As opposed to the communal experience of the movie theater, spectators have become content with viewing films from the comfort of home theaters. In terms of atmospherics, going to the movies is the equivalent of worship in the church. Actors are the preachers, the dialogue and plot are scripture, the musical score is gospel, and attendees praising the magic on silver-screens is none other than prophecy. In the theater or the church, a mastermind is created within the audience; one mind as a collective of all ten, or 300 people sitting inside the auditorium. Streamers like HBO Max, Netflix and Prime (among a host of others) allow these cinematic viewing pleasures to take place in bedrooms. Whether alone or within a family affair, it’s no longer deemed logical to get dressed, drive to the theater, hunt for parking, and stand in multiple lines just to sit in a seat. This journey is found to be disrupted by teens vaping, infants crying, couples displaying affection, and outspoken moviegoers overly engaged while yelling at the screen; an oblivion to the fourth wall on the proscenium. This moviegoing effort isn’t worthwhile, and audiences are beginning to accept the new normal of streaming. The Coronavirus and its variants only speed the process into this new era of filmgoing, and filmmaking.
Film studios producing billion-dollar pictures–akin to the overabundance of superhero films of the 2010s–will be few and far between. If audiences won’t flock to theaters, the risk vs. reward becomes heavily out favored, resulting in a massive reduction of big-budget motion pictures. Prior to COVID-19, the last 2 films experienced by the masses was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Joker. Packed theaters experienced tremendous collective energies and fed off each other’s vibes in a communal setting. These 2 films could very well be the end of an era. And an emergence of small-scaled films, in the $5m-$10m range, could segue American cinema back to the era of the 1970s and ‘80s. Films were darker, grittier, and grounded in the former decade, with the latter producing motion pictures of politically correct nature; progressive mentalities geared toward equality.
The Hollywood New Wave of the ‘70s generated an independent style of filmmaking influenced by Italian Neorealism and French New Wave of European cinema in the ’50s and ‘60s. These films catered to a dark undercurrent of motion pictures that changed the direction of filmmaking after the decline of the studio system in the ‘60s, giving rise to the art film. The classical Hollywood era ended, and the industry gave birth to the American New Wave due to counterculture. The 2020s are on a similar path. The political correctness of the ‘80s appears intermixed in a fusion of subject matter and technological advancements in 2021. And the pandemic has spawned the idea of movie theaters as a relic that might survive or disappear from pop-culture.
Though it creates a disadvantage for exhibitors, a positive onset will be generated for the creatives on the left, and the producers in the middle. In Hollywood, a similar spectrum can be deducted, equated to politics in D.C. The writers and directors on the left (like the Democrats and Liberals) have their keen eyes set on the possibility of flourishing in the next 7-9 years by making the small-scale “Art House” films they desire. Films scripts that were skewed in the past and collected dust on shelves can now see the light of day. This change in film quality can possess the power to alter filmgoer tastes. Movie buffs growing out of the 14-24 demographic quadrant of high schools and colleges can evolve their standards toward mature themes embedded within Art House films, as opposed to the Marvel cinematic universe they’ve been accustomed to and bombarded with.
Just as the ‘90s were a “part 2” of the ‘70s, the 2020s hint as a sequel to the ‘80s. The 2000s proved to be raucous with films and TV shows considered blasphemous in today’s age. Take Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) and Entourage (2004-2010), two highly praised films and shows that by current standards, represent a chauvinism that would never see the light in today’s film culture. The producers (the Centrists) play it neutral, and understand both sides of the spectrum, swinging the pendulum both ways. The distributors and exhibitors are the folks on the right, akin to Republicans. This fluctuation in streaming versus moviegoing could place emphasis on the artistic left to produce more “Art House” films that give independent filmmakers a fighting chance when it comes to distribution. It seems like an appropriate shift geared away from the big-budget, box-office hits of the 2010s. A decade filled with comic book movies that weren’t considered “cinema”; Marty Scorsese called them “theme park” movies.
But filmmaking is both a creative art and technical craft within the realm of big business. And this new wave of streaming amid the pandemic kickstarts the decade, placing emphasis on a future that could possess more artistic merit for home audiences. The abundance of streamers could be a blessing for independent filmmakers who have hopes of getting their smaller films distributed before a mass audience. If this home audience becomes the new normal, where the masses no longer flock to the theater, the film industry will have been revolutionized. The 2020s could be headed on a path of more indie films and studio pictures that contain lower budgets. Perhaps, a trilogy is in effect, where a ‘70s “part 3” awaits us in 2030; subject matter could become inappropriate again. Nevertheless, art mirrors the life of current events. The whole point of making vast sums of money off movies should be intended toward using it to make more movies. Let’s hope for a future of low-budget films with more meaningful themes that tell diverse American stories, and keep fingers crossed for a New Hollywood akin to the ’70s and ’80s, where a new generation of young filmmakers took the helm.