The international worldwide box office has never been this big or this competitive. 2018 proved to be a record year as Comscore reported that the worldwide box office peaked at $41.7 billion. This is already a 2.7% upward shift from last year’s $40.6 billion and marks only the second time ever that it has cracked $40 billion.
At a time when blockbuster films are all but devouring the lion’s share of traffic at the international turnstiles, we thought it appropriate to pause and take a look at just what these figures mean for the future of film and film releasing. Is Hollywood cannibalising itself by creating these juggernauts?
Well, let’s take a look at the latest numbers sensation, Avengers: Endgame. The film broke a few records. It had the biggest international opening of all time raking in just over $1.2 billion in its first 11 days of release, an unheard-of figure.
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As of May 13, Avengers: Endgame is sitting on a worldwide total of $2.5 billion and is guaranteed to go even higher in the weeks ahead. But where does this leave variety, where does this leave the smaller film, the adult-orientated film, the arthouse film?
The reality is that the mere existence of films like Avengers: Endgame means that this leaves such kinds of pictures nowhere. It’s impossible for any other picture to compete with a $356 million budget superhero movie with at least another $200 million in worldwide marketing costs behind it.
Hollywood’s technique is complete saturation and to kill the competition. So while the film may have performed exceptionally, let’s be honest, with the kind of market saturation, brand name power and the sheer size of the international release, it should have.
Another important point when reviewing this film’s incredible box office performance is again to take into account the all-important Chinese market. Avengers: Endgame has already grossed over $600 million in China accounting for over a third of its total gross already.
But how has it performed from a historical perspective? When looking at ticket prices adjusted for inflation based on grosses in the United States only, the film slips all the way down to number 24 on the all-time grossers list. Top of the pops is still Gone With The Wind from 1939, followed by the original Star Wars from 1977.
This brings me to my next point. Whatever happened to films that had legs, such as Steven Spielberg’s E.T. from 1982 or The Exorcist from 1973? The grosses of these films adjusted for inflation would be billions of dollars worldwide. The key to their ongoing longevity is that they had legs.
These were films that discovered their audience week by week and although they were smash hits, they often grew in terms of their numbers from one weekend to the next as word-of-mouth spread, increasing their turnover.
In this age of instant gratification and mass saturation, Avengers: Endgame is doing the opposite – it dived by 70% in its second week, numbers showing no signs of any real longevity.
So is Avengers: Endgame going to be the ultimate releasing strategy going forward? Does one push the film out into as many cinemas as possible, spend the equivalent of a small country’s GDP in terms of marketing power and try and pack in as many viewers into your first seven days with sell-out performances, then take the money and run?
Speculation is always circumspect so I’d like to pose another question. If film is a business, should the business strategy be hit and run?
Will any of these films have the kind of longevity from a film fan perspective or will they disappear into the chasm of disposable entertainment.
Again, only time will tell. Where to from here for Hollywood?
This kind of maximum impact output surely isn’t sustainable and is surely too risky. You can’t spend half a billion dollars on producing and marketing a film and then have any kind of risk in terms of the film not connecting with its broad-based audience.
All you need is two or three box office bombs and you’ll sink a studio.
The old cliché that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket exists for a reason. If entertainment tastes continue to split into niches, the theatrical movie-going experience will also continue to take a backseat to Video On Demand, and Hollywood may just be shooting itself in the foot with this glut of summer tent-pole pictures.
I sincerely hope this doesn’t mean the death of “word-of-mouth”. Bigger does not necessarily mean better.
– Robert Haynes is Executive Producer of entertainment at CNBC Africa and owner of film and TV production company, 42nd Street Films, in Johannesburg.
Coronavirus Could Be A $12 Billion Hit To Entertainment And Audiences May Never Be The Same
They’re all closed.
Movie Theaters. Bars. Nightclubs. Arenas. Cafes. In New York, Broadway and museums are shuttered. In San Francisco it’s even more dire. Across the country and the world, cities are shutting down, leaving humans from Seattle to Shanghai without traditional ways of finding distraction.
The mandate for social distancing that has proven essential at slowing the spread of the coronavirus will cut about $12 billion of entertainment revenue from the U.S. if the shutdown lasts until July, as President Trump signaled. Billions more are not being spent on creating new content as film and television production is frozen.
Things could get a lot worse.
“This is definitely unprecedented and turning everyone’s lives completely upside down,” says Ryan Borba, managing editor at concert tracker Pollstar.
The concert and live event industry brought in $34 billion last year, according to market research firm IBISWorld. Simple math suggests that a three-month shutdown at this time of year could cost that industry $7 billion of lost revenue. Any longer and it starts to cut into the popular summer concert season, which for LiveNation, the world’s biggest concert promoter, is when 70% of its attendance begins passing through the turnstiles. That’s bad news for the producers, songwriters, technicians and the 269,025 concert employees, including janitors, security personnel and ticket collectors. That’s not to mention the world’s top-earning musicians, all of whom make the majority of their money performing.
“We’re beginning to see it affect the entire music ecosystem,” one prominent artist manager who told Forbes on the condition of anonymity. “We’re getting calls from our agents about promoters canceling individual shows. Songwriters and producers have canceled flights into L.A. for sessions, so it’s starting to trickle down to the songwriting and production communities as well.”
On New York’s Broadway, where all 41 theaters are closed, the hit could be about $600 million, based on the amount they pulled in between mid March and July of 2019. During the 2016-2017 season, those theaters also supported more than 87,000 jobs and contributed $12.63 billion to New York City’s economy, according to Broadway League.
The effect on movie theaters is far more drastic. A complete shutdown across the U.S. will mean a $4 billion hit on the box office if they remain closed until July. On March 18, less than a month into the crisis, the national association of theater owner requested a bailout from the government.
“From the point of view of studios they are hemorrhaging money on the movie side,” says Mike Bloxham the senior vice president of global media and entertainment at research firm Magid. “There is a lot of money disappearing in China while 70,000 theaters are still closed.”
Once they do reopen, distributors will begin battling to squeeze a large number of films into a limited number of opening dates, including some major releases that include the latest James Bond movie, Disney’s Mulan and Marvel’s Black Widow, all of which have been pushed back.
“No one can precisely predict when public life will return to normal, but it will return,” Patrick Corcoran, the president of the National Association of Theater Owners, said in a statement on Match 17. “When those titles are rescheduled, they will make for an even fuller slate of offerings than normal as they are slotted into an already robust release schedule later in the year.”
Last year, entertainment companies spent $121 billion to create original content and they were expected to spend even more this year as new platforms, like short-form video platform Quibi, emerge and streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime continue to plow through cash to produce new shows that lure in subscribers. Disney, Netflix, Universal and a number of other studios have all but shut down U.S. production. In California alone, that activity supported more than 722,000 jobs and $68 billion in wages, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. In New York City, television and film production support about 10% of total employment, whether directly or indirectly, and generates almost $9 billion each year.
“Right now, we’re working to keep everyone safe, support the industry and find ways to help it come back stronger than ever,” a spokesperson for Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment said.
The sentiment mirrored that of Colleen Bell, the executive director of California’s Film Commission who said, “The entertainment production industry in California has overcome challenges in the past, and it will endure this sudden shutdown. Until the COVID-19 situation improves, the focus is rightfully on the public health crisis. After that’s behind us, the industry will once again thrive here in the Golden State.”
While those logistics will reverberate widely across show business sectors, consumers may be in for even bigger, long-lasting changes.
For TV shows, the near-term effects could be disappointing for fans looking forward to fresh episodes of their favorite shows. FX’s Fargo has shut down production and will have to delay new episodes. More series are sure to follow. Streamers have already changed the way we watch TV—introducing binge-watching and slowly eliminating cable subscriptions—and the more that cable and broadcast series are delayed, the more likely we will continue to move away from the appointment viewing of television’s past.
In film, a far more dramatic shift just happened: consumers may no longer need to fight crowds at movie theaters on opening nights. Universal Studios announced Monday that it would begin releasing films like Invisible Man, Emma and The Hunt available for in-home, on-demand rentals despite the fact that these films were only recently released, blowing up the entrenched windowing schedule that gave theater chains exclusive rights to show movies first before they were released to in-flight entertainment, rental platforms and then television. Sony followed, releasing Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot for digital purchase only 11 days after its theatrical release.
Others will likely do same and if they do, it could lead the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to change their theatrical-release rule, which only allows films that open in a theatre and stay there for seven days to be considered for Oscars. It may also prompt Netflix to tighten its grip on the entertainment business with the purchase of a theater chain of its own. In 2018, the streaming giant looked at buying Landmark Theatres, but Cohen Media Group beat Netflix to the arthouse chain.
“If this continues for a long time, that will cause a change in how we consume content and allow newer titles to get to home video much faster,” says Asaf Ashkenazi, the COO of Verimatrix, a technology company that works with distributors in Hollywood. “If it’s a new title, you can delay it, continue to follow the traditional system and just wait. Or you can be more experimental and go directly to selling or renting online, which will allow more people to access it and get the revenue now.“
Other businesses are also turning to streaming, including concert-streamer StageIt. The startup, which offers concerts from the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and Sara Bareilles, is on track to have revenue of $250,000 this week—about the same as its best month until now—and added 10,000 subscribers in two days while hosting virtual festival “Shut In & Sing.” Even New York’s Metropolitan Opera is in on it, streaming nightly performances.
The stars themselves are also shifting their approach to how they entertain and communicate with fans. “Together, at Home,” a new series of online concerts presented by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Citizen, has recruited Chris Martin and John Legend to give casual concerts from their living rooms via Instagram Live, taking requests from fans and singing songs like David Bowie’s “Life on Mars.” Using Instagram, pop star Lizzo led a meditation, Frozen’s Josh Gad read kids a story, and, on Twitter, Yo-Yo Ma played a “song of comfort.” Entertainers have already fully embraced this kind of direct connection with fans and the pandemic may only accelerate that.
DJ Zinhle: The ‘Lazy Kid’ Who Achieved Platinum Success
At the 2020 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal on March 6, DJ Zinhle shone in the spotlight, talking about her journey from rock-bottom to record-breaking.
As the woman responsible for South Africa’s My Name Is hit song makes her way onto the stage, there is rapturous applause from a 1,000 strong audience, gathered at Durban’s international convention center for the 2020 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit.
Zinhle Jiyane, popularly known as DJ Zinhle, walks up to the solo stage with her four-year-old daughter, Kairo Forbes, who she calls one of her “biggest achievements”.
South Africa’s award-winning DJ and media personality presents an inspirational speech during the summit’s #SPOTLIGHT session.
“You’re lazy. You’re extremely lazy,” cites Zinhle as the words that shaped her into the woman she is today.
As a child, Zinhle, who hails from KwaZulu-Natal, was heartbroken every time she was called lazy.
“I knew I was a creative at heart. My lack of interest in limited career options and the mundane robotic task of drying the dishes didn’t really appeal to me. That’s the thing that got me the title ‘vila voco’ (meaning an extremely lazy person in English).”
Despite that, Zinhle went on to pursue a BCom in marketing at the University of Johannesburg. Graduating at the top of her class gave her the first dose of confidence.
“It was possible. Although ‘vila voco’ might have been ringing in my head, at least I knew that it was possible to put in the hard work and get good results. That gave me all the confidence I need to take over the world. And that’s exactly what I did.”
Her new found self-assurance propelled her to do more.
“In 2009, I launched Fuse Academy, the first and only DJ female academy in South Africa. Ten years later, the academy has produced working DJs in the industry that have contributed largely to the overall entertainment industry.”
After eight years of resilience in the music industry, she finally scored her big break.
“I had a song called My Name Is featuring Busiswa which became one of the biggest songs in 2012, not only in South Africa, but in most parts of Africa. This song was special to me because for the first time I knew what real success was. It was an exciting time for me as a woman”.
Music has always been the DJ’s first love, so while one hand was on the decks, she tried the other hand at entrepreneurship.
“In 2013, I launched my jewelry business, Era By DJ Zinhle. Seven years later, my pride and joy is the first black female owned business to distribute through American Swiss.”
The hit maker has been vocal about the importance of female empowerment. Her involvement in a project seeking to do just this inspired her to put pen to paper.
“In 2017, I joined a very important project called ‘It Takes A Village’ on SABC1 focusing on 11 young women who needed to deal with the demons of their past. My role was to help them through this process, and help them find a better future for themselves. Spending time with these incredible ladies inspired me to write a book.”
Along with Nokubonga Mbanga, Zinhle published a book called Meeting Your Power that went on to become a best-seller.
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Her new hit Umlilo featuring Mvzzle & Rethabile is her latest achievement. The song, which means ‘fire’, was one of the biggest hits to come out of South Africa in 2019.
“I’m very proud of this song. Umlilo was out for three months and had already reached platinum. It had over five million streams in two months. Over and above that, it was crowned the crossover song by Metro FM and many other radio stations. The last time Metro FM had a female-led song as the crossover song of the year was in 1997 when Brenda Fassie took it with Vulindlela.”
On March 6, Zinhle also won the 2020 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Entertainer Award.
Harry And Meghan Need $3 Million-Plus To Be ‘Financially Independent.’ Here’s How They May Do It.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would like to “become financially independent,” they announced Wednesday—and that may have to happen sooner rather than later, as Prince Charles, Harry’s father, is reportedly threatening to pull the millions he gives them each year. How they plan to replace those funds remains a subject of feverish palace intrigue about which the couple remains mum.
But what is clear: By stepping away from their duties, they likely are no longer prohibited from earning income the way senior members of the royal family are, clearing the way for them to take real jobs. What will those be? And how much will they actually need to make in order to live in the style to which they’ve become accustomed?
Annual Costs: Roughly $3 Million A Year (Not Including Renovations)
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact amount that Prince Harry and Markle earn from the various royal mechanisms each year—and a spokesperson for the Sussexes did not respond to questions about on the couple’s finances—but 95% of their annual income comes from Prince Charles, Harry’s father, via the Duchy of Cornwall. A trust that consists of 131,000 acres of real estate and more than $450 million in commercial assets within the United Kingdom, the Duchy of Cornwall was established in 1337 to support the direct heir to the throne.
That estate paid a combined $6.5 million (or £5.1 million) to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) and to Prince Harry and Markle in the fiscal year ending March 2019, according to the latest financial report. The funding for the princes and their families didn’t change much from 2018 to 2019, although both reports were prior to the birth of the Sussex couple’s son, Archie. Let’s assume the brothers split that income from the Duchy (though William and Kate, with three children, are likely taking a bit more). While the Duke and Duchess did not immediately surrender this income, reports surfaced Friday that Charles is threatening to cut them off completely.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did announce that they will “no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant,” which we know covers an additional 5% of their income, and used for their official duties. It covers official business such as international tours, travel to official events and the upkeep of their homes and offices, and comes from about 25% of the revenue from the Crown Estate (£85.9 million or $112.2 million for the 2020–2021 fiscal year), a portfolio of investments controlled by the monarchy—though not by the royal family or the government—and includes properties across the United Kingdom. (For example, the Queen herself does not own Buckingham Palace.)
In 2018 and 2019, the couple used money from the Sovereign Grant to travel across the world, from Fiji to South Africa, on official royal business. While the royal annual reports don’t detail how much the Sussex’s travels cost in total, their trip to Fiji and Tonga cost $105,000 (£81,000), according to the latest Sovereign Grant financial report. (While it may seem that travel costs could go down as the couple steps back from royal duties, they say they plan to split time between the British Isles and North America, which will lead to new expenses.)
Based on what we know, we estimate the total of the couple’s funds from the Duchy and Sovereign Grants to be a (very conservative) $3 million—again, not including security costs.
And that’s not including the cost of their home and renovations: The Sovereign Grant covered last year’s $3.12 million (£2.4 million) refurbishment of the Frogmore Cottage, the four-bedroom plus nursery home in Windsor where the couple lives when they are in England. The home’s maintenance began before the couple decided to move in and was covered by the Queen, under existing commitments to maintain the upkeep of certain historical buildings, while the couple privately paid for the furniture and decor. Even though the house is property of the Queen, the couple plans to continue using it as their official residence when they are in the United Kingdom—meaning less rent to pay.
None of this takes into account the cost of their security, which is reportedly covered by the Metropolitan Police, and which the family is expected to continue to accept.
With all of these expenses and their easy access to funds facing a precarious future, the questions remains of how, exactly, the couple plan to earn the millions that their lifestyle demands.
What Could Make A Royal Gig: Books, Speeches, SponCon?
They do have some money to live off of: Thanks to her seven-year stint on the television drama Suits, Forbes estimates that Markle has a net worth of about $2.2 million. Prince Harry has money of his own as well, as he and his brother received the bulk of Princess Diana’s $31.5 million estate upon her death in 1997.
But it is likely that they will join other royals, like Harry’s cousins Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and actually take paying gigs (the former works in finance, while the latter works at an art gallery). While no announcements have been made as to how exactly the couple plans to make money, it would seem natural that they take up work in the entertainment and media fields.
Markle has said that she was giving up acting for good once she joined the royal family; maybe this is an opportunity for her to change her mind. At the height of her acting career, she commanded up to $85,000 per episode of Suits, Forbes estimates, a number that would likely shoot up thanks to her royal title if she decided to return to the screen.
But it is more likely that the pair will take up shop on the speaking and book circuit. High-profile speakers like former president and first lady Bill and Hillary Clinton can earn up to six figures per speech to corporations and universities, while even B-list celebrities like Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi could command $32,000 per oration during the height of her fame.
A hit book has the potential to earn the couple even more. A seven-figure advance is typical for celebrities like Amy Schumer and politicians like Elizabeth Warren, with some high-profile authors earning even more. In 2017, former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama signed a record-breaking $65 million book deal with Penguin Random House, while Hillary Clinton scored a $14 million advance for Hard Choices in 2014, and Bruce Springsteen got $10 million for 2016’s Born to Run.
There’s also talk that the couple, which favors new media and direct lines of communication with their fans, may even start a podcast, which could be a lucrative endeavor. Last year, advertising spend on podcasts reached an estimated $680 million, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, and that number is supposed to shoot up to $1 billion by next year.
And in the unlikely chance they’re ever interested in following the footsteps of the royal family of Calabasas, the Duke and Duchess could surely earn an enormous sum doing sponsored content on their widely popular (10.4 million followers) Instagram account. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and her half-sister Kylie Jenner earn up to $500,000 per post.
Of course, the details of the couple’s future, and their future earnings, are all in flux, as Buckingham Palace’s curt statement on the matter made clear. And the wording of their own statement made sure that they can work toward financial independence on their own time. One thing is for certain: It doesn’t seem as if the Duke and Duchess will be hurting for cash anytime soon.
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