Plenty of regular everyday people make New Year’s Resolutions, but I think bigger entities, namely movie makers and movie moguls, need to make them too. Here, I bring my film critic credentials to the editorial side and have fun taking the movie industry to task for things they need to change. As always, some resolutions come true while others never get fulfilled. Welcome to 2022! Now let’s make a few things better.
RESOLUTION #1: GET THEATERS BACK ON SCHEDULE
2021 did its level best to get the industry closer to a typical year of theatrical releases. Some of those high-profile 2019 holdovers (F9, No Time to Die, Black Widow) finally got their shots at the box office, while others (Top Gun: Maverick) are still shelved and new ones are seeing delays and release date shifts (Morbius, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness). The massive haul of Spider-Man: No Way Home should instil studio confidence that people will come to the theaters for the right movies. Folks, it’s up to us to be smart and keep our settings healthy enough to stay open.
RESOLUTION #2: GET THE OSCARS BACK ON SCHEDULE TOO
Last year’s late April edition of the Oscars were an absolute bomb for television ratings and public interest (even before the Chadwick Boseman airball at the end of the telecast). I said it a year ago to anyone who would listen. No one was going to care about the previous year’s movies four months into the year, and I was right. The 94th Academy Awards moved up a month to the end of March and returned the eligibility deadline to December 31st, correcting last year’s February extension asterisk. But I’ll say it again. No one is going to care about 2021 movies three months from now, unless Spider-Man: No Way Home carries enormous public favor to the big show.
RESOLUTION #3: THE SAVIOR OF THE MULTIPLEX IS COMING
Mark your calendars for August 2022. The two-year sunset period of the old Paramount Decrees will end and studios will be able to open and run their own theaters. Even with a late Marvel bump, theater companies are still bleeding and reeling from the pandemic attendance drops. Watch a big studio flat-out buy an entire (and possibly bankrupt) company like AMC, Cinemark, or Regal. Amazon kicked the tires on doing just that with AMC last year. In doing so, the buying conglomerate will look like a savior of the theatrical experience and rebrand the locations as their own thing. Imagine those closed Disney Stores from dead shopping malls being repurposed as lobby attractions in a Disney-branded multiplex. Best of all for their bottom lines, the studios then get to keep all the money instead of the 50% split they’ve shared with theater companies for years. I’m calling it now. At least one studio will make this very power play before the end of 2022.
RESOLUTION #4: STOP BASHING MARVEL ALREADY
The list of auteurs and curmudgeons who were baited into bashing the current popularity of Marvel and comic book movies in general grew in 2021. I would normally call for clickbait journalists to stop asking the lowball question, but, equally so, the professionals themselves need to be ready with smarter answers or employ the classic and underused restraint of “no comment.” Try it sometime. It works. What boost of so-called artistic credibility has bashing the likes of Marvel ever brought those people anyway? Look at Martin Scorsese begging some sucker studio to give him $180 million to make his next over-expensive awards-bait flop after Netflix took a haircut on The Irishman. He can’t be the one to cry poor. In the meantime, don’t hate the player. Hate the game. Do better work. Make better movies that can garner an audience. If the likes of Marvel are good enough for Tony Leung making his American debut in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, then they’re cinema and good enough for anyone else.
RESOLUTION #5: DISNEY IS DARING ANYONE TO TRY AND MATCH THEIR SUCCESS
Speaking of popularity, if you want to see what industry domination looks like, examine Disney’s places on the 2021 chart of box office totals and online streaming subscription stats. Boosted by a colossal year of Marvel content (four films, five TV shows), Disney earned over $1.1 billion in theaters (about 25% of the entire pie) and topped 118 million Disney+ subscribers (up from 73 million a year ago). They are soaring, and no one looks like they can compete at the same level. Studios, good luck catching Disney. I don’t like your chances. Once again, don’t hate the player. Hate the game.
RESOLUTION #6: TURN HULU+ INTO THE HOME FOR OLD 20TH CENTURY FOX LIBRARY
As we all know, Disney spent $71 billion to buy out 20th Century Fox over two years ago. In doing so, they gained a controlling stake in Hulu around the same time they were introducing their own Disney+ channel. Comcast controls the final third and agreed more than two years ago to sell that chunk to Disney for nearly $6 billion. Disney has incorporated a few of the more family-friendly Fox titles (like Home Alone and X-Men) into their own service, but there’s a whole bunch of adult-minded and R-rated content like the Predator, Alien, and Die Hard films that sit in an invisible vault not making any money. The easiest thing in the world would be to turn Hulu+ into the home of the Fox’s film and television catalog to compete with Paramount+, HBO Max, and Peacock. If Disney’s scared to put their mouse ears on the violent and gaudy, they can put a Hulu label on it. They used to do the very same thing years ago with their Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, and high stake in Miramax. It’s time to do that again.
RESOLUTION #7: ATTENTION MARKETING FIRMS: GET SOME ORIGINALITY
And, hey, while we’re here, can the movie industry marketing firms stop using the word “plus” in everything. Hulu had it first and it’s become redundant and overplayed. How many millions were wasted in “market research” for studios to essentially copy each other’s spelling test? Man, as a school teacher, I must be in the wrong business! At the same time, if I was a CEO trying to get my business to stand out and the expensive think tank I hired came back after months with nothing but “plus,” I’d fire their asses. Come on, man. Get some originality. Dare to stand out.
RESOLUTION #8: FIND A STEWARD FOR THE DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE
Following the fourth and fifth resolutions, it’s embarrassing to see how Warner Bros. has bungled their comic book properties while Disney churns out hit after hit. In the same amount of time WB dumped Zack Snyder’s Justice League on streaming instead of theaters with a mea culpa, watched The Suicide Squad fizzle with audiences, and tried to paste together a multiverse-wiping Flashpoint movie, Disney/Marvel surged with their nine offerings and their own water cooler-exploding multiverse that shows no signs of slowing down. Even if Flashpoint kickstarts something positive, it will already look too late and too similar to their competition. Meanwhile, the only things that seem to score for DC are disconnected splinters like Joker and likely the upcoming The Batman reboot. Warner Bros. needs a Kevin Feige. They need a boss, czar, or steward that can plan something solid and rein in wayward creators. That was supposed to be Geoff Johns and a little bit of Zack Snyder, but that sure went up in smoke. DC is a mess and it shouldn’t be.
RESOLUTION #9: KEEP AN EYE ON BRIAN ROBBINS
There are people like me in their 40s who might remember Brian Robbins as the mullet-ed cool guy Eric of the old Head of the Class sitcom. They might also remember that he turned into a successful film director (Varsity Blues, Hardball) and carried the MTV Films banner. In 2018, he was hired as the president of Nickelodeon and their movie division rose mightily. Last year, Robbins climbed even higher to become the chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures. That’s a power promotion. Yes, he’ll always be the director of Eddie Murphy bombs like Norbit and Meet Dave, but he’s got the initiative and youth to lift that big studio up. Watch out for him. He’s going to take some swings.
RESOLUTION #10: PLEASE VET YOUR CASTING DECISIONS
Even if I am not the kind of person that “cancels” anyone, studios and film directors need to do a better job vetting their casting decisions. I guarantee one thing that held back West Side Story from more box office success was the bad optics surrounding Ansel Elgort. The same thing is going to happen to Death on the Nile in 2022 with the radioactive Armie Hammer. Don’t get me wrong. I have to think due diligence was made by professionals like Steven Spielberg, Kenneth Branagh, and the big wigs above them to investigate their associations, but the court of public opinion, who also speaks with their wallets, goes the other way too often. Double-check people and cover your butts, executives.
RESOLUTION #11: IT’S TIME TO BRING BACK NICOLAS CAGE
At the same time we’re juggling canceled celebrities, it’s time to bring back Nic Cage to the A-list. He’s cleaned up some of his bad financial situations and has been stringing together some of the best work of his career for the last several years. If he gets a dark horse Oscar nomination for Pig, that would be a comeback larger than Mel Gibson returning to the Academy’s good graces for Hacksaw Ridge a few years ago. Studios, continue to hire him to some better material. He’s clearly going to say yes to a paycheck, but he’s also going to knock his part out of the park.
RESOLUTION #12: CONTINUE THE WONDERFUL THING THAT IS THE DEAF REVOLUTION OF REPRESENTATION
Millicent Simmonds walked so others could run. I’ve loved her since Wonderstruck, but look at the A Quiet Place series starlet leading the charge for casting representation and cinematic depictions of deafness. Simmonds was outstanding for the second time in A Quiet Place Part II. Lauren Ridloff became Marvel’s first deaf hero in Eternals. CODA will be garnering multiple Oscar nominations, a year after Sound of Metal turned heads. Keep this wonderful wave coming!
RESOLUTION #13: KEEP TRYING MUSICALS
2021 was a banner year for high-profile movie musicals, led by West Side Story, In the Heights, tick, tick… BOOM!, Encanto, and others. Sure, not all of them hit it big at the box office, but there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch and the arthouse side joined in with Annette and Cyrano. Each elevated their subgenre, often championed diversity, and introduced outstanding new talents to film fans. Keep rolling them out, Hollywood. They’re worth it. There’s a place for them and they can find a welcome footing.
RESOLUTION #14: SHOW SOME PATIENCE
If this second pandemic year has taught us anything, it’s to increase our capacity for patience with movies when it comes to expectations and anticipation. I want to see Top Gun: Maverick as much as the next person, but it needs a full theater, not a 25% capacity one. Like the old saying goes, “absence away makes the heart grow fonder.” We can apply that logic to reboots and restarts as well. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man may have gotten away with merging previous incarnations, but there’s no reason we should have three different big-screen versions of Batman right now (Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck, and Robert Pattinson). Close the others before starting a new one. I know it won’t happen, but Sony should let James Bond breathe after No Time to Die and wait a minimum of five years before the next person takes over the 007 mantle to follow Daniel Craig. People aren’t going anywhere and neither is their fandom. They’re not going to forget iconic characters if they’re not in their face every six months. Show some patience and build new beginnings in better ways.