The Entertainment Business in 2021: A Review

With Spiderman: No Way Home scoring box office success after box office success, there’s a brighter and bolder entertainment business year-end insight than anyone could have predicted 12 months ago. As a year that’s been turbulent indeed for the industry winds down, let’s look at some of the highlights and lowlights from 2021. Entertainment lawyer at Blake & Wang P.A, Brandon Blake, has insight for us.

The Little Box Office That Could

While the start of the year saw very slow uptake for the theatrical industry, the second 6-month interval saw success snowball as key delayed tentpoles finally made their way into theaters. And audiences have, for the most part, done their part. The year culminates with the first global billion taken since the pandemic era started, with Spiderman: No Way Home taking the crown.

The Memestock Rises

This is also the year that the entertainment business contributed to the birth of the ‘memestock’, as Redditors surged to save ailing AMC stock from market tinkering. Nor would this prove to be a one-off phenomenon, with ‘memestock investing’ catching market attention right through the year. AMC, in the meantime, has put the lifeline to good use with restructured balance sheets, even making moves to acquire key locations from closed theatrical chains.

The Agency Landscape Shifts

With the ‘Big 4’ Agencies finally finding a deal to strike with the WGA, after a strike that dragged on for nearly two years, we’ve also seen a shift in how (and what) they will be focusing on. With packaging no longer a lucrative sideline, and a need to reduce ownership in production companies to meet the terms of the WGA deal, we’ve seen changes in how the larger agencies do business. From proposed mergers to new focuses, there will be a lot to watch into the New Year.

The Return of the Theatrical Window

With the cautious box office successes assuring studios that people are still willing to attend theaters even with the lure of on-the-couch streaming right there, we’ve also seen more and more studios recommit to exclusive theatrical windows instead of messy day-and-date releases. With that said, the 90-day theatrical exclusive is dead, with 45-days appearing to lead the pack as the future new normal. 

South Korea Dominates

Building on the groundwork laid by Oscar-winner Parasite, this has been the year where we see South Korean cinema take the world by storm, with the runaway success of Netflix’s Squid Games globally. This serves to highlight the blend of globally relatable storytelling and local appeal that seems set to solidify South Korea’s presence on the movie making scene.

China Loses Ground as an International Market

As South Korea bursts to the front of the global entertainment queue, China has lost its prominence as a release market. With an increased focus on local productions, and less inclination to greet Hollywood blockbusters with glee, China no longer appears to be the de facto second market for global releases. 

Tech and Entertainment Collide

With the challenges of the pandemic era only accelerating the digital revolution, we’ve seen more crossover than ever before from the Tech World into Entertainment. From posturing from Google and Apple as they seek more entertainment market share, through to changes in how we consume content and even how we advertise films and measure industry impacts through Nielsen, digital is now the go-to entertainment arena.

It’s been a year of ups and downs, but a year that started in gloom for the industry has turned out to be, overall, better than most anticipated. Here’s to even better things in 2022.

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