Year in Review: Turmoil in the entertainment and media industry
Family-friendly films, Elon Musk, Babylon Bee, and Top Gun were the year’s winners
This year didn’t turn out how the entertainment and media industry had hoped. With the COVID-19 pandemic winding down, 2022 was supposed to celebrate a return to normality. But despite theaters and sports arenas reopening, this year wasn’t smooth and profitable. Here’s a review of the top stories from this tumultuous year.
The slap heard round the world
The 94th Academy Awards began the year with a bang. From the beginning, it looked like the ceremony would continue its slide into irrelevance with its pretentious and self-congratulatory tone. But toward the end, actor Will Smith marched on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock’s mouth after Rock cracked a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The shocking attack overshadowed everything else at the event. It’s a shame because in a surprising twist, the Oscars honored many movies emphasizing the importance of family. CODA, a movie about the hearing child of deaf parents, won best picture. Kenneth Branagh won best original screenplay for Belfast, a story based on his childhood. Disney’s Encanto, a movie about the love and pain that come with being part of a family, won the Oscar for best animated feature. And Will Smith won best actor for his role in King Richard, the inspirational movie in which he plays the father of Venus and Serena Williams.
Streaming profits trickle to nothing
Subscription-based streaming was the wave of the future for the entertainment industry—until it wasn’t. The stock market fell this year, and the entertainment industry got hit especially hard. For the last few years, Wall Street allowed streaming services to spend freely without asking for much in return. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated consumers’ switch to streaming. Services proliferated and subscriptions increased. Streaming was going to pay off one day. But then the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery became a harbinger of what was to come when it shuttered CNN+ just weeks after launch—an effort to save money because of massive debts. Then in the summer, seemingly untouchable Netflix announced it was down a million subscribers, something that had never happened before. Netflix stock price went into free fall, and all the media conglomerates saw their value decrease during the “Netflix correction.” Things didn’t improve when Disney announced it had lost $1.5 billion on streaming in a single quarter, and Disney CEO Bob Chapek lost his job not long after. The industry is trying to save the streaming model through bundling, reining in spending, and introducing a cheaper tier with commercials. How will consumers react when these streamers start to look more like traditional cable?
Free speech on Twitter, or lack thereof, became a favorite topic of conversation in 2022. Back in March, the Babylon Bee found itself in “Twitter jail” for what the social media site called “hateful conduct.” USA Today had named Rachel Levine, a biological man, in its list of “women of the year.” The Bee posted a satirical article naming Levine its man of the year. Twitter locked the Babylon Bee’s account, demanding the post be deleted. The Bee declined to remove it. In April, billionaire Elon Musk offered to buy Twitter for $44 billion, expressing concerns about the platform’s inept leadership and lack of free speech. The deal wasn’t easy, with both sides trying to back out at various times, but in October, Musk completed his acquisition. Musk inherited the dilemma of what to do with banned and suspended accounts. In November, WORLD Magazine ran an essay by Seth Dillon, CEO of the Babylon Bee, about the perils of speaking the truth through satire. In a bit of providential timing, Musk freed the Bee from Twitter jail the next day.
Big stages, big controversies
Two worldwide sporting events occurred in 2022, and both had their share of controversy. The Beijing Winter Olympics took place in February, giving the Chinese capital the distinction of being the first city to host both summer and winter games. But the Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee came under fire because of China’s human rights violations and “zero COVID-19” policy. American viewership dropped to about half of what it had been for the 2018 Games. The 2022 FIFA World Cup, running from mid-November to mid-December, was the biggest athletic competition of the year, but it too attracted criticism. Rumors persisted that tiny host country Qatar gained the tournament through corruption within FIFA, and activists decried the exploitation of migrant workers who built the tournament’s infrastructure. The cup also attracted attention because many Western soccer groups tried to push an LGBT agenda in Qatar, where homosexuality is outlawed.
Box office review
While much of the entertainment and media industry experienced economic and political turmoil during 2022, movie theaters, which could have used a shakeup, experienced more of the same. The top 10 grossers at the domestic box office were all sequels or franchise films. The surprise of the year was how well Top Gun: Maverick resonated with audiences, with Tom Cruise returning to his iconic role from 1986. Top Gun: Maverick was originally slated for a 2020 release. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, studio executives wanted to send it straight to streaming. Cruise argued they should wait for a theatrical release, and I’m sure the executives are glad they listened. The film topped the domestic box office with $718 million. A pair of superhero movies, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. Despite a few big hits, movie theaters are still hurting, with the domestic box office only at about two-thirds of what it was in 2019.
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