The Top Film Trends of 2021

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There weren’t many film trends in 2020. 

Thanks to a global pandemic, the film industry all but ground to a halt in 2020, with the vast majority of major releases postponed indefinitely until studios could pull in box office revenues again. 

While streaming services quickly filled the gap and served up some new offerings, most of those movies were already aimed at small-screen releases. Given the social distancing that affected nearly every industry, there wasn’t much opportunity for filmmakers to continue production. 

That’s finally changing. 

The rollout of vaccines in the US over the spring and summer of 2021 has resulted in a slowly reopening economy, and movie theaters were quick to reopen their doors and get back to business. 

While box-office receipts still lag behind pre-pandemic numbers, the repeated success of big-budget releases in the summer and fall of this year show that people still desire the experience of watching movies in a theater, even as some studios opted for hybrid-release strategies. 

Now that film lovers can (hopefully) rely on movies to be a part of their lives again for the foreseeable future, let’s look at some of the top film trends of the year so far. 

Hybrid Releases

Hybrid-release strategies are one of the biggest pandemic changes that’s likely to become a mainstay of the film industry. 

Essentially, this describes a studio that releases a new film simultaneously in both movie theaters and on a streaming service. It’s a strategy aimed at satisfying two kinds of audiences: the ones that want to see movies on a big screen surrounded by an audience, and those who still feel anxious about large indoor gatherings and would prefer to watch new films from the comfort of their home. 

Disney+ opted for this strategy with the first Marvel film to be released during the pandemic: “Black Widow.” Warner Bros. did the same thing with “Dune.” 

The change is not without controversy, as Scarlett Johannson sued Disney over concerns that she was underpaid as a result of the hybrid release. The director of “Dune,” Denis Villenueve, has publicly complained about this strategy as well. 

“I strongly believe the future of cinema will be on the big screen, no matter what any Wall Street dilettante says,” Villeneuve wrote in a lengthy statement to Variety last December.

Regardless, it’s likely that hybrid releases are here to stay. 

New Opportunities for Filmmakers

While movie theaters will likely continue to play a key role in the industry, there are many new models for film production emerging. 

These new possibilities arise from several sources, including the massive growth of streaming services in both popularity and number, developments in finance and technology, and the continued social impact of Covid-19. 

The new platform Vuele just released the first film as an NFT, or non-fungible token. (If you don’t know what that means, join the club.) The film, “Zero Contact,” stars Anthony Hopkins and has received lots of attention for its unique form of distribution. 

Mogul Productions bills itself as the first decentralized film financing (DeFiFi) company and NFT platform, and wants to bring together independent filmmakers, aspiring screenwriters, and filmophiles. 

These models are very new, but show promise in an increasingly diverse landscape for film. 

Movie Theaters Evolve

While it’s going to take time for movie theaters to fully recover from the pandemic, many independent US theaters are already bouncing back. 

The Washington Post reported that for “a certain sector of the exhibition business, things look, if not blazingly bright, at least cautiously bullish.”

They’re accomplishing that by renovating old theaters and embracing new offerings for more modern and diverse audiences. 

From the article: “While not immune to the forces that have affected the greater industry, independent theaters and art houses have managed to weather the challenges of the past year and half, some with startling success. Dozens of small theaters around the country are embarking on expansions, renovations or brand-new openings during the covid era.”

Perhaps the most exciting trend of 2021 is simply that big-budget films are finally being released again, allowing film lovers everywhere to return to the pastime that was largely denied to them for too long. 

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