From dead celebrity revivals to social movements that rocked Hollywood, these events' impact on the industry are to be determined.
WHAT HAPPENED Fifteen years after being pronounced dead, Tupac Shakur performed as a hologram for 70,000 fans, ushering in a decade of VFX-enabled posthumous turns that included Paul Walker in Fast & Furious 7 and Carrie Fisher in Star Wars.
THE TAKEAWAY Lots more dead will be rising in the 2020s, as will financial and legal issues. Case in point: the upcoming Finding Jack, starring late icon James Dean. "We expect a whole range of deceased stars making their way back to the screen," insists the film's co-director Anton Ernst. "This is good for everyone."
WHAT HAPPENED After paying $100 million (and outbidding HBO) for two seasons of Beau Willimon's MRC-produced adaptation of the U.K. series, directed by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey, Netflix released the show that would help reshape its identity from a DVD-by-mail business into a streaming video Goliath.
THE TAKEAWAY Though House of Cards was not the first original to debut on Netflix (that honor goes to drama Lilyhammer), it announced the streamer as one of the town's top buyers and came to define a Netflix show, binge release and all. The streamer has since taken on enormous debt, increased its annual content budget to $15 billion, and is leading once-dismissive TV rivals into the streaming age. Coming up in the next decade: disrupting the decades-old theatrical film business.
WHAT HAPPENED "I just felt with all the uncertainties in the world, I didn't want to be carrying that degree of debt," Murdoch once explained as to why he dropped his bid to buy Time Warner for a reported $80 billion. "I'm a bit bearish, I guess."
THE TAKEAWAY Four years later, AT&T snapped up the company for $85 billion. Murdoch's Fox was devoured by Disney, ending one of the major studios and the reign of a mogul.
WHAT HAPPENED It started with a hashtag invented by activist April Reign, who posted it as a commentary on that year's all-white acting nominees. It went viral when the Academy's 2016 nominees again were 0-for-20, and became a red-hot rallying cry as talents like The Weeknd and Spike Lee spread the meme. Even Rock flicked at it while hosting the Oscars ceremony, nicknaming it "White People's Choice Awards" and suggesting a category for "Best Black Friend."
THE TAKEAWAY Forced to act, the Academy initiated a bold push to diversify, resulting in a dramatically different membership. A year later, Moonlight won best picture.
WHAT HAPPENED When Netflix hired away two execs from Fox — Tara Flynn and Marcos Waltenberg, both of whom had two years left on their contracts — it ignited a legal battle that threatened to upend the entire employment architecture of the entertainment business.
THE TAKEAWAY On Dec. 10, a judge sided with Fox, ordering Netflix to stop poaching. But Netflix is sure to appeal in 2020, and if it ultimately prevails, that would mean the end of Hollywood's long-standing contract system.
WHAT HAPPENED There had been previous takedowns — Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly — but when Judd and several other women went on the record about the Weinstein Co. chief in The New York Times, it opened the #MeToo floodgates and blew up the culture of Hollywood and the world.
THE TAKEAWAY Harvey in an orange jumpsuit is a distinct possibility (he goes on trial Jan. 6).
WHAT HAPPENED This was the shot across the bow that sparked today's blood feud between writers and agents... sort of. The root cause of the conflict-of-interest dispute dates to 2010, when CAA sold a 35 percent stake to private equity firm TPG Capital, setting off a gusher of private investment that pushed CAA and others into diversifying their businesses (hence, Emanuel's Endeavor Content, which has tentacles in Killing Eve and His Dark Materials).
THE TAKEAWAY Endeavor's IPO was shelved in September, but the PE gold rush looks like it'll continue — ICM Partners just sold a one-third stake to Crestview Partners for $150 million (see page 40) — which means so could writers' beef with agents.
WHAT HAPPENED Remember the day Skynet achieved sentience? For old school media, this was worse. In February, internet ad spending surpassed that of traditional TV, radio and print. Digital rose in 2019 to $129 billion (including Google's and Facebook's $76.5 billion) while legacy media revenue fell to $109 billion, according to eMarketer.
THE TAKEAWAY By 2023, digital won't just outlap traditional ads — it'll crush them, accounting for two-thirds of all advertising spend. Also, keep your eye on Amazon. Although advertisers spent a relatively modest $11.3 billion on the platform this past year, the company's ad pie is growing faster than experts anticipated.
WHAT HAPPENED Ten years ago, PewDiePie — real name: Felix Kjellberg — was a Swedish kid posting game-related videos on YouTube. Today, at 30, he's running a multimillion-dollar online empire, immortalized as a character on South Park and interviewed by Stephen Colbert … and that was before he became the first social media star to cross the 100 million-subscriber threshold.
THE TAKEAWAY If you really want to measure the influence Kjellberg and the other online personalities will have on the coming decade — and generation — take a look at a couple of studies. One, commissioned by Lego, discovered that 33 percent of kids ages 5 to 12 want to be YouTubers when they grow up. Another study conducted in Britain found 50 percent of them with that goal. True, few social media stars have broken through to traditional Hollywood — Lilly Singh landing a late night hosting gig on NBC is about as close as they've come — but that hasn't stopped their rise. And judging by these and other surveys, creators will be the new mainstream in the 2020s.
WHAT HAPPENED For years, Leslie Moonves was powerful enough to stand in the way of Shari Redstone's ambitions for a Viacom-CBS recombination (with Wall Street, generally, on his side). But with Moonves out of the picture and the companies together once more, Sumner's daughter is firmly in control of a potentially powerful (if late to the party) content giant that's willing to sell to all streamers.
THE TAKEAWAY "The CBS and Viacom entities shared a common destiny, but by waiting until 2019, they squandered a much bigger 'what could have been,' " says Jimmy Schaeffler of the Carmel Group. Still, Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities thinks Shari could play catch-up by eventually hoarding CBS and Paramount's big libraries for the company's own Showtime and Pluto digital platforms. "Shari has vision," he says.