After the success of ‘Everything Everywhere’, what’s next for smaller films?

The little film that could, Everything everywhere at once, won nearly every Oscar it was nominated for Sunday night, losing only to itself when Jamie Lee Curtis beat out Stephanie Hsu for Best Supporting Actress.

Along the way, YYYY it also earned nearly $107 million in worldwide box office receipts for distributor A24 before moving on to stream on what’s left of Paramount Global’s Showtime service, which is now folded into Paramount Plus. Not bad, especially for a movie that cost nearly $20 million to make (A24 spent millions more marketing the film, especially as it surprisingly blossomed into an Oscar contender in the fall).

For the beleaguered indie film business, of EEAO The success was a heartwarming tale of possibility after three pandemic-cursed years of shuttered arthouses, mothballed festivals, stay-at-home audiences and an explosion of new streaming services with deep libraries and some shiny new shows.

So, are we finally past that awesome time at the movies? Is everything good now everywhere? What’s next for smaller films? Can/should the would-be successors replicate EEAAO’s unusually early cinema-only release, roosting on the big screen before finally coming to home entertainment and belatedly reaching mainstream success?

The industry certainly hopes so, if a recent Financial Times article (“Hollywood Strikes Back Against Streaming”) is any indication.

Yes, media companies are turning to more diversified release strategies that, from now on, will typically include a theatrical performance first, rather than relying solely on streaming services to pay for everything and reach larger audiences more efficiently.

However, this does not mean that many medium-sized projects are made by Hollywood media companies.

They’re still focused on big-dollar sequels and spinoffs from safe, popular franchises, as Disney showed last year with Avatar: The Way of Water and Paramount did me Top Gun: Maverick. Each grossed $1.5 billion worldwide, between 15 times and 23 times what EEAO brought in.

That these blockbusters also received Best Picture nominations was perhaps as much about their enormous impact on the ragtag business of theatrical exhibitions as it was about their own allure as artistic expressions. Regardless, both stayed in theaters for months, rather than hitting streaming within weeks.

And the lockdown-era experiments in stream-only versions of many other projects seem mostly done now.

IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond stated that “a theatrical performance enhances streaming. Developers were naive to think that people would sit on their couches and watch every piece of content. The market has corrected itself.”

Well, maybe. Sure, Warner Bros. Debt-ridden Discovery has scrapped plans for nearly all streaming-only originals coming to HBO Max, with the most notoriously nearly finished $90 million Bat girl The feature was shelved in August to claim a tax write-off.

Executives said WBD will make more big franchise-based changes, particularly from the Harry Potter universe and a revamped DC universe under a new creative team led by Gguardians of the galaxy writer/director James Gunn and Peter Safran.

At Disney, recently returned CEO Bob Iger is “aggressively curating” “general entertainment” programming on Disney Plus and Hulu. This translates into an absence of emphasis on smaller projects such as rom coms, family dramas, thrillers, horror (especially at Disney) and the like.

Of course, when your media company owns Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar, you’ll happily sing the praises of the franchise brands and focus hard on them to increase revenue.

It’s possible that Iger did some public jaw-dropping by talking up content on Hulu so his company wouldn’t have to spend as much to acquire Comcast
minority stake in Hulu; Regardless, his comments don’t indicate much corporate enthusiasm for smaller projects, many of which found a home for the first time/only on streaming during the pandemic. Will these projects head to theaters first now, like their blockbuster siblings?

Besides, it Top Gun and Avatar Sequels proved that people would flock to theaters again. Still big plays, even if the domestic box office in 2022 was still only two-thirds of pre-pandemic highs and only about half as many movies were released, according to data from the National Association of Theater Owners.

Some fans of smaller projects, like Sony Pictures president Tom Rothman, say small projects, too. He pointed to modestly budgeted projects like Sony’s A man named Otto, starring Tom Hanks as a grumpy old man. The English-language remake of a Scandinavian film brought in $108 million, nearly as much as EEAO, according to

Elizabeth Banks had a kitschy hit (and a silly Oscar ceremony emphasizing the value of visual effects) with the horror-comedy Cocaine bear. Her studio, Universal, had too m3gan, who turned out to have surprisingly strong legs for a movie about a murderously overprotective doll. M3gan it also sparked a lot of cultural debate, unusual for a genre film.

“There are actually a lot of medium-budget original films that have been hugely successful even in the last six months,” Rothman told the FT. “It’s not true that audiences only want sequels and superheroes.”

This may be true. Hollywood has been lamenting the decline of the medium-sized film for decades. The finances for such projects have not been good for a long time. YYYY it gives the optimists hope, but it does not definitively signal a new era Kramer vs. Kramer adult dramas and Sleepless in Seattle rom-coms are coming to a theater near you.

The biggest problem: the audience that is come to the theaters. If you’re under 35, chances are you’re more likely to be playing video games, watching TikTok or Instagram Reels, or, yes, streaming those mid-budget rom-coms and dramas on Netflix and its struggling competitors. a movie theater to see a smaller movie.

EEAO proved that an original script with a crazy energy, hiding a fairly traditional story of a complicated mother-daughter relationship, can eventually attract crowds, profits and awards.

The next question is whether Hollywood can make more movies like EEAO, without just copying YYYY. And that happy ending has yet to be written.

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