'I'm not even sure what Hollywood is anymore': actors, creators on a film industry in flux
Surging ticket prices, safe-bet sequels and remakes blamed for declining box offices
Amid a slew of celebrity deaths in 2016, there was also worry over the health of Hollywood itself.
In September, Nicole Kidman told reporters at the Toronto International Film Festival: "I'm not even sure what Hollywood is anymore, because I don't think there is a Hollywood."
"We're all scattered around the world and we make films all around the world, and Hollywood pretty much is of some bygone era now," she said at a press conference for Lion.
Several publications also mused on the subject, with the Boston Globe declaring in September: "Someday we may look back on 2016 as the year the movies died."
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And Martin Scorsese recently told the Associated Press: "The cinema I grew up with and that I'm making, it's gone."
Hollywood doomsayers have pointed to a number of contributing factors including an eroding star system, higher ticket prices, and increasingly tough competition from streaming services to woo audiences.
Theatrical profits for Hollywood are also getting squeezed as more buzzy films head straight for streaming services or are available for download soon after release — or even on the same day.
Meanwhile, Hollywood has been churning out safe-bet remakes, reboots, sequels and CGI-packed superhero stories, leaving little room for indie titles.
"I'm the biggest Marvel/DC comic film fan because I love escapism and cinema is a form of escapism, but people are done with only being offered that type of escapism," says Snowden star Shailene Woodley.
'Summer blockbuster fatigue'
The summer's box-office receipts suggest audiences are tiring of the tentpole trend.
Some blockbusters like Suicide Squad and Jason Bourne had a great first week as expected but experienced steep declines soon after.
And sequels such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and Zoolander 2 didn't pull in what their predecessors did.
Queen of Katwe star David Oyelowo calls it "summer blockbuster fatigue."
"I think that there is fatigue around the kind of films that are being made, who's getting to tell them, who's starring in them," says Oyelowo. "I think it's now no longer about the 'who' but the 'what.' People are less interested in stars and more interested in what the film's actually about.
"I think that's to do with the fact that audiences are now able to choose what they watch more and they are watching content made very creatively by younger people in a more indie way."
Some smaller-budget films with stars attached, including Sausage Party and Bad Moms, did have relatively big box-office returns.
"It's hopefully another sign pointing to a tide change," says Kathryn Hahn, who starred in Bad Moms and is also in the groundbreaking Amazon series Transparent.
The impact of Amazon and Netflix giving indie voices a platform means more films like Oyelowo's Queen of Katwe — about a young Ugandan girl who becomes a competitive chess player — might get made for the big screen.
"For me and some of the movies I like to see and like to watch, I think it's a good thing, this change," says Oyelowo, who adds Queen of Katwe "bucks the narrative that has been coming out of Hollywood for 10, 15, 20 years."
'The sky is always falling'
Of course, obituaries for Hollywood have been written by film critics for many decades and not everyone expects end times for Tinseltown.
"The sky is always falling in Hollywood," says Free Fire director Ben Wheatley. "It's been falling since sound came in."
The studio system has always adjusted and will do so again, adds Woodley, noting "movies are art ... and art is fluid."
"The second you try to create boundaries and restrictions on art, art itself innately will rebel and I think that's what we're seeing happening in Hollywood right now," she says.
"There are so many rules and regulations, and 'You have to make this much money at the box office in order for this next thing to be made.' I witnessed a lot of the studio system with Divergent movies .. and the second that you do put restrictions on art, you're going to see a shape-shift, because you can't restrict expression."
Actors chase more non-film work
Peter Sarsgaard, a star of The Magnificent Seven, agrees that he's "not really concerned about where Hollywood is going" but does think he might seek out more work beyond film.
"I've always been willing to do anything in any medium, as long as it was the best version that I could get my hands on and the most interesting to me. So I do feel myself work-wise looking in other venues than movies," he says. "Movies are just a part of what we do now."
While the collective experience of the theatre is still ideal, filmmakers must accept that many people are happy to consume movies in their own environment, says Miss Sloane director John Madden.
"So long as that's technically up to the standard that you'd like to make it to, I don't really object to that, I think it's OK," he says.
"But of course it will come back just like vinyl came back, and it'll become a curious thing, because collective experience is very important. Theatre has never died and never will, precisely because that magic is created collectively by the people experiencing it simultaneously."