May 11, 2021 - Economy

Hollywood's wakeup call

Illustration of a giant hand drawing over the Hollywood sign with a black marker

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Decades of failures around diversity and inclusion finally caught up with Hollywood Monday, when NBC made the unprecedented decision not to air the Golden Globes next year following backlash against the group that hosts the show.

Why it matters: NBC has been airing the event exclusively for decades. Its decision to pull back speaks to how big the backlash against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has become.

Driving the news: Over the weekend and on Monday, concerns that HFPA hasn't done enough to embrace diversity among its ranks hit a breaking point.

  • Leaders at Amazon, Netflix and WarnerMedia put out statements saying they refuse to work with the HFPA until new reforms are enacted. Stars including Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo have also joined calls against the group.
  • Ahead of the Golden Globes earlier this year, a report revealed that none of the HFPA's members are Black.

The latest: Following the news from NBC, the HFPA released a new timetable for its reform plan.

The big picture: Hollywood is facing a slew of unprecedented business and culture challenges following the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests last year.

  • A collapse in ratings for the industry's beloved award shows, and a slow recovery at the box office this year, show how much streaming has taken over the industry.
  • With streamers gaining power, more attention has been brought to shortcomings around diversity and inclusion. Initial calls to boycott the HFPA from Amazon and Netflix led legacy companies to later join the protest.

Be smart: Streaming has also made mid-budget movies less potent at the box office, forcing major studios to rally around big action and adventure franchises.

  • With most North American theaters still limited in capacity, major studios have pushed blockbuster hits further away on the release schedule, leaving an opening for mid-budget Chinese movies to capture international attention.
  • China's "Hi, Mom" has becoming the highest-grossing film globally so far in 2021, followed by China's "Detective Chinatown." Both films are comedies.
  • The Chinese box office overtook North America for the first time last year. It's expected to continue to surpass the North American box office for years to come.

What to watch: Legacy entertainment giants are trying to reorient their businesses around streaming, but can't let go of their more profitable businesses, like cable and theaters.

  • The result is that tech companies have been able to allocate much more resources towards streaming.

The bottom line: Hollywood shut down in 2020, only to reemerge upside down in 2021.

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