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What Just Happened? A Look Back At 2023.

Speaking bluntly; 2023 is not one for the record books if you work in the entertainment industry. There is no other way to say this and I don’t believe I’m speaking hyperbolically when I say that across the board, 2023 has to be one of the worst years that our bloated, out of touch Hollywood overlords have ever seen.

From Bob Chapek getting fired on his day off at the end of 2022 to Bob Iger starting the year not so reluctantly replacing him for a second chance reign over The Mouse Kingdom, the past year has been an odd combination of very few triumphs and a lot of disastrous decisions.

Getting Fired On Your Day Off, While You’re Enjoying The Musical Stylings Of Elton John Is A Unique Feeling Known Only By Bob Chapek.

An industry-wide strike that was fueled by hubris, greed and misinformation actually made anybody with an iota of common sense actually do the unthinkable and admit that the studios were clearly in the right. There is not enough bleach in the world for me to wash off the shame of actually admitting that I agreed with Bob Iger on the issue.

That was 2023 though. Events unfolded that led to strange bedfellows.

So buckle up, pour yourself a drink (you’re going to need it) and come with me on a trip that looks back on was the long, strange odyssey that was 2023.

There Were Some Diamonds In The Rough

While the movie industry clearly suffered this year, there were some stand out performances from a small group of films that did seem to indicate that the industry hasn’t completely sunk into the abyss.¬†¬†The Super Mario Brothers Movie delighted fans of the mustachioed hero and appealed to all ages.

It rose steadily and fell just short of passing¬†Frozen 2 to become the highest grossing animated movie of all time. For a good minute, It looked like Mario was going to end 2023 as the king of the box office. Then something that Nostradamus couldn’t have even predicted emerged as Mario and Luigi hung up their hats and went off to relax in the world of streaming.

The Super Mario Brothers Movie Delighted Fans And Made A Serious Run To Be Both The Highest Grossing Movie Of 2023 And The Highest Grossing Movie Of All Time. It Was A Valiant Attempt, But Universal Fell Just Short Of Reaching Both Milestones.

 

Enter BarbenHeimer.

In late July, the oddest, quirkiest, most offbeat phenomenon in the history of American cinema occurred when the long awaited Greta Gerwig love letter to feminism known as Barbie (The movie was quite enjoyable. You can read my review here.) joined forces with the deathly serious biopic that was Oppenheimer to form a mass collective of people who made it their mission to see both movies in one weekend, with many of these people actually clearing their schedules for the day and seeing the films back to back.

Barbie would eke past Mario earning an astounding 1.44 billion dollars. Oppenheimer would round out the top 3 on the year, falling just shy of the billion dollar milestone and earning a respectable 945 million dollars at the box office.

Despite being a Sony production.¬†Spiderman: Across The Spiderverse¬†bailed Disney’s Marvel division out by being received well by fans and critics alike and finishing in the top six at the box office this year.

A Once in a lifetime phenomenon like Barbenheimer and a simple movie about a beloved video game franchise earning just under 3 billion dollars at the box office was the ray of sunshine a cloudy 2023 needed. It proved to the world that no matter how many times Bob Iger tries to use the pandemic as an excuse, COVID-19 did not kill the cinematic experience. Good story telling and giving your fans what they want will always win out.

Hollywood Is Still Down For The Count Though

Despite these admirable successes at the box office, Hollywood is still residing in a financial Hellscape that it created for itself.

  • Disney lost almost one billion dollars at the box office, and failed to produce a movie to cross the billion dollar threshold for the first time since 2015.
  • Despite having the highest grossing movie of the year, Warner is still almost 50 billion dollars indebt. This is leading to talks of the highly realistic probability that Warner will merge with Paramount Pictures.
  • The Red Flag in that merger would be that Paramount is ending the year at almost 17 billion dollars in debt and saddled with their own financial hurdles to clear.’

Paramount is in such bad shape right now, that their credit is almost in decline. So to me, a possible merger between them and Warner doesn’t give me the feeling that we will be witnessing the cinematic answer to the Exxon/Mobil merger that took place in the 1990s and saved both companies.

Two Companies Struggling As Mightily As Paramount And Warner Brothers May Not Benefit From A Merger As Much As One Would Expect.

This merger looks more like it is going to be a K-Mart and Sears situation and two major studios collapsing under their own weight and diminishing their position in the market for ANY period of time is unacceptable if Hollywood wants to rebound in a timely fashion after a strike that had people earning thousands of dollars a week trying to convince people that actually have to work far less financially solvent jobs for a living… That they were starving.

Somebody either stole the velvet gloves that used to let Bob Iger navigate through tough conversation with double speak and personal flattery; and replaced said gloves with low quality wool because Mr. Iger does not have the Midas touch anymore. He unadvisedly doubled down on a feud with Florida Governor Ron Desantis.

Mr. Iger has had to lay off thousands of people over the year. The lucrative, and fiscal asset known as “The Reedy Creek Financial District” was decimated by DeSantis and to add insult to this assault on Disney’s wallet, the law appears to be on Florida’s side. So legal recourse to get their once untouchable autonomy back is risky at best.

Mr. Iger has also had very little to say about Kevin Feige’s hat spending excessive company money on projects that are destined to be financial disasters due to bloated budgets.

Ant-Man and Wasp: Quantumania was an unmitigated disaster at the box office. The Marvels will almost certainly lose around 200 million dollars. Kevin Feige can lose his parent company upwards of a quarter of a billion dollars, and he is not even breaking a sweat. Feige is cruising around on the Disney lot like a teenage malcontent who receives absolutely no discipline from his parents.

The major studios being unable to grasp even the most basic of concepts on how to run a business gives me very little hope for the future of Western film making.

Bittersweet And Fond Farewells

No year is without it’s tearful goodbyes and 2023 was no exception.

  • Julian Sands; A star in cult films such as¬†Arachnophobia and¬†Warlock,¬†the voice of Valmont in¬†The Jackie Chan Adventures¬†and the actor who played Superman’s father Jor-El in¬†Smallville¬†passed away in what appears to have been a hiking accident.
  • Burt Bacharach, the writer of over five hundred songs, many of which you may have heard in your favorite movies¬† left us this year.
  • Raquel Welch, star of the Sci-Fi classic¬†One Million Year BC said farewell at age 82 after a brief illness and complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Acclaimed actor Lance Reddick, star of¬†The Wire¬†and¬†The John Wick¬†series died unexpectedly. His death was impactful to the point where the people who run Steel City Con refused to have someone take over his meet and greet station and simply left a sign that said “Reserved For Lance Reddick” at the empty booth for the duration of the convention.
  • Sir Michael Gambon, portrayer of Albus Dumbledore died of natural causes.

After Apparently Turning The Corner And Working Diligently To Assist Other Struggling Addicts, Matthew Perry’s Sudden Death Was A Tragic Occurrence.

Perhaps one of the most difficult celebrity deaths for me to acknowledge this year is that of Matthew Perry, the star of the pop culture phenomenon known as Friends. While I myself was not a fan of the show, I have seen Perry act in comedies on the big screen. He had brilliant comedic timing, and his ability to go toe to toe with legends such as Bruce Willis and Michael Clarke Duncan in The Whole Nine Yards showed audiences how talented and brilliant that he could be when put to the test.

Unfortunately, like many brilliant actors who graced the screen before him, Perry suffered mentally and struggled with crippling  addiction that hurt his career and ultimately ended his life when he was finally ready to live it. Despite his dedication to helping other people avoid the dangers he went through and striving to be a better person, Perry died prematurely at the age of 54 years old. The cause of death was allegedly due to complications from ketamine usage.

Whether or not Mr. Perry’s death was in fact drug related, this should not be an indictment of the man. It is easy to write the drugs off and say that Mr. Perry has nobody to blame for his demise but himself. Instead of going with that narrative, I would like to appeal to you all to take a look at how mental healthcare is woefully substandard in the United States, and maybe if we all took it more seriously, deadly situations like drug addiction would be on a much needed downward trend.

If we can all start 2024 treating people a little bit better than we did in 2023, that would be a great start.

Final Takeaway/A Note From Your Humble Writer

Two years, and 75 articles ago, I began my journey as a writer for this fine publication. I have enjoyed every minute of it, and being here for all of these crazy events and being afforded a platform to give my take on them has been nothing short of a privilege. I would like to thank my wonderful colleagues on the writing staff and the Geek News Gauntlet podcast, who constantly challenge me and force me to be a better writer and content creator.

I would also like to give special thanks to my former editor, and current host of MCU Mondays and The Cantina Happy Hour- David Furr for bringing me on and putting me on the right path to be the best writer I could be. Continued thanks go to the “Grand Poobah” of GNN, David Gremillion, who refuses to give up on me even when there have been many occasions where I have given up on myself.

Whether you are a fan of my writing or not, the fact that I have even been considered to be worth your valuable time has been, and will continue to be an honor. With that being said…

God bless you all.

Happy Holidays.

And I wish you all a prosperous and happy 2024.

Stay Geeky Everybody.

 

 

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