2020 is finally over. While the trials we faced throughout the year are still lingering in 2021, we can always hope that better days await us in the coming months. With that being said, having survived last year’s dumpster fire, it can be fun and cathartic to reflect on the past year. There were a few clear winners and losers in the film industry, including services, companies and even certain people. So let’s take a walk down memory lane and look back on those in the film industry who won and lost in 2020.
Loser: Christopher Nolan
A-list director Christopher Nolan graced audiences with “Tenet” in 2020, a film that famously was delayed numerous times until it was finally released on Sept. 3. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed “Tenet,” but other reactions varied. However, the film itself is not the loser here. From the very beginning of the pandemic, there was a media narrative set that “Tenet” would save the moviegoing experience. People would go to theaters in droves to see the next masterpiece from Christopher Nolan, a film that needed to be seen on the big screen, as was endorsed by the director himself. But, instead of waiting for the pandemic to die down like just about every other film is doing, Nolan pushed for “Tenet” to be released in 2020, which saw a measly $55.1 million domestic gross across its nearly four month theatrical run. Not only was this move detrimental to the film’s success, but it also reinforced other studios’ perception of whether people were ready to go back to the movies or not. So blame all of those delays for films coming out later this year on Christopher Nolan.
Winner: Just about every major streaming service (except HBO Max)
With no major releases finding their way to theaters for the past 10 months, streaming services had a fantastic opportunity to shine with their already scheduled content. Normally, strong streaming releases would get lost in the shuffle amongst the box office titans, but this year was excellent for streaming; and it wasn’t just one service either. Just about every major streaming service had a handful of excellent releases. Netflix led the pack with Oscar hopefuls, “Mank,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Da 5 Bloods,” as well as smaller standouts like “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” and “Pieces of a Woman.” Along with the second season of their flagship series, “The Boys,” Amazon Prime Video also delivered with “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “Sound of Metal,” “One Night in Miami” and Steve McQueen’s excellent “Small Axe” collection. Even Hulu made a splash with their hilarious “Palm Springs,” and holiday releases “Run” and “Happiest Season.” This year could have been even worse for film lovers, but these streaming releases allowed quality to still be streamed at home.
Loser: HBO Max
HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s new streaming service, debuted in May of 2020 and did not come out of the gates very strong. There was very little original content that accompanied the release of the service, and somehow there was even less that came out during the rest of the year. However, the big blow that damaged Warner’s relationship with film lovers and their stars was the decision to stream every 2021 movie release on HBO Max on the exact same day that it premiered in theaters. This sounds good on the surface for some, but for others, this plan seems to be diminishing the moviegoing experience. Directors Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”) and Christopher Nolan, both publicly voiced their displeasure with this decision, with recent news coming out that Nolan may be severing ties with Warner for his next film, according to IndieWire. For filmmakers to craft grand experiences to be seen on the big screen, only to have their work dumped onto a streaming service day one, is pretty insulting. And the cherry on top is that Warner kicked off this strategy with “Wonder Woman 1984,” which wasn’t very good.
Winner: Pedro Pascal
Pedro Pascal is quickly rising in the ranks as one of Hollywood’s most loved personalities. Although recency bias may be involved, Pedro Pascal had himself a crazy end to 2020. Along with returning to his signature role in season two of “The Mandalorian,” Pascal also portrayed the standout villain, Maxwell Lord, in “Wonder Woman 1984,” as well as a role as superhero Marcus Moreno in Robert Rodriguez’s “We Can Be Heroes.” It isn’t as major of a win as most others on this list, but Pascal is a very talented actor who deserves this breakout more than anyone.
Both Winner and Loser: Disney
It was a weird year for Disney. There were a lot of highs, but also a lot of lows. Through Disney+, we were able to see the excellent season two of “The Mandalorian,” as well as one of my favorite films of the year, Pixar’s “Soul.” But with these high points, there were also a few duds, such as the remake of “Mulan” and the book to film adaptation of “Artemis Fowl.” On top of that, Disney was forced to push their entire theatrical slate back a year, which proves detrimental for something like Disney’s Marvel movies, where their business strategy is focused on consistency. Now, with “Black Widow” coming out in May 2021, it will be just about two years since the last Marvel movie, breaking the trend where two or three films would be released in one year. However, 2021 seems to be looking up for the Marvel franchise, and there are many more Disney+ series and feature films on the horizon.