The Biggest Entertainment Stories Of 2022 And What’s Next
Dec 27, 2022
Hollywood is on edge. There have been corporate layoffs, with fears of more to come after January 1. Peak TV appears to be over (more on that later), and there are rumblings of the first strike-affected work stoppage in 16 years. But if we review the biggest entertainment stories of 2022, there are signs of hope and happier returns, especially in the movie business.
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Globally, the movie industry justifiably lost the Russian market due to the Ukraine War, but India’s market is growing, and China has shown glimmers of allowing more American releases moving forward. The concert business experienced a post-pandemic boom, and multiple stadium tours may dominate the next 12 months (and not just from Taylor Swift). Even San Diego Comic-Con returned in full force. A recession may or may not be looming in the U.S. (sorry, Europe), but there is hope that the entertainment industry will once again weather the storm. And, at worst, keep everyone…entertained.
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Keeping all that in mind, here are the stories that rocked Hollywood and the world over the past year, with some thoughts on what could happen next.
Follow along with all our Best Of 2022 coverage here.
Bob Chapek vs. The State Of Florida
Recap: If anyone wanted the first big red flag that Bob Chapek might not be up for the CEO of the Walt Disney Corporation, it was how he handled the introduction and passage of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in the state of Florida. With over 77,000 employees at Walt Disney World alone, Florida is a critical financial pillar for the company. On March 7, Chapek released a statement that Disney stood by its LGBTQ+ employees but would not take a public stance on the bill itself. This was soon in direct conflict with Disney’s own subsidiaries (Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, etc.), who released statements against the bill. When employees found out that Disney had donated to politicians who crafted and voted for the bill, there were walkouts demanding the company do more, including restoring or keeping queer characters and/or storylines in its content. A walkout of employees occurred on March 22nd as Chapek faced heavy criticism from all sides on how he handled the company’s response to the bill. After the bill was signed on March 28, Chapek did an about-face saying the company would try to get the law repealed and paused political contributions to elected officials who advocated the legislation. This response sparked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to call a special session of the Florida legislature to repeal the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a 1967 law that allowed Disney to control the land around Walt Disney World as a defacto county government. After signing the bill on April 22, DeSantis insisted that removing the district would force Disney to pay higher taxes despite evidence to the contrary that it may now make state taxpayers responsible for millions of dollars in bonds on the property.
What’s Next: Pending a Disney appeal, the Improvement District will no longer exist as of June 2023. Disney restored gay scenes in “Lightyear” and released “Strange World,” with a major gay character and storyline, in theaters. DeSantis is expected to announce his candidacy for president.
Bob Iger Returns
Recap: Bob Chapek had already had a rough tenure by the fall of 2022. In 2021, Scarlett Johansson sued Disney for not releasing “Black Widow” directly into theaters (eventually settled, but an embarrassment for the company); he instituted a new distribution department that frustrated most of his lieutenants, fired longtime executive (and rival) Peter Rice without cause, and the first part of 2023 saw a complete corporate mismanagement of the Don’t Say Gay Bill in Florida. But despite giving Chapek a three-year extension in June, the company’s board decided they’d had enough after 4th quarter results were announced on Nov. 8. The good news was Disney reported a record number of subscribers across its three major streaming services (Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+), but lost over $1.47 billion to do so (not so good news to Wall Street). Chapek also, bizarrely, had his CFO, Christine McCarthy take most investor questions during the company’s earning call, which did not go over well. In one of the biggest comebacks in Hollywood history, the board secretly recruited former, beloved CEO Bob Iger to return to the position on Nov. 21, 2022. A Sunday night surprise announced minutes before Chapek had been scheduled to introduce Elton John’s final concert at Dodger Stadium. An event being livestreamed on Disney+. Iger’s return was met with genuine jubilation on the Disney lot, even if he’s supposedly only returning for a two-year run (yeah, we’ll believe that when he actually retires again). Notably, Iger axed the distribution department on his first official day back on the job.
What’s Next: Iger has to hope “Avatar: The Way of Water” helps kickstart the box office as Disney has “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Haunted Mansion” and “Indiana Jones 5” on deck in 2023.
Warner Bros Discovery Merger
Recap: At some point, every other media CEO in America had to be relieved that newly christened Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was diverting all of the press’ attention. After the deal was official on April 8, Zaslav and his Discovery team entered the newly merged company with a goal of $3 billion through cuts and/or tax write-offs. This meant highly anticipated projects were shelved either before, during, or after filming, favorite TV shows were canceled, popular programs were removed from HBO Max to save money, and entire divisions of Warner Bros, TNT, and TBS were shut down. A disproportionate number of PoC executives left the new company, and controversy reigned over the plan to merge HBO Max and Discovery+ into one new service without the now-familiar HBO Max moniker (the rumored new name is just Max). And by December, creators and executives were still on edge as the WBD accountants continued to cancel programs out of the blue and without warning.
What’s Next: The new streaming service is set to debut in 2023, and the company continues to refute reports that the cost-cutting is in preparation for a sale to either media giants NBCComcast or Apple.
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