence on how Hollywood has been operating than others. These changes will be the ones that ultimately transcend the definition of a “trend” as they continue to shape the filmmaking industry as we go into the 2020’s and beyond. These long-lasting cinematic revisions are the ones that I am going to be talking about in this article. In what ways has the moviegoing experience been influenced by the adaptations of the 2010’s? Let’s take a look at what I consider to be the nine most impactful of these trends.
Brittling of the Box Office
Movie theater attendance was on the general decline over the last decade. To compensate for the loss of business, theater chains continued to raise the price of admission over the 2010’s. No doubt the added costs aided the increasingly regularity in which box office records were broken this past decade. Titanic was the highest-grossing film of all-time for twelve years until Avatar finally topped it in 2010. Though Avengers: Endgame is knocking on the door, Avatar still holds the top title in 2019. Endgame took Titanic’s second place slot in just its first two weeks of release. Don’t expect Endgame to hold its titles for as long as either Titanic or Avatar. Not because it’s not as good a film, but because ticket prices will continue to rise.
Rise of the Overseas Markets
It used to be that Hollywood made films predominantly for North American audiences (and as we’ll discuss later, mostly white, male audiences). That was because North Americans saw more movies than anyone else in the world. Over the last decade, Hollywood has been emphasizing the increasing patronage of overseas moviegoers. In particular, Hollywood has been targeting China, which has become the second largest film market in the world just behind the United States. As a result, major studios have made a habit out of partnering with Chinese businesses that will help co-fund and/or co-produce a chunk of each year’s blockbuster tent pole releases. This has also led to more overseas stars making appearances in big Hollywood productions.
Birth of the Super-Studio
This decade saw the death of the studio era in Hollywood and the birth of the super-studio. With its purchase of 20th Century Fox, Disney now controls a larger chunk of the marketplace than any studio ever has. This means that at when you go to a movie theater at any given point, the majority of the films showing will be Disney-owned. That doesn’t even include the Mouse House’s forthcoming Disney+ streaming service that launches in November or Disney’s majority stake in Hulu. With competing studios like Sony and Paramount also struggling over the last decade, it might just be a matter of time until a major corporate entity buys out another major studio. Any way it shakes out, our content is increasingly owned by fewer agencies.
As mentioned earlier, movie theater attendance has been on the decline over the last decade. At the same time, the cost of admission into those theaters has been climbing. To combat this negative trend and to give theater patrons the more bang for their buck, theaters have more and more been implementing what they’re calling premium experiences: bigger screens like IMAX or ScreenX, leather recliners, electronic ticketing, reserved seating, food and beverage delivery, D-Box or 4-DX motion seats, and on and on. These implementations are becoming more popular across North America and different companies are always coming up with new, exciting ways for us to watch our movies.
The Big Bang of the Cinematic Universe
Of course the “how” of experiencing our content is not the only thing that has been changing. The content itself has been adapting to our new habits. Perhaps the biggest deals have been made regarding the Big Bang of cinematic universes. Of course plenty of movies in history have existed in and shared the same fictional world. Sequels are perhaps the best example. But the idea of the shared cinematic world was taken to a whole new level in the 2010s. Now it seems every week we get a new entry in some larger cinematic universe where characters from different movies are intertwining, meeting up, exchanging blows, or are simply being alluded to. And you can’t talk about shared cinematic worlds in the 2010s without talking about Marvel Studios, which has perfected the formula for shared cinematic success and broken countless of box office records throughout their 11 year and 22-film run up to this point and averaging nearly $1 billion a movie. That kind of success has drawn the attention of other studios hungry for similar success. Warner Bros. in particular has tried mimicking Marvel’s tactic and to wildly various results. Though they’ve had to make changes recently to their own cinematic superhero universe, WB simultaneously boasts the second most-popular cinematic universe with The Conjuring franchise, which has grossed over $1.5 billion globally. Now with Avengers: Endgame knocking on the door of the most successful film of all-time, don’t expect cinematic universe to go away anytime soon.
The Streaming Wars
Streaming content from the comfort of our homes on our own devices is the way of the future and never was that made more clear than in the last decade. It’s also been a contributing factor to the lessening of theater attendance as of late. And we’re no longer just talking about libraries of old films. Streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon are investing millions into creating their own original content, including feature films. Disney just purchased a competing major studio in order to fill out their library for the Disney+ direct-to-consumer service that they’re launching later this year. Then there’s Apple, which recently announced its own streaming app called Apple+. These are just the big kids on the block; a block that continues to grow more populated as the streaming wars heat up.
A Golden Age of Horror
The trend that I’ve personally been a fan of is this new golden age for the horror genre. Horror films have long been stigmatized as trash cinema and something a producer whips up to make a quick and easy buck from horny teenagers who don’t know better. There have been exceptions, of course, and that’s pretty much what the 2010’s were: one decade-long exception. Genre lovers such as myself have been spoiled by the consistency and quality of this decade’s horror films. The Cabin In The Woods, The Babadook, The Conjuring, It Follows, A Quiet Place, It, Hereditary, and Don’t Breathe. Hell, even that Evil Dead remake was excellent! These films all drew overwhelmingly positive critical response and financial success. What’s more is that these are just a few of many movies in the genre that earned similar responses. Then everything seemed to peak with a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Jordan Peele’s Get Out. The 2010s truly were a golden age for horror filmmaking.
Moviegoing Subscription Services
Moviepass is a joke now, but they did succeed in what they set out to do: disrupt the exhibition business model, even if their business plan failed miserably. Still, they ushered in the era of subscription-based theatergoing. Instead of paying out of waller for a $15 movie ticket each time they visited the box office, moviegoers who signed up to these subscriptions would pay a flat monthly fee for the privilege of seeing a predetermined number of movies in theater that month. Though there have been a number of such services, the predominant player now is AMC A-List, which offers the same service but exclusively at AMC locations. They won’t be the last major theater chain to offer similar plans here in North America, either. In addition to being a dream come true for frequent moviegoers, this is a revolutionary idea (at least here in North America) that could actually help treat the theater chains’ growing ailment of shrinking attendance.
More Representation On The Big Screen
One of the more exciting trends that started to take root this past decade is the increase in representation on the silver screen. For too long Hollywood catered to a single demographic in white males. Fortunately, that’s changed more over the years and representation in major blockbuster films took a big step forward this last decade. I don’t think I could even discuss this topic without bringing up Black Panther, which was Marvel Studio’s first African American-fronted superhero film. The film set a number of box office records, including domestically. Then there was Crazy Rich Asians, which pocketed an enormous $238.5 million gross worldwide with $174.5 of that from North America alone. These two films went a long way for non-white and non-male filmmakers looking to tell their story and have opened Hollywood’s eyes to what’s possible financially if they expand the types of stories they’re willing to share. As a direct result of their success, Marvel Studios is now in development on a Shang-Chi project, which will be the first superhero film starring an Asian lead. Similarly, Universal has picked up an Indian wedding comedy from Mindy Kaling.
What do you make of my picks for the most influential cinematic trends that took hold in the 2010s? Do you have any trends that I may not have picked up on? Sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts!