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Hollywood Post-Pandemic: Digital Players Win, Cord-Cutting Spikes, Movie Theaters on the Bubble

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The entertainment economy will bounce back in favor of the digital players

What does the entertainment industry look like on the other side of this pandemic?

WaxWord spoke to nearly a dozen industry experts — financial analysts, current and former studio and network chiefs and longtime observers — to get a sense of the entertainment economy when the country begins to reopen.

There is a lot that no one knows for certain — such as how quickly consumers will want to congregate in theaters, concert venues and theme parks. Some who I interviewed believe there will be huge pent-up demand for entertainment outside the home once cities reopen. Others insist that caution around large gatherings will rule for a long time — perhaps even years to come.

But there is widespread agreement that the entertainment economy will bounce back in the favor of the digital players. The dwindling patterns of the legacy entertainment economy — cable cord-cutting, for example — will occur even more quickly than they already have. And many agreed that embracing innovation, the faster the better, is the only way to come out a winner.

“Whatever change was coming over the next decade is being forced upon us in a year,” media investor Ross Gerber of Gerber-Kawasaki said. “When you think about paradigms that are no longer — Hollywood has to get this into their heads: It’s over.”

Naveen Sarma, senior director at S&P Global Ratings, added, “We don’t think the industry itself is permanently impaired but the trends that already exist are getting accelerated.”

A former studio chief, speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed. “The things that were likely to happen more slowly are now going to happen more quickly. The platforms — Amazon, Netflix, HBO Max, maybe NBCUniversal’s Peacock — that have scope, breadth, technology are going to prevail. Those that don’t will not.”

One obvious winner is Netflix, who this week announced record subscriber growth in the first quarter of the year — a stunning 16 million new users worldwide. The streamer had a viral docuseries hit during the height of the quarantine in “Tiger King” and trumpeted the fact that it has a full pipeline of new programming to roll out for the rest of this year.

As media analysts MoffettNathanson wrote in a new analysis on Friday: “Heading into 2020, we had argued that the fundamental pillars of media were starting to crack. Now, we fear that they will crumble as customer behavior permanently shifts to streaming models. The impact should be felt in both the traditional TV ecosystem and the film industry as content producers re-examine the economics of producing linear TV content and feature films. As a result, when this is all done, the top streaming platforms — Netflix, Amazon and Disney — will emerge with the lion’s share of scripted content creation.”

“Tiger King” (Netflix)

Any company with a pure or well-developed digital strategy, like Snap or Amazon, is ahead of the game in this new landscape. Those without one may not survive: Bankruptcy or acquisition looms for some major Hollywood players, including AMC Theatres or Endeavor, that were highly leveraged and now face revenue shortfalls that may not recover quickly when the industry comes back online.

Insiders pointed to specific companies and where they stand: Lionsgate has Starz, which is a plus. Sony lacks any direct-to-consumer digital entertainment product, which is a problem. ViacomCBS’ path is unclear, now that Paramount is providing lots of content to Netflix and its digital strategy is a patchwork of streaming services like CBS All Access, Showtime and BET+.

And Disney — which just eight weeks ago appeared to be Hollywood’s undisputed dominant force, with the strong launch of its Disney+ streaming service as well as control of Hulu — is facing a serious downturn that is likely to last a couple of years given its reliance on revenue from its theme parks and cruise division, analysts and insiders said.

But these are just facets of a complicated set of variables in a story that is still unfolding.

As one head of a major entertainment company told me: “It’s a Rubik’s cube we’re solving for. There are so many elements of society figuring out how to get back — how to get back into their lives. Do people go to outdoor before indoor? Do they go to movie theaters?”

Let’s break this down into the component parts and see where the different entertainment industry segments are headed.

Trolls World Tour coronavirus

“Trolls World Tour” (Universal)

Theatrical Movies

The conversation around theatrical windows is over. Exhibitors from AMC to Cinemark to Regal who have been battling to protect their precious 90-day window between a movie opening in theaters and arriving in homes on demand have seen the pandemic force the issue into real time. The closure of movie theaters drove Universal to bypass theaters and release “Trolls World Tour” straight to streaming — and now Warner Bros. plans to do the same with “Scoob!”

There is talk everywhere that once theaters reopen, studios will begin coordinating day-and-date releases of movies in theaters as well as via in-home viewing. WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said as much on his company’s earnings call, leading his subordinates to quickly reassure exhibitors that they still are committed to movie theaters.

“I have a really difficult time believing that any major motion picture will come out the way you and I grew up — a regular 90-day release before home entertainment,” analyst Rich Greenfield of Lightshed Media said. “This seems untenable in a world where going to a movie theater feels high-risk. They may be open, but what parent is sending their kid into a theater with a mask? And can you sit with your friends, or six feet from your friends? Can you eat popcorn? Until there’s a vaccine is that the new normal?”

This uncertainty means that the “windows” of movie release are up for grabs. Megabudget tentpoles may make sense to target for a theatrical release given that an exclusively on-demand release may not generate enough revenues to achieve profitability, but plenty of other lower-budgeted movies may go straight to streaming.

“The industry is currently in an incredibly strange place where studios don’t know when to release films due to the uncertainty of attendance and theaters don’t know when to re-open due to the uncertainty of release schedules,” MoffettNathanson said in its new analysis. “The longer this state of uncertainty, the weaker their position. However, one thing is certain: the U.S. film industry is in dire need of restructuring.”

“What’s optimum is optionality,” the former studio chief said. “It’s sane to evaluate all along the way whether or not a movie has the goods to be theatrical.”

Another consideration is the viability of exhibitors. Both AMC and Regal carry billions of dollars in debt. If theaters reopen this summer and are required to offer social distancing, their financial outlook is dire and a change of control may necessarily occur.

“A lot of people think it’s the death of theatrical and I don’t,” said Ryan Kavanaugh, the former CEO of Relativity Media and a media investor. “I think it will be a much-needed changing of the guard. If you look at AMC, Regal — particularly AMC — it was already a tough business model.” But, he argued, that’s not because people don’t want to go to the movies — it’s because the companies are over-leveraged. “It’s a nail in the coffin for the debt of big theater chains. What it will lead to is Chapter 11 restructures or a similar thing,” he said.

But Kavanaugh thinks that the cinema experience may find a white knight in the content producers — especially since the Trump Justice Department last year moved to overturn 70-year-old antitrust rules prohibiting studios from owning cinema chains. “What we’ll see is not that theatrical is dead and gone,” he said. “But we will go back to the old days when studios owned theater chains. It makes sense if you’re Amazon, or Warner Bros., and you want to keep the theatrical window, and you go to a day-and-date structure, charge more for at home.”

Gerber agreed, pointing to the recently defunct MoviePass subscription service for frequent filmgoers. “MoviePass proved people want to go to movies but don’t want to pay the price,” he said. “If Netflix bought a theater chain and added $5 to subscriptions they would sell out.”

He added: “I don’t think theaters die here. Theater owners are unimaginative in their business models. They know how to charge more but they’re not creative. Look at the subscription model. I would pay some amount per month for access to theaters. There’s a lack of imagination because it’s been the same people forever. They have to get wiped out to come up with new ideas.”

Stephen Colbert at Upfronts

Stephen Colbert at 2019 TV Upfronts

Television

The pandemic has been a disaster for television advertising, with spending slashed by $7.5 billion in the first half of 2020, according to TheWrap’s reporting.

With pilot season canceled, the fall television schedule is looking mighty bare. And with live sports up in the air as well, there’s a whole lot of nothing fresh to put on television. No wonder pundits are predicting that cord-cutting could extend into two-thirds of American households with this pandemic.

“Sports is gone and people hate the price,” said a former television network chief who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But analysts seem unanimous that this is a temporary blip for linear television and that advertising will return once the pressure is off. “We think TV advertising comes back longer term,” Sarma said. “There are only certain ways to build brand and reach and that’s still television. Having said that, if the NFL doesn’t play and college football doesn’t happen, advertising will take longer to return.”

Gerber said that the effects on TV production have been overblown. “The media has done a huge disservice here — there’s so much information that’s scary and not accurate,” he said. “There’s no reason why we can’t make a TV show. We’ll do that in less than 30 days.”

As a result, he added, “Advertising will come back, for sure. That’s the easiest thing to turn on and off. They (advertisers) will turn it right back on when business is open. We expect advertising to come back, and the first movers will get a great deal.”

Greenfield, however, was more pessimistic. “TV advertising is not roaring back. It will be under a lot of pressure,” he said. “There’s not going to be a fall TV season for the first time in our lives. There’s no pilots. There’s nothing. So these things are going to take time.”

Tomorrow: A focus on Disney, post-pandemic 

Entertainment

‘Goodnight Moon’ reimagined as ‘Good Morning Zoom’ for coronavirus era

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Goodnight, society as we knew it.

Margaret Wise Brown’s 1947 children’s book “Goodnight Moon” has been reimagined for the time of the coronavirus. “Good Morning Zoom,” a parody version of the book by investment banker Lindsay Rechler and illustrator June Park, will be published by Penguin Random House in October.

“It seemed fitting because ‘Goodnight Moon’ takes place exclusively in one room or home, and that is how I felt about quarantine,” Rechler, who’s been quarantining with a 2- and a 4-year-old in a Manhattan apartment since March, told Jewish parenting site Kveller. “Zoom was a nice play on words and fitting, given our new reality and this concept of replacing hugs with technology.”

In addition to bringing adults a smile with her clever alternative to the original, Rechler believes the book will bring solace to young readers. “I think children will find comfort because the book details what they are actually going through each and every day,” she said, adding that the book is intended to serve as a source of simultaneous familiarity and a prompt for questions on recent, drastic changes to little ones’ daily lives. “Most importantly, for both kids and parents, I want the book to provide hope.”

Book profits will be donated to coronavirus relief charities.

Rechler is not the first mom to be inspired by COVID-19 to reboot children’s literature for the present moment. During lockdown, Manhattan mother Stefanie Trilling topically redesigned kids’ book covers, including “Green Eggs and Wash Your Hands” and “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Time Home.”

And “Good Morning Zoom” is not the first alternative take on the classic read — “Moon” has been rewritten as “Goodnight Dune” and “Goodnight iPad” over the years.

Children’s author Wise Brown was beloved for the timeless tale, which has sold more than 14 million copies. She died in 1952 and is remembered as a bisexual rebel who didn’t like kids. Her work has been posthumously published as recently as 2017.

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30 Photos Show How People Look Before And After Their Hair Transformation

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If you have ever had long hair or haven‘t changed your hairstyle in a hot minute, you might agree that it can become a security blanket, so it‘s often very hard to make that step and spice up things a bit. On the other hand, once you do it, it can be an immediate confidence boost. It‘s probably the main reason why people tend to experiment with their hair after major life changes.

Changing your hairstyle can elevate your looks to another level, but it has to be done by a professional hand—otherwise, it might go really wrong. Just think of all the quarantine hair fails we’ve seen or even experienced in the past few months of insanity. If you missed them, check out some of the most ridiculous and hilarious fails here and here. A carefully chosen hairstyle and color can complement your skin tone, face shape, and highlight your best features. The artists you‘ll see here definitely know what they are doing.

Scroll down to see some of the best transformations by the world‘s most talented hairstylists. Some of the before-and-afters might blow your mind―it’s amazing how a proper hairstyle can completely change the way a person looks! And feel free to take one look as inspiration next time you go to a salon!

More info: Instagram | Instagram | oneshot.behindthechair.com | Facebook | twitter.com | youtube.com

These amazing transformations are brought to you by #ONESHOT Hair Awards held by Behind The Chair―the largest community in the world for salon professionals to explore education possibilities and draw inspiration. The annual contest has received over 1,000,000 entries in different categories in only 5 years. There are two overall categories hairstylists can submit to: “Big Shot“ for pictures shot in a professional studio setting and “Hot Shot,” which celebrates real and raw hairstyles done behind the chair. To bring it down to Earth, in this post, we have compiled a list of raw before and after pics of contest winners and finalists across the years. These transformations show the hottest hairstyles and color trends that hairstylists masterfully transfer to clients’ hair.

Most of us dream of that perfect hairstyle that will turn heads, and it shows. The competition has 118k followers on Instagram while Behind The Chair has 1.7M. Though not everyone is brave enough to rock edgy haircuts and vibrant colors, these accounts throw out so much content every day that anyone can find something they fancy and would find suitable for day-to-day life. Or maybe even inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and try something out of the box? Anyway, if we can take one lesson from the #ONESHOT awards, it would definitely be to put down the kitchen scissors when you are tempted to chop off your heavy locks and look for a professional who will take good care of you.

A new hairstyle is not only about aesthetics, it’s usually way beyond that―a way of finding self-love and needed confidence. Experimenting with your hair can help you express yourself and it can actually be a lot of fun. But the most important part―it grows back! This is why we love sharing inspiring before and after photos of hair transformations. Find more posts with epic hair makeovers you should look at here, here, here, and here.

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Who’s Performing At The 2020 VMAs? From BTS To Doja Cat, The Lineup Is Stacked

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The first round of performers for the 2020 VMAs has been announced, and let’s just say the bar was set high. The annual awards show is set to air live on Aug. 30, and, per usual, MTV has enlisted some of your favorite superstars to hit the stage. Before the show kicks off, you’ll want to know who’s performing at the 2020 VMAs.

MTV announced the first round of performers on Aug. 4, with BTS, Doja Cat, and J Balvin leading the pack. While more performers are slated to be announced soon, they’ve started with some of the this year’s top-nominated artists. Balvin has four nominations at the 2020 show, while BTS scooped up three nods. “Say So” singer Doja Cat is also nominated for three awards, including the coveted PUSH best new artist award.

BTS is set to release their new single “Dynamite” on Aug. 21, and will take to the stage to perform the track at the VMAs for the first time. This will be the band’s first time performing at the VMAs as well, a detail MTV did not miss out on hyping in their Instagram announcement.

You can see MTV’s performer announcement post below.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear how much of the show will be live and how much will be pre-recorded or shot remotely. According to MTV, this year’s show will air across linear and digital platforms from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, as well as from various locations throughout New York City.

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In addition to the performers, the 2020 VMAs nomination list was stacked with the biggest artists in music. Ariana and Lady Gaga led the nominations list with nine nods each, while Billie Eilish trailed just behind them with six. The Weeknd also scooped up six nominations and Taylor Swift’s name was spotted in five categories.

Ready to catch the action? The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards are set to air live on Sunday, Aug. 30, at 8 p.m. EST.

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