Industry Outlook

The film industry is greatly ruled by trends. Though filmmakers and industry executives attempt to carefully analyze the success and failures of films, it is nearly impossible to predict which films will capture the public's imagination and attract them to the theaters. So many different elements play parts in a film's success. How a film is promoted and distributed, the other films out at the time, and societal attitudes toward the subject matter are just a few of the factors that determine success. Studios are constantly on the lookout for the next big picture but are also anxious to play it safe and follow the formulas of reliable film product. Some industry experts fear that in the future studio executives will rely even more on focus groups and other audience screenings when releasing a picture, thereby limiting the original and creative efforts of the filmmakers.

According to PwC, U.S. box office revenues are projected to reach $12.5 billion by 2023. Chief competition for theater ticket sales are multiple viewing options and devices. The U.S. film industry and American movies are also popular in foreign markets, with exports of U.S. films available in approximately 140 countries. Top filmed entertainment licensing markets include China, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and India. PwC forecasts that China's cinema revenues will surpass those of the United States in 2020 and reach $15.5 billion in 2023. Issues of copyright and digital piracy, however, pose threats to foreign markets. Special effects and animation will continue to create new jobs for those talented with computers as computer-generated imagery is used increasingly on films in all genres.

Production companies will hire the most popular big-name actors and directors to draw huge profits. Special effects and animation will continue to create new jobs for those talented with computers. Computer-generated imagery is being used increasingly on all films, not just science-fiction and horror projects; filmmakers use computers to create crowd scenes, detailed backdrops, and other elements common in all films.

The digital revolution also is affecting the film industry. High-definition television (HDTV) offered the public nearly theater-quality presentation in their own homes. By 2019, 4K or ultra HDTVs (offering four times the resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 HD TVs) were standard. An estimated 71 percent of North American homes were expected to have ultra HDTVs by 2023, according to Broadband TV News.

Theaters also are competing with the Internet, personal computers, and mobile devices for the public's recreational dollar. After reaching 1.37 quadrillion megabytes in 2018, global data consumption is expected to reach 4.42 quadrillion megabytes in 2023, according to PwC. By that time, 3G and 4G connections will represent 90 percent of mobile Internet connections. However, mobile carriers are currently introducing 5G service in certain markets. The technology, which offers blistering speeds fast enough to support applications like virtual-reality, will "prove disruptive in many industries," according to PwC. Developments like these are offering the film industry new challenges, as well as opportunities to deliver films to consumers.

Theaters are working hard to attract more people to the movies by providing enhanced stereo systems, comfortable seating, and other frills. The digital revolution is also enabling PC owners to photograph, edit, and graphically enhance their own films, and to present them on the Internet. As more people across the country put together their own films, studio executives may look to the Internet for new talent.

Today, movie production is inseparable from the TV and video industries. Companies make films to be released in theaters, but also plan for future video rentals and sales, TV showings, and viewing via streaming services. Feature films are more frequently produced specifically for release on TV, both network and cable, and then are produced on video.

Constantly changing TV and video technologies both challenge and feed the film industry. DVD, for example, offers viewers much more than a theater experience with the inclusion of director's cuts, outtakes, and commentary on the making of the film. Blu-ray DVD, the next generation of the format, provides an even sharper image and better sound quality. In both formats, viewers can skip to their favorite parts of a movie, watch it in a different language, or choose from various formats. Many DVDs and Blu-Rays also offer the consumer an option for a digital UltraViolet copy of the film, which makes it accessible via online streaming.

HDTV and 4K/ultra HDTV offer such high-quality pictures that some people say it is better than seeing a movie in a theater. Streaming video via services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, which make movies and television programs available on demand, also called "over-the-top" (OTT), have dramatically changed how people consume filmed entertainment. In 2013, on-demand provider Netflix launched its first original programming, beginning with House of Cards, produced and directed by Hollywood star director, David Fincher. The show received three Emmy Awards. It helped established original streaming content as a serious new outlet for film and television programs and heralded a flood of new shows. In 2019, Apple+ and Disney+ were two new streaming services that made their debut, and more were on the way. In 2020, NBCUniversal/Comcast was expected to introduce an OTT service called Peacock, while WarnerMedia was preparing for the rollout of HBO Max.

Overall employment in the film industry is projected to grow through 2028, according to the Department of Labor. Film and video editors will experience much faster than average growth employment growth of 14 percent, due to the new content delivery methods for online TV and mobile devices. New York and Los Angeles will offer the most opportunities for work, and editors with experience in specialized editing software will have the advantage in the job market. Camera operators will experience 8 percent growth. For other film professionals, growth will be slower. Producers and directors will experience 5 percent employment growth through 2028, due to the public's demand for more movies and TV shows, as well as foreign audiences' increased demand for American-produced films. Media and communication equipment workers will experience growth of 3 percent.

The coronavirus pandemic that began in 2020 hit the film industry hard. Movie theaters closed, and many live-action movies and shows, for both theaters and television, paused, postponed, or ceased production. The release of blockbuster and independent movies to theaters stopped, and many of those films were redirected to video-on-demand or streaming services. Warner Bros. released, Wonder Woman 1984, a sequel to its global blockbuster, Wonder Woman, through HBO Max rather than movie theaters. Talk shows adopted remote formats with hosts and guests appearing in teleconferencing platforms. Disney also relied on their streaming service to market films such as Mulan and Artemis Fowl. By late 2020, theaters were re-opening with limited seating, and many film productions resumed work. The long-term effects of the pandemic on this industry remained to be seen.

As of early 2021, only about 35 percent of the movie theaters in the U.S. were open and ticket sales were "hovering at an all-time low," according to an article in Variety magazine. The good news is that vaccines for COVID-19 rolled out in 2021 and as the pandemic becomes contained, more businesses will reopen and normal activities, such as moviegoing, might soon return. While it is still difficult to determine what the film industry will look like in the near future, big blockbusters and franchise titles that have historically bolstered Hollywood will continue in this role. 

The research group Statista predicts that there will be some annual growth in global box office revenue in 2021, as the vaccine rollout accelerates and the economy recovers. Still, the damage to global box office revenue will last through 2025. As of July 2020, the movie and video production industry in the U.S. was valued at $31 billion. There are approximately 6,481 businesses and 57,089 employees in the movie and production industry, according to IBISWorld. Slow growth is expected through 2025. Continued threats to this industry include sluggish box office sales, projected declines in physical copy sales, and digital operators that have started to enter the film production field. Revenue growth is expected to stem from strong growth in foreign distribution of movies and videos through 2025.