The 10 Biggest Hollywood Fiascos of 2022
A look back at a year of chaos.
I’ve been an entertainment industry observer for many years but it feels like things are changing faster than ever. Between the rise (and subsequent fall) of streaming, studio consolidation, and a theatrical industry that’s in free fall, it’s safe to say that Hollywood is going through a painful transition right now. What is it transitioning to? Reader, if I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing a free newsletter.
That’s why I thought it might be instructive to take a look back at the biggest Hollywood fiascos of the past year. Here they are in quasi-chronological order. And in the comments, feel free to let me know any fiascos you think I missed!
The 79th Golden Globes are held without an audience
The Golden Globes have always been a meaningless spectacle - a set of awards handed out under the flimsiest of pretenses by people whose credentials are questionable (see Ricky Gervais’s monologue above from the 2011 ceremony, where he jokes about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association accepting bribes. This has always been the Globes’ reputation). Despite this, studios happily and effectively used them as a marketing tool, especially as a lead-in to the Academy Awards.
In 2021 a series of stories from the LA Times pulled the curtain back on racism and corruption in the HFPA ranks. As a result, a boycott of the Globes was announced by over 100 PR firms and NBC announced it would not air 2022’s ceremony. In January 2022, the Globes were held without any broadcast whatsoever, a stunning fall for an event that had drawn over 18 million TV viewers just a couple years ago.
Don’t worry though: Hollywood loves a good comeback story.
The 94th Annual Academy Awards
Will Smith stuns the world by slapping Chris Rock live on stage, just moments before he’s about to receive the Best Actor award - ostensibly the crowning achievement of his career. The moment prompts plenty of over-the-top handwringing, as well as cascading impacts to Will Smith’s career and associated projects. Bonus fiasco: After spending over a billion dollars on trying to win a Best Picture Oscar, Netflix is upstaged by a young upstart called Apple, which became the first streaming service ever to take the coveted award for Coda.
Netflix’s stock collapses
Netflix upended the conventional studio system with its streaming model, and Wall Street rewarded the company’s vision with a skyrocketing stock price that seemed immune to the business laws of gravity. No more: In April, Netflix’s stock tumbled after a disappointing earnings call in which they announced they’d lost 200K subscribers. As a result, Netflix begins belt-tightening and launches an ad-supported tier (that’s apparently not going very well?).
I feel bad for all the Netflix folks that lost jobs, but I’m more concerned about the long-term impact of streaming’s collapse. Netflix was one of the biggest spenders in the market and an entire economy has risen up around their projects (think line producers, hair and makeup, catering, etc.). And that’s not even mentioning how nearly every major studio has launched a streaming service to compete. When Netflix stops or dramatically slows down its spending, the people who will really be impacted by this aren’t the ones you’ll read about on CNBC.
Hollywood goes all in on NFTs and crypto before the bottom falls out
Remember when Matt Damon told us all in countless pre-movie trailers about how fortune favors the bold? Remember how Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton told us about the greatness of NFTs? Remember how Larry David starred in a Super Bowl ad for a crypto exchanged called FTX? Remember how all that happened before NFT trading volumes collapsed 97% and crypto is down and the guy who ran FTX was just arrested by Bahamian authorities?
All these videos featuring celebrities are as cringey as the Imagine video and now a bunch of them are getting sued for their role in convincing people to get in on this trend.
Disney’s puts Lightyear in theaters but relegates Turning Red to Disney+
Disney has been treating Pixar like an in-house production studio for Disney+ since the pandemic began, refusing to release movies like Luca and Soul in US theaters. But its treatment of the legendary animation studio really came to a head in 2022 when it refused to give critically-acclaimed Turning Red a theatrical release, instead opting to put Lightyear in theaters.
The result? Turning Red became the number 1 Disney+ premiere globally, and Lightyear was the worst performing Pixar film in theaters ever (not counting Onward, which came out during COVID). Here’s hoping the next few years will see Pixar restored to its former glory. Listen to The Filmcast’s review of Lightyear here.
The Johnny Depp/Amber Heard Trial
The Depp/Heard trial played out this year, turning what was ostensibly a defamation case into a public spectacle. Regardless of what my feelings on the case were, it was upsetting to see what should have been an intense private battle become a source of jokes, hatred, and internet memes.
And the verdict? Complete nonsense.
Elisabeth Finch’s lies are exposed
Elisabeth Finch was a writer and producer on Grey’s Anatomy who wrote movingly about her struggle with cancer. Her stories were so powerful that they eventually influenced storylines in the show. Finch’s friends and colleagues rallied around her as she overcame a countless and outlandish series of obstacles, all while continuing to do her job.
The problem? None of it was true. Finch never had cancer. Her lies were exposed in a series of pieces on Vanity Fair andI found the drama riveting because it raised so many fascinating questions about Hollywood and the social contracts we all have with each other. What would drive someone to lie like this? What type of "soft power" does a person who tells these lies wield in a writer's room? And will Hollywood ever allow Finch back? In a recent in-depth interview, Finch reckoned with the fallout of her terrible decisions.
Bob Iger wins Disney’s Game of Thrones
After an endless series of PR blunders, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was unceremoniously fired and Bob Iger was reinstalled as head of Disney. Chapek was a legendarily disliked CEO, alienating creatives as well as Disney’s customers. And say what you will about Bob Iger’s creative decisions, but he is one of the most savvy and well-liked business executives of all time. Still, the manner in which this all went down was the very definition of chaos and the opposite of an orderly transition of power.
Iger faces considerable challenges, including figuring out how to make streaming profitable and restoring the faith of Disney theme parks’ most loyal fans. But probably the most important order of business? Figuring out who chose Bob Chapek as his successor. They probably need to get rid of that guy ASAP. (J/k, but seriously though, he can’t mess up his succession plan again)
Warner Bros’ DC Chaos
Transitions of power are messy, but few have been messier or more high profile than how the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe has changed in the past few months.
In October, Warner brought in James Gunn and Peter Safran to run DC Studios. My understanding is that Gunn will try to to creatively architect an interconnected universe, MCU-style, but he can’t easily do that with a messy legacy of characters, movies, and reboots that Zack Snyder and others have left behind. There needs to be a housecleaning of sorts — a reset.
And so it has begun. Wonder Woman 3 is no longer moving forward with director Patty Jenkins, news that was revealed in messy fashion. And most recently and embarrassingly: Movie execs asked Henry Cavill to announce that he’s playing Superman again, only for Cavill to be forced to unannounce it.
With four DC movies set to come out in 2023 (The Flash, Blue Beetle, and sequels to Aquaman and Shazam), the DC Universe (and fan outrage over the forthcoming changes) is going to get a lot messier before things stabilize. Here’s hoping Gunn makes it out on the other side intact.
Movie studios barely release any movies
Every year on The Filmcast, we do a ritual called The Summer Movie Wager, where we try to predict which 10 movies will perform best at the box office. But this year, we encountered a curious problem: There were barely enough movies to rank! This is because movie studios, still reeling from COVID and struggling to prop up their streaming services, put out about 50% fewer movies this summer. As a result, ticket sales were down 21% from even pre-COVID levels.
Will movie theaters survive? Some definitely will. But I think we’ll look back at 2022 as a year when studios sadly pursued the god of streaming to their financial detriment, rapidly accelerating the decline of moviegoing. While people are going to the theaters to watch event movies (e.g. Top Gun Maverick, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), prestige dramas and adult-skewing mid-budget films are getting annihilated out there. In an ominous sign, Cineworld, the world’s second-largest theater chain, recently filed for bankruptcy.
I wouldn’t be surprised if 10 years from now, your local AMC is only showing Marvel, DC, action movies, horror films, and kids stuff. We’re almost there already.
Stuff I’ve made
Big announcement! On Decoding TV, I announced that I’ll be covering HBO’s The Last of Us with Christian Spicer! I’ve enjoyed Christian’s podcast DLC (which he hosts with my colleague Jeff Cannata) for years, so it’s a thrill to finally be working on a project together. The Last Of Us will premiere on January 15th.
Also on Decoding TV, Roxana Hadadi and I discussed the season finale of The White Lotus season 2. This show gave us so much to talk about! I had a great time working with Roxana this season.
In case you missed it: Here’s my spoiler-free review of Avatar: The Way of Water!
The Filmcast released its 700th episode this week and what better way to do it than by discussing Avatar: The Way of Water for 2 hours?
Among us Filmcast fans? Germain's Babe Ruth-esque shot call on Top Gun Maverick for the Summer Movie Wager
With all due respect, the only thing that was nonsense about the Depp case was the article you linked to. Anyone with a brain knew she was referring to Depp in her op/ed. And not a single person who testified for her testified to witnessing abuse. Not one.