Right now Star Wars: The Force Awakens is busy making box office history.
In only its third week of theatrical release the film is set to overtake the all-time US box office record of $760m set by Avatar over 34 weeks, and after its release in China the sci-fi epic may well be capable of beating the record for the world’s largest grossing film in the history of the box office – also set by Avatar at $2.8bn.
But this is an odd story for the cinema industry, which many artists predicted was on its way out due to the effect streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have had on the way we consume movies.
In fact, four films released in 2015 made it into the list of top ten highest grossing movies of all time worldwide. Though we won’t know the final figures for a few months, 2015 appears to have improved on 2014 – a historically low year for box office revenue in the US.
It’s quite the turnaround, especially after the veteran director Steven Spielberg warned the University of Southern California in 2013 of Hollywood’s “implosion” due to a series of “megabudget movies” flopping at the box office – something he claimed would irreversibly “change the paradigm” of cinema, leading to more movies showing up on TV.
And Spielberg was far from on his own: actors and directors including Scrub’s Zach Braff and Ocean’s Eleven director Steven Soderbergh have echoed the sentiments that Hollywood is in trouble.
Speaking at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2013, Soderbergh lambasted Hollywood execs for chasing foreign markets and killing “cultural specificity and narrative complexity, and – god forbid – ambiguity” in cinema.
But the scary thing is that whilst 2015 may prove to be a reprieve for the industry financially its blockbusters somewhat fulfilled Spielberg and Soderbergh’s predictions on the dangers of blandness.
More frightening still is the fact 2016 is set to be the year of the superhero, with a whopping eight big budget superhero movies being released.
And with a movie from the same genre set to be released approximately every month and a half this year, perhaps Spielberg’s series of flops will be arriving after all…