What’s in store for Hollywood in 2023? Eight predictions from the Wide Shot
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As we come to the end of a chaotic year, it’s time to look ahead to 2023. I asked my colleagues to make their predictions for what we might see in the media and entertainment business in the year to come. I’ll go first.
Prediction: “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One,” will be the highest-grossing movie, globally. “Oppenheimer” will crack the domestic top 10.
Why it’ll happen: I know we’re all rooting for “Cocaine Bear,” but a year after “Top Gun: Maverick,” Tom Cruise will repeat history as cinema’s biggest draw. Yes, “Fallout” grossed “only” $792 million worldwide. But did you see that video Paramount released of Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie preparing for that motorcycle cliff jump stunt? As for “Oppenheimer,” this is a long shot, but Christopher Nolan has a track record of turning moments of dark historical drama into popular entertainment (“Dunkirk”). The trailer is exciting, Nolan’s name is its own draw and people involved sound confident, given the promise of a long theatrical window. With more competition this year, it’ll be a stretch. But it’s not impossible, especially if some of the big franchise installments come up short.
Why it might not: James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and a new Indiana Jones movie might be more obvious picks for the global box office crown, assuming both are good. And Nolan? Sure, “Dunkirk” was awesome and took in $188 million domestically, but that was a rah-rah wartime action thriller. “Oppenheimer” centers on the Atomic Age in a way that’s very relevant to today’s geopolitical climate, which might work against it with an audience that craves escapism.
— Ryan Faughnder
Prediction: Warner Bros. Discovery will look to sell assets, including CNN, as it tries to navigate an incredibly difficult year in an uncertain economy.
Why this will happen: The company is struggling with huge debt from the WarnerMedia takeover, investors are unhappy with the sagging stock price, a sluggish ad market, an acceleration in cord-cutting and low employee morale. CNN is a big asset that could be carved off, and a CNN sale could generate serious dough to help pay down the company’s $50 billion in debt. Activist investors would be pleased, and Warner Bros. Discovery executives would no longer have to deal with criticism about CNN’s ratings or coverage. Shedding CNN also would preserve the company’s core TV and movie business: cable entertainment channels, Warner Bros.’ TV and film studio and prestigious HBO and popular HBO Max streaming service.
Why it might not: CNN is the beating heart of the Turner cable channels, and cable TV providers pay a premium to have CNN in their TV line-ups. Without CNN, Warner Bros. Discovery would lose leverage during negotiations with pay-TV distributors for carriage for its other channels (fees that still pay much of the company’s bills). And, if you’re David Zaslav, do you really want to be the guy who sold Ted Turner’s iconic and pioneering channel?
— Meg James
Prediction: Despite controversies, the 80th Golden Globes will once again assume its place in the awards season pantheon as the “party of the year,” with the vast majority of big-name honorees participating.
Why this will happen: After 20 months spent as Hollywood’s pariah following The Times investigation in 2021 that exposed a lack of diversity in the organization’s membership and raised concerns about its ethics and financial practices, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has implemented a slew of reforms. The awards ceremony — now controlled by billionaire owner Todd Boehly — is back on air after NBC pulled the broadcast this year after a contingent of powerful publicists boycotted the group and studios like Netflix, Amazon and Warner Media cut ties. Signaling a return to show biz as usual, the recent Globes nominations are showing up in movie and TV marketing campaigns. And with the box office in the doldrums, the industry is hoping the glimmer of the Globes might just spark renewed interest in filmdom.
Why it might not: Not everyone is convinced that the new HFPA is not just the old HFPA rolled out in a new red carpet. Response among talent to their nominations was muted, and not many have yet publicly signaled their intentions to attend the awards ceremony. Brendan Fraser, nominated for best actor in “The Whale,” announced his refusal to participate, citing his own fraught history with the HFPA. While the box office is down, so is viewership for awards shows. Perhaps, the biggest wait and see sign, NBC, which previously had a multiyear deal to broadcast the show, has only committed to air the Globes for one year.
— Stacy Perman
Prediction: We will finally stop talking about the slap and go back to talking about all of the Oscars’ other problems.
Why this will happen: After last year’s calamitous Academy Awards, nearly all of the coverage was focused on Will Smith’s violent, profanity-laced outburst and its messy aftermath. But as shock of the slap finally fades and Smith slowly rehabilitates his image, the Oscars’ deeper existential crisis remains — and will come back into focus with a vengeance. Having tried everything from a Twitter-voted fan award to shifting below-the-line categories out of the live telecast, with little to show for it beyond alienating its own members, the film academy is running out of ways to make Hollywood’s biggest night feel fresh and relevant. Last year’s show drew just 16.6 million viewers, the second-lowest viewership ever. Alas, this year’s telecast could once again test new ratings lows.
For the record:
5:09 p.m. Dec. 27, 2022An earlier version of this post said “Everything Everywhere All at Once” grossed more than $100 million domestically. It grossed more than $100 million worldwide.
Why it might not: If there’s any hope the Oscars can draw more eyeballs this year, it lies in blockbusters like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water.” Should those two box office behemoths land in the best picture race — along with “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Elvis” — it could help goose interest in a race that will otherwise be focused around relatively little-seen films that will have largely faded from memory by the time March 12 rolls around. The last time the year’s biggest box office hit won best picture was in 2004, when “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” claimed the top prize in a ceremony watched by 43.6 million viewers. If this year’s telecast can draw even half that number, it will be a step in the right direction.
— Josh Rottenberg
Prediction: The Writers Guild of America will strike.
Why this will happen: If you speak to TV and film executives, it sounds like a fait accompli that there will be a strike. Because of the pandemic, the threat of a walkout that loomed in 2020 might now have its moment in 2023. The calls for creators to get a greater share of the profits from streaming have grown louder. WGA West President Meredith Stiehm has been saying for years that writers are willing to try hard to solve what looks like an complex problem, but they feel squeezed.
Why it might not: Writers’ strikes have been devastating for the local economy and writers can end up without work or lose deals. And talk of a pending recession could give them reason to pause.
— Anousha Sakoui
Prediction: Wall Street recommendations for Walt Disney Co. to spin off ESPN and ABC will grow loud enough that the idea will get serious consideration.
Why this will happen: Linear TV viewing outside of sports continues to steadily decline. Tech companies chasing after sports rights will only drive rights fees higher, and Disney may not have the stomach to pay for content it will not own.
Why it might not: Disney CEO Bob Iger came up through ABC and its sports division. ESPN was a key reason Disney acquired ABC in 1995. Does he want to be the guy to cut those signature properties loose?
— Stephen Battaglio
Prediction: A major media and entertainment company will fold, sell or merge its streaming business.
Why it’ll happen: The belief that there are too many streaming services is practically engraved on tablets at this point. Wall Street’s preference of subscriber growth over profits has reversed during the last year, and the big-tent streamers that launched in 2019 and after are losing billions of dollars, which is not helping stock prices. Sure, Disney+ is here to stay. HBO Max and Discovery+ — whatever the combination thereof ends up being called — will probably get some time to prove themselves under the Warner Bros. Discovery umbrella. But do the others make sense as standalone brands?
Why it might not: Ask any media executive whether something’s gotta give, and they’ll say, yes, of course. There should only really be three or four giants, and the industry is ripe for consolidation. Peacock and Paramount+ have made strides and have some strong content, but they lag their rivals. Still, ask the execs to identify No. 5 — the one on the bubble — and they’ll never name theirs. Most still believe that direct-to-consumer platforms are an important part of their futures , even if they’re not the be-alls and end alls. Plus, there ought to be a charity coin jar for every time someone predicts that NBCUniversal will merge with a competitor or that Shari Redstone will sell Paramount Global.
— Ryan Faughnder
Prediction: Under Elon Musk, Twitter will begin investing in exclusive comedy content.
Why it’ll happen: Musk has long fancied himself a comedy connoisseur, from that bewildering stint as Saturday Night Live host to his short-lived attempt at an “Onion” competitor to this month’s ill-received cameo at a Dave Chappelle show. But as Twitter’s new owner, and at least for now its CEO, Musk finally controls the infrastructure to get his favorite comedy content out in front of millions. Combine that with his interest in turning the platform into a more subscription-driven venture, plus his culture-war-ish inclination toward “anti-PC” jokes, and you have a recipe for Musk to follow in the footsteps of Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube Premium by funding original, Twitter-only content. “Comedy is now legal on Twitter,” the billionaire tweeted after acquiring the social media platform; his next move may well be to put his money where his mouth is. Who knows, maybe he’ll take a crack at his own half-hour stand-up special.
Why it might not: It would admittedly be an out-of-left-field move (not that that’s stopped Musk in the past). Netflix has struggled with both internal and external backlash to stand-up it commissioned from Chappelle, and turning Twitter into the exclusive home of right-wing comedy content would make Musk’s already-dubious framing of the site as a politically neutral “public square” that much less believable. Content isn’t free to make, either, and Twitter doesn’t seem to have much money to burn right now — especially when its users are willing to tweet out their jokes for free, anyways.
— Brian Contreras.
Stuff we wrote
— ‘It took a crisis in order to make changes,’ says new Golden Globes owner. After 20 months of chaos and uncertainty, Todd Boehly says he understands the criticism and that the group behind the Golden Globes is evolving.
— Google lands the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package for YouTube TV. Tech giant nabs the rights to the out-of-market Sunday games that had been offered to DirecTV customers since 1994.
— The 2022 World Cup overcomes obstacles to score a ratings hit. Despite the unprecedented late fall start, the World Cup soccer tournament drew larger TV and streaming audiences than 2018, thanks in large part to the U.S. team.
— ICYMI. James Gunn defends his choices as new DC boss. Domestic violence lawsuit against former WME agent dismissed. ‘Rust’ first assistant director Halls countersues Alec Baldwin. ‘Criminal Minds’ producers reach $3-million settlement in sexual harassment case.
Number of the week
The box office recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is a work in progress.
The year is expected to end with about $7.35 billion in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada, down roughly 35% from the pre-coronavirus year of 2019, when movies generated $11.4 billion in revenue.
The problems are not mysterious. A shortage of wide releases, resulting in long stretches of time on the calendar with no blockbusters, is largely to blame. Some older moviegoers are still staying away, especially those who would typically come out for highfalutin Oscar bait. Ultimately , only three 2022 wide releases will have hit the $1-billion milestone in terms of global grosses: “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Jurassic World Dominion” and (we presume) “Avatar: The Way of Water.”
Blame movies that were pushed to 2023 (“Shazam! Fury of the Gods”), a backlog at visual effects companies and a smattering of films going to streaming that would typically be released theatrically. We expect 2023 will see more movies released, which should translate to higher totals, perhaps getting box office back across the $9 billion level.
Paramount Pictures CEO Brian Robbins put it succinctly: “You’re off 30-something percent and you’ve got 30% less movies, right? The math kind of works.”
Read my full analysis here.
Best of the web
— Elegy for P-22, a big, beautiful cat. (LAT)
— She was an ABC News producer. She also was a corporate operative. (NPR)
— John Waters on his life in art. (Harper’s Bazaar)
— Fans are suing over deceptive trailers again. (Variety)
— Pulling off ‘Avatar 2’s’ underwater scenes. (LAT)
I’ve found my new favorite genre of short-form journalism, and it’s just examples of James Cameron being a maniacal perfectionist. Here’s Cameron spending actual dollars to prove, scientifically, that Jack couldn’t have survived with Rose. Another is Cameron agonizing years later over a key out-of-focus shot in “Titanic.”
See you next year.
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