2022 blockbusters like Top Gun, Wakanda Forever and Avatar proved that going to the movies didn’t die


2022 was bad, but it could have been worse. This essay is part of a end of year series looking at the silver linings.

Not that the movie show was in a particularly good spot. before the pandemic For years, we have witnessed the precipitous decline of adult material., the kind of mid-budget dramas and comedies that studios used to fund freely, as a small risk for at least a small gain. But the growing 21st century dominance of sequels, blockbusters, and comic-book movies made studios less inclined to fund those mid-range efforts, choosing instead to go for a big budget product. As a result, audiences began to treat movies less as art and more as an event, only worth the money and expense when it came to spectacle.

Movie theaters were not obsolete. We missed going to them and couldn’t wait to go back.

Then, with the Covid-19 lockdowns, the show basically disappeared overnight. The year or so of total shutdown, and the slow and sometimes wobbly return to regular movie-going, had plenty of filmmakers and industry observers, not to mention audience members — worried that going to the movies would be like dinosaurs. After all, it was hard not to imagine that the streaming stopgaps we’d used while stuck at home would become the way movies were consumed from here on out. However the staggering 2022 box office numbers Tell a different story: movie theaters did not become obsolete. Us omitted going to them and were looking forward to going back.

Some of what we see in this year’s receipts confirms the preferences of the past and, if anything, shows that the shutdown period accelerated them. That’s evident when we look at the top 10 box office attractions, which consist of nine direct sequels (“Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Jurassic World: Dominion, etc.) and an indirect one (the Batman reboot). And the top 20 includes several titles that, while not sequels, capitalize on familiar trademarks: “Lightyear,” “Uncharted,” “The Bad Guys,” the DC spin-off “Black Adam” (with its much-vaunted cameo by Henry Cavill). Superman), and a blockbuster movie about one of the first brands with a capital B: “Elvis.”

However, the ubiquity of the familiar was not entirely negative, for once. As of this writing, the mammoth difference between the first-place title (“Top Gun: Maverick,” at $718 million) and the second-place title (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” at $427 million) is staggering but simple. Unlike “Wakanda Forever,” which (like most great movies of this era) made most of its money in a few weeks thanks to a regular and dedicated fandom, “Top Gun” drew audiences for months, and not necessarily because of the brand. loyalty (note that it was a sequel to a 36 year old movie). The reason for those legs is simple: “Top Gun: Maverick” is very, very good, both exciting and thoughtful, engaging, and grappling with its legacy rather than just being carried away by nostalgia, and people came to the theater to experience it once. and again. . It offered the best of the movie experience: spectacle, more quality, more replayability.

But best of all, the hunger for the all-too-familiar wasn’t the only story told this year. Several original movies were solid commercial successes, from Jordan Peele’s witty “Nope” to the horror hits “Smile.” and “The Black Phone” to the old star vehicles “The Lost City” and “Ticket to Paradise” to the mini-epics “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “The Woman King” to unclassifiable outliers like “Dog” and “The menu”. Most moviegoers probably didn’t see everyone of them, and that’s part of the point; This year’s blockbusters didn’t have to appeal to every moviegoer, but they could target specific audiences and still turn a handsome profit.

Make no mistake: theatrical display is still finding its way back to the pre-2020 world, and certain pandemic-era adjustments have carried over to the present day, with disastrous results for prestige cinema. (Parents, for example, may be reluctant to pay the cost of a babysitter, food, and movie tickets for critical favorites like “The Fabelmans,” “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “Tár,” which will appear on-demand shortly after their theatrical releases.) “Going to the Movies” may well continue to evolve into a show-only situation, focusing solely on the kinds of movies that Martin Scorsese famously (and, to some, , arguably) compared to amusement park rides – something closer to the current iteration of the Broadway setting. But if the absence of new releases in the pandemic era proved anything, it’s that people love to go to the movies, really do, and not just to see Marvel movies. And that’s something to be really grateful for.

Read the rest of our silver liners series here

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