2021 has been another difficult year for the film industry. Many films slated for release this year have yet to air, and many of those that did have been delayed well beyond their originally scheduled release dates. However, that doesn’t mean it was all bad. Some businesses thrived and moviegoers still had a few solid releases amid a sea of otherwise mediocre titles. These are the winners and losers of 2021.
Disney continues to dominate the multiplex realm with big-budget, fan-pleasing Marvel movies. Without a doubt, their biggest hit this year has been Disney +, the budget-friendly streaming services for everyone from families with young children to Star Wars and superhero-loving man-children. Although its long-term viability is questionable, given that the initial “honeymoon” period is over and some people are only interested in shows like The Mandalorian have moved to other services, this is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Compared to other relatively new streaming services, such as Paramount + or Apple TV +, this is a huge success.
Another big winner in the streaming space is HBO Max, whose mix of simulcast and theatrical releases and a massive archive of blockbuster TV shows and movies ensured it was never going to fail. While more expensive than its competition, what other streaming service can claim it has some of the biggest releases of the year to watch in your home?
Home theater owners
2021 is the year that 4K streaming became the norm for new releases, which means that a nice home theater setup is no longer dependent on physical media like Blu-Rays. In many cases, it is possible to have a better experience at home than at the cinema. For those still interested in physical media, 2021 has also brought a number of outstanding 4K UHD releases, including new classic movie remasters like The ten Commandments.
The best movie to release in 2021 (so far) is the latest entry in the long-running Evangelion Rebuild series, Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 Once upon a time three times. Unlike most other movies with significant delays or huge hype, Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 not only met expectations, but exceeded them as well. Even beyond this one release, there were several high-profile releases that generally seemed to appeal to fans and were easily accessible to Western fans. For those who want it, it’s easier to access the anime than ever before.
Of course, Disney has had a pretty good year, but its shortcomings are all too obvious. Concerns over the long-term viability of Disney + aside, the Marvel movie’s cash cow seems to finally be drying up. The first big movie starring a whole new roster of heroes, Eternals, was both a critical and a commercial flop that has already been forgotten. Unlike the same underperformance Black Widow, the pandemic cannot be used as a scapegoat. F9 proved that a movie can still break records if people are interested enough to see it. Outside of the Spiderman movies, Marvel’s future seems somewhat doomed, given that each film must recoup at least double its production budget to break even.
Mid-budget cinemas and production
While this is a better year for surviving theaters than 2020, people are just less interested in going to the movies than they were in the past. Outside of big blockbusters, there’s no reason to go see a lot of movies on the big screen. Low budget movies like The last duel completely devastated, despite the warm critical reception and the bankable cast. In the past, this genre of films supported theaters between big tent releases. Sadly, their lack of box office success means there will be less and those that do will be relegated to streaming services.
Most of the films released this year weren’t very good or just plain forgettable. Movies like Smart and Cherry seemed more interested in garish styling tricks than telling a good, believable story. The worst movie of the year, Tom and Jerry, one wonders what producers and filmmakers think the public is interested in. I hope 2022 will offer superior productions, but I am not hopeful.