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Year in Review: A shift in the entertainment industry

Changes for writers and actors, audiences, musicians, and leading companies in 2023 and beyond

A man pickets outside of Paramount Studios in Los Angeles on July 26. Associated Press/Photo by Chris Pizzello

Year in Review: A shift in the entertainment industry

It’s been an eventful year, and it may be remembered as one of those watershed moments in history where we end up living fundamentally different lives going forward. There was a time when we weren’t so hyperconnected. Then, in the 1990s, cellphone usage and the internet went mainstream, changing how we live and work. But those shifts seem mild compared to the upheaval wrought a decade later by social media and smartphones. This year, artificial intelligence leapt from science fiction fantasy to something that will change not only how we relate to technology but also how we relate to each other and the world. Writers, artists, and musicians started grappling with AI this year, but it’s still too early to tell just how it will shape our culture.

We’ll keep our eye on AI in 2024, but in the meantime, let’s recap what happened during 2023 in the world of arts and entertainment:

Hollywood on strike 

The biggest entertainment news of the year was when, for the first time since 1960, Hollywood’s writers and actors unions were on strike at the same time. On May 2, the Writers Guild of America stopped working. The Screen Actors Guild followed suit on July 14. The unions asked the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for minimum wage increases and a share of streaming revenue. Some of the unions’ most contentious demands involved certain safeguards related to the use of artificial intelligence. Talks stalled when the studios claimed they couldn’t offer more because streaming isn’t yet profitable and the industry is still recovering from COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. After months of no new work coming out of Tinseltown, the AMPTP gave ground. The writers settled on Sept. 27 and the actors reached their own deal on Nov. 9, but the months of work stoppage cost the industry billions of dollars.

Shifting tastes in cinema 

This year saw some surprising results at the North American box office. For the last decade, sequels and superheroes dominated theaters, but in 2023, the top movie wasn’t either of those things. Barbie made more than $630 million domestically and another $800 million internationally. Sure, the uber-pink film benefited from brand recognition, but for all its faults, the movie was decidedly original. The No. 2 film, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, had a similar résumé: recognizable brand but no established franchise. Perhaps most surprising was Oppenheimer’s ability to ride Barbie’s coattails to $326 million. The sequels and superheroes of 2023, which were legion, had an epically bad year at the box office.

The decline of Disney 

CEO Bob Iger came out of retirement at the end of last year to help right the foundering Disney ship, but if anything, the company began taking on more water in 2023. Besides its own animation studio, Disney also owns Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel—arguably the world’s most valuable entertainment brands. Despite this embarrassment of riches, the company struggled to attract an audience, getting shut out of the top three at the box office. It’s a far cry from 2019, when Disney routed the competition by claiming the top eight spots—though in fairness, it only co-produced No. 7 Spider-Man: Far From Home with Sony. Disney’s troubles stem from audience fatigue over the staleness that’s plagued sequels and superhero movies, but it’s also suffered some tarnish to its family-friendly image. In November, Iger said Disney needed to avoid messaging and get back to quality storytelling.

The ascendency of Swift 

Before 2023, Taylor Swift was a big deal. This year, she became the biggest deal. As a celebration of her 17-year-long career, Swift launched The Eras Tour, one of the most ambitious and expensive tours to date. The show caused a ticket-buying frenzy and became the first concert tour to exceed $1 billion in revenue. But that’s not all. At one point, Swift had five different albums on the Billboard Top 10 at the same time. She finished the year as the most-streamed artist on Spotify. She struck an unprecedented deal with AMC Theatres to release her concert film, which she made without studio backing, and it became the biggest concert film in history at the domestic box office. Swift also managed to boost NFL ratings when she began showing up at games to cheer on her new boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

KKR buys Simon & Schuster 

Over the last decade, the publishing industry has trended toward mergers and consolidation, leaving the world with five major book publishers. Last year, the federal government blocked the largest publisher, Penguin Random House, from acquiring one of the other big five, Simon & Schuster, from Paramount for $2 billion. Paramount had wanted to unload the publisher, which wasn’t one of its core businesses, to pay down debt. This summer, Paramount sold Simon & Schuster to private equity fund KKR for $1.62 billion. KKR plans to invest in the publisher in the hopes of seeing growth in the international market. Simon & Schuster celebrates its 100th anniversary on Tuesday.

Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD’s arts and culture editor. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University and resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.



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