The Disney company has diversified its activities and created divisions to regroup them.
While the Amusement Parks division is suffering with a large percentage of its employees being laid off due to the covid-19 crisis, the Streaming Division: Disney Plus is recording "sky high" results.
Disney announced the development of over 100 family oriented productions, features and series with 80% designed to be broadcast on Disney Plus platform. The slate is so ambitious that the Disney stock recorded new high on December 11, 2020.
The VOD platforms have wedged a war to attract the most subscribers.
Today, with 87 million, less than half of Netflix, Disney is launching new challenges to the competition, announcing their plan to triple that amount within the next four years.
Disney Plus also announced an increase of the subscription cost to $9.00 per month in the US, which is still better than the monthly subscription amount for Netflix $13.00
On the slate of Disney Plus are Star Wars series, Marvel series and Pixar animations.
The war of the streaming platforms is just beginning, with only 56 million subscribers, Amazon will also be planning on a subscription acquisition plan to stick with Netflix and Disney Plus.
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
The popular role playing game most of us played in our teenage years and some still playing today, has been adapted into a movie twenty years ago.
You may not remember it, it was a flop at the box office. Nonetheless, Paramount Pictures and eOne are partnering to bring a new version to screen with Chris Pine and Gal Gadot who are suggested for the main roles. The release is now scheduled for
Getting to the production stage of the project was a struggle. First Warner Bros. handled the project but an intellectual property rights battle took place and the project was eventually moved to Paramount Pictures.
It will be interesting to see how Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley who are writing the screenplay and will direct the film, will turn a fantastic subject with multiple story possibilities into a blockbuster.
Stating we are happy to enter a new year is an understatement. It started with the shocking death of basketball player Kobe Bryant on January 26 and went downhill from there. 2020 is a broken year. Beyond the 1.7 million lives lost to covid-19 worldwide in 2020, the economic negative impact is being felt in many different ways. Most industries have laid off parts of their workforce, some companies went under, the damages on people's life is substantial and the pain will be there for months to come.
In the entertainment industry, the larger segment of independent workers is the one that suffers the most. As a Producer, financier and Director, if your project was insured before Jan 24, 2020, a good lawyer will obtain from your insurance company a full compensation for your losses. But not working during the pandemic is as devastating for independents. Should you decide to resume a production or start a new one, Insurance companies will agree to cover your project but you'll have to pay a substantial increase in the premium. With tight budgets, increase in insurance premium does not fit. Big studios can afford to postpone, independents can't.
What would 2021 be for the industry?
With a large network of vehicles hungry for new content, 2021 could see a return to full activities for independent production companies, only if all get vaccinated and the vaccine holds its promise.
MOULIN ROUGE THE MUSICAL
Based on the successful movie from Baz Luhrmann released almost 20 years ago, the musical tour was supposed to open in New Orleans this past November but covid-19 knocked it out and the opening is now scheduled in Chicago for February 2022.
The original tour schedule is being reworked as well as the cast.
Moulin Rouge the Musical is nominated for 14 Tony Awards including Best Musical.
Critics have been praising this production directed by Alex Timbers, and Moulin Rouge the Musical has already won the 2020 Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical and received ten Outer Critics Circle Award Honors including New Broadway Musical.
TRENDS FOR 2021
- The war of the streaming platforms will keep on raging in 2021. Netflix has proven that investing hundreds of million into own productions could pay off, forcing major actors of the industry to rethink the production and distribution of their IPs. Traditional studios are looking to fight to keep what used to be theirs.
- The longer covid-19 weights on our activities, the more difficult it becomes for movie theaters to stay alive. The small attendances combined with lack of major new productions and rents due, has already forced some theater operators to give up. We could see a major chain going bankrupt in 2021.
- Apple TV which is lagging in the streaming platforms' war will be looking to acquire a major actor of the broadcast/VOD industry to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Disney. Rumors are spreading the news that Viacom/CBS could be that actor.
- As the interest of the TV viewers is changing, the major networks CBS, ABC, NBC are banking on streaming as their future. The ratio cost/revenue of their local broadcasting does not seem to make much sense in the overall approach and vision for their future.
Those networks are likely exploring how to sell the local stations and refocus their attention to international streaming.
- Facing law suits from the FTC and DOJ, internet giants such as Facebook and Google will not be broken into multiple pieces but instead are likely to settle with new regulations in place forcing them to operate differently.
- The next Academy Awards Ceremony is likely to recognize Netflix in different categories and may even attribute the coveted best picture to a Netflix production.
- The first "90 days" movie theaters exclusivity on films release may no longer be the rules in 2021. Movie Theaters have suffered and are no longer in position to impose such rule since the global pandemic has forced those rules to change. Studios are looking to reduce the cost of marketing their production and be stronger to compete with Netflix which has become a major player in big movie productions.
MUSIC CATALOG FOR SALE
Bob Dylan's catalog of over 600 songs has been sold to UMG for an estimated $300 million. Speculation on the reasons of the sale are running wild, from tax write off to "do not have much time left" the sale of the publishing rights from Dylan's catalog reminds us of the Beatles catalog purchase by Michael Jackson in 1985.
At the time, Jackson had paid $47.5 million for the entire Beatles catalog which had created some frictions between Jackson and McCartney who had been good friends since the mid 1970s.
Jackson sold half of the catalog to Sony Music for $95 million 10 years later amid financial issues and kept the other half.
7 years after Jackson's death, Sony Music made an offer to the Jackson estate to purchase the 50% left for an estimated $750 million.
Music royalties have turned heads and young artists have learnt early on to own the publishing of their own IP.
Groups such as Sony Music or UMG are looking to invest and somewhat monopolize the music publishing industry. It would not be surprising to hear of other catalog purchase deals in the coming months.
Frustrated by the impossibility to shoot live and exploit finished productions in 2020, Producers are looking at 2021 with hunger.
A slate of hundreds of projects are being pulled from the drawers and ready to shoot in 2021. For those films and others already produced, here is a sample of movies expected to generate buzz at the festivals.
- THE RESTLESS: Belgian filmmaker Joachim Lafosse’s film starring Leila Bekhti and Damien Bonnard in a drama exploring the impact of bipolar disorder.
- THE POWER OF THE DOG: Jane Campion who was the first woman Director to win the "Palme d'Or" at the Cannes film festival, could very well be there again this year. Based on the book by Thomas Savage, the drama taking place in the Big Sky State features Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst and Thomasin McKenzie.
- THE HAND OF GOD: Paolo Sorrentino has teamed up with Netflix for this drama taking place in Naples, his hometown. While little is known about the project, we are told it is a very personal story to the Director.
- 3000 YEARS OF LONGING: George Miller is directing this romantic tale, his first feature since 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road with Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton. Will it be ready for Venice?
- BIG BUG: Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet who is best known for directing "Amelie", has set this fiction in the future, bringing interaction of human with robots. The cast see the association of Elsa Zylberstein, Isabelle Nanty and Manu Payet.
- THE NORTHMAN: Set in Iceland at the turn of the 10th century, this historical thriller is directed by Robert Eggers with an impressive cast among which Nicole Kidman and Ethan Hawke.
LOS ANGELES, CAPITAL OF THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
Early January shows a worrisome spike in COVID 19 cases in Los Angeles county.
Studios and production companies have scheduled to fully resume their activities in mid-January.
While a full lockdown like the one we experienced last spring is unlikely, the industry is scrambling to establish new protocols allowing for very careful guidelines, providing a safe work environment.
Too much money is attached to resuming activities. Companies have already lost a lot in 2020, they are eager to go back to work full time but, are everyone thinking alike?
Some admit confidentially that the idea of going back to work full time and safely is in fact very risky. Examples of corona virus contraction on set despite protocols have been reported, and uncertainties on safety procedures are making people uneasy. Studios have implemented more rules in an attempt to reassure. SAG-AFTRA is however ringing the alarm. At this very time, no one wants to stop productions but if unions are opposing safety procedures, stating they are not safe enough, studios may not have a choice. TV or Movies, no production is spared.
Every year the cycle of life brings the sad news of artists who have passed away. Whether old age or illness such as cancer. With the addition of COVID 19, 2020 has been particularly tough on legends who have entertained us. From Carl Reiner to Juliette Greco, actors, singers, comedians, dancers and many others have said Goodbye in 2020.
We would like to pay tribute to them and remember they have helped us laugh and cry with stories that will be with us forever.