Lesson of the Day: ‘Hollywood’s Obituary, the Sequel. Now Streaming.’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Hollywood’s Obituary, the Sequel. Now Streaming.’

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Featured Article: “Hollywood’s Obituary, the Sequel. Now Streaming.” by Brooks Barnes

In the 110-year history of the American film industry, never has so much upheaval arrived so quickly and on so many fronts, writes Brooks Barnes, a media reporter for The New York Times.

Even when the coronavirus pandemic ends, the movie business won’t quickly — or maybe ever — return to the old normal. And a new era of Hollywood seems to be emerging — with streaming at the center.

WarnerMedia will release the much-anticipated big-budget “Wonder Woman 1984” simultaneously in theaters and on the streaming service HBO Max on Christmas Day, and Warner Bros., one of the top movie studios, announced recently that it would debut its entire slate of 2021 movies on HBO Max the same day that they enter U.S. theaters.

In this lesson, you will learn about the challenges taking place in Hollywood and their impact on the future of film as we know it. In Going Further activities you will explore your experiences with the silver screen and write a review of your favorite movie of 2020 or of all time.

Are you a movie lover?

When you hear the word Hollywood or see a picture of the Hollywood sign atop the hills of Los Angeles, what comes to mind? Glamour? Movie stars? Summer blockbusters? Popcorn?

Take a few minutes to write about or discuss with a partner your experiences with Hollywood and the silver screen. Use the following prompts as a guide:

  • How big a movie fan are you? Do you mark upcoming movie releases on your calendar? Have you ever stood in long lines to see a film on its opening night?

  • Do you prefer watching movies in a theater on the big screen to watching at home on your couch? How has the pandemic changed your viewing habits? Do you think you will go to the movies again after the pandemic?

  • What is your most memorable moviegoing experience? Do you remember the first film you saw in a theater?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. The article starts with a comment that David O. Selznick, the golden era movie producer, made in 1951: “Hollywood’s like Egypt: full of crumbled pyramids. It’ll never come back. It’ll just keep on crumbling until finally the wind blows the last studio prop across the sands.” Why do you think the author began this way? What does the quotation say about the health of Hollywood, past, present and future?

2. What are some of the biggest challenges the movie industry has faced over its 110-year history? How serious is the current one posed by digital streaming? How has the pandemic deepened the crisis confronting Hollywood — particularly for multiplex theater chains like Regal Cinemas?

3. Why does the writer, director and producer Ava DuVernay see this moment as a “time of opportunity” for Hollywood? How is she working to remake the movie industry? Do you agree with her that “normal wasn’t good enough”?

4. Not all news out of Hollywood is bad news: Why do some industry experts believe that multiplexes may get a postpandemic bump? Which of next summer’s long pushed back theatrical releases, such as “Black Widow,” “Fast & Furious 9,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” are you most looking forward to?

5. Why are the viewing habits of Generation Z critical to the future health of Hollywood, according to the author? How might the pandemic forever change how your generation thinks of movies?

6. J.J. Abrams, the Bad Robot Productions chairman and director of movies like “Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker,” is optimistic about the future of Hollywood:

“There’s a reason that the Roaring Twenties followed the 1918 pandemic. We have a pent-up, desperate need to see each other — to socialize and have communal experiences. And there is nothing that I can think of that is more exciting than being in a theater with people you don’t know, who don’t necessarily like the same sports teams or pray to the same god or eat the same food. But you’re screaming together, laughing together, crying together. It’s a social necessity.”

Do you agree? Do you think people will return to movie theaters after the pandemic? Will you? In your opinion, is experiencing movies in a theater a social necessity? Or is streaming the future?

Option 1: Share Your Experiences and Opinions.

Choose one or more of the following writing prompts:

  • What is your reaction to the article? What was most interesting, provocative or memorable? How worried should we be about the future of Hollywood? Do you think its latest obituary is premature?

  • “Without appearing on big screens, are movies even movies?” Mr. Barnes asks in the article. How would you answer that question? What is the unique value of seeing a film in movie theaters to you?

  • In response to Warner Bros. announcement on Dec. 3 that it would debut its entire slate of 2021 movies directly on its streaming service, filmmaker Christopher Nolan, director of “The Dark Knight” and “Dunkirk,” said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter:

Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service … Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak.

Do you agree with Mr. Nolan? Will releasing films directly via streaming services diminish the power of movies and movie making? Can streaming services and movie theaters coexist? Do you think the changes to Hollywood brought about by streaming are a good thing — for audiences, filmmakers and the quality of cinematic work? Why or why not?

  • If you were advising Hollywood executives, what advice would you give to revitalize the industry and to enhance the movie experience for audiences — in theaters or via streaming — especially for young viewers?

Option 2: Write a Movie Review.

What’s your favorite movie of 2020 or the past 20 years? What do you think was the best actor this year or from the past two decades?

Imagine you are a critic for The New York Times. Write a review of a film that is meaningful to you.

Your review should:

  • Express an opinion. Explain to the audience what about the film or performances moved, thrilled, surprised or touched you.

  • Include relevant and descriptive details from the work itself that support your opinion. The more specific you can be, the better.

  • Bring readers into the experience with you by using sensory images. Metaphors, similes, descriptive adjectives, strong verbs, vivid imagery that draws on all five senses — these are the difference between a good review and a great one.

For inspiration, watch this short video with review writing tips from Times critics.

If you feel excited about what you wrote, you can submit it to our Student Review Contest, which runs from Dec. 8, 2020, to Jan. 26, 2021.

You might also consider joining a conversation with other students on the best and worst of art and culture in 2020 in our writing prompts.

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