The History of Film
The 2010s
Major Changes in the Film-Making Industry

Part 4

Film History of the 2010s

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Film History by Decade

Index | Pre-1920s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s
1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s
| 2010s

The 2010s Decade

Erotic Cinema:

E. L. James' 2011 trashy, erotic romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey, which sold over 100 million copies worldwide, was adapted into three films, beginning with director Sam Taylor-Johnson's controversially-sexy film, Fifty Shades of Grey (2015). It was a highly-anticipated pop cultural phenomenon about a sado-masochistic relationship. It starred Dakota Johnson as assistant literary editor Anastasia 'Ana' Steele and Jamie Dornan as charismatic Seattle billionaire sadist Christian Grey. Before its Valentine's Day release in 2015, the movie sold more advanced tickets than any other R-rated movie in history, and it was the widest R-rated opening ever (at over 3,600 theatres). It eventually earned $166.2 million (domestic), and a whopping $571 million (worldwide). It became one of Universal Pictures' highest grossing R-rated international releases, topping the previous original R-rated comedy, Ted (2012) (at $549.4 million).

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
$166.2 million (domestic)
$571 million (worldwide)
Budget: $40 million
Fifty Shades Darker (2017)
$114.6 million (domestic)
$377 million (worldwide)
Budget: $55 million
Fifty Shades Freed (2018)
$100.4 million (domestic)
$370.6 million (worldwide)
Budget: $55 million

The initial movie, with production costs of $40 million, attracted an audience that was overwhelming female. It was clear that the film would spawn a few sequels - unusual for Hollywood which had recoiled for years from films about sex. Its effective advertising slogan was "Are You Curious?", although most of its reviews were critical and unfavorable. Initially, it was quite a phenomenon at the box-office (especially internationally), but then faltered due to horrible reviews and weak word-of-mouth. An erotic, glittery drama sequel, Fifty Shades Darker (2017) was directed by James Foley, and was also released around Valentine's Day. Its taglines were: "Every Fairy Tale Has a Dark Side" and "Slip Into Something a Shade Darker." A sequel followed the next year in February of 2018: Fifty Shades Freed: The Final Chapter (2018), directed again by James Foley, with the tagline: "Don't Miss the Climax."

Two 'chick-flick' movies featuring hunky, bare-assed male strippers in a dance revue did well in the decade:

  • Magic Mike (2012), director Stephen Soderbergh's slick drama, famous for its male strip routines, starring Channing Tatum (as roofer Mike), who worked three days a week as the lead dancer at a Tampa strip club known as Xquisite, with Matthew McConaughey as the club's impressive boss Dallas wearing black leather pants - [Note: the film's story was based on actor Tatum's brief real-life experiences as a stripper in a Florida club in the late 1990s, stage-named Chan Crawford]
  • Magic Mike XXL (2015), an inevitable raunchy sequel by director Gregory Jacobs, with Tatum reprising his role as 'Magic Mike.' It was three years later, after Mike had quit as a stripper and taken up his own furniture business, but met up with his "Kings of Tampa" buddies for one last performance on a road trip to the Strippers' Convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a show MC'd by Paris (Elizabeth Banks)

There were two other mainstream, erotic romantic comedy/dramas, and at least four other foreign entries in the sub-genre:

  • Blue Valentine (2010), by director Derek Cianfrance; the downbeat, indie romantic drama about a working-class marriage in rural eastern Pennsylvania over a six-year period was between two struggling spouses: Cindy Heller (Michelle Williams), a medical assistant, and Dean Pereira (Ryan Gosling), a charming blue-collar worker/slacker; all of the frankly-depicted sex scenes between the two stars were non-explicit, discreetly shot, and non-gratuitous
  • Love & Other Drugs (2010), by director Edward Zwick; this mainstream romantic comedy was very frank to display such abundant nudity, especially from its up-and-coming young female star (Anne Hathaway); in the story, handsome, smooth-talking, womanizing Pfizer pharmaceutical-sales representative Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) fell in love with Maggie Murdock (Hathaway), a free-spirited 26 year-old artist/diner waitress suffering from Parkinson's disease
  • Shame (2011, UK), from British director Steve McQueen - it was a powerful yet dark NC-17 rated sex addiction film about NYC businessman Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender), who suffered from a serious problem or obsession - with sex; it never portrayed pornographic sex, and the sex itself was quite joyless, shameful and self-destructive
  • Blue is the Warmest Color (2013, Fr.) (aka La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1 et 2) - writer/producer/director Abdellatif Kechiche's NC-17 rated (for "explicit sexual content") three-hour French drama won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, for its portrayal of a lesbian relationship between teenaged, 15 year-old high-school student Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and blue-haired collegiate Fine Art student Emma (Léa Seydoux)
  • Nymphomaniac Vol. 1-2 (2013-2014), controversial director Lars von Trier's unrated two-part drama was the recounting of the erotic sex life of 42 year-old, self-proclaimed, insatiable "nymphomaniac" (or "sex-addict'') Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg); the sexually-explicit films (four hours in length for the censored version and 5 1/2 hours for the Director's Cut) in the exhausting two-part epic, although mostly tame and simulated, were immediately labeled as 'pornographic'
  • Love (2015, Fr./Belg.), Argentine/French director Gaspar Noé's controversial fourth feature film followed after other provocative and challenging arthouse works, including I Stand Alone (1998), Irreversible (2002), and Enter the Void (2009); when screened at the Cannes Film Festival, the film was referred to as "Noé's 3D porno."; it again raised the question about what constituted pornography and what constituted art

However, the most rampant and explicit nudity was not on the theatrical big-screen, but in a myriad number of premium TV/cable shows, always pushing the envelope of what was acceptable. The sheer number of new shows on premium TV cable channels - to escape the FCC's rules on indecency, was astonishing. It had become commonplace and frequent to see bare breasts, butts, and some glimpses of genitals (and even some full-frontal male views) - and these instances were not blurred out. On-screen nudity and sexual scenes boldly saturated the market. See Filmsite's History of Sex in Cinema - the 2010s decade: the year 2010.

YouTube Growth for Filmmakers:

The popular free video platform YouTube (started in 2005) was growing in leaps and bounds, in terms of new posted content per minute and the number of unique user visits to the site each month. Their two most popular categories of channels were "film" and "entertainment" - hinting that they could function as a primary platform for filmmakers to distribute their product. Some film-makers were using YouTube as a means to provide video-extras (behind-the-scenes, 'making of' clips, interviews, etc.) to create interest and provide further marketing to a fan base.

In this decade, some of the biggest celebrities among teens, millennials, and Generation Z were digital stars (often YouTube personalities).

In late 2013, YouTube launched their own annual film festival, the Buffer Festival, entirely dedicated to YouTube content. The Buffer Festival, held in Toronto each year, was a publicly-attended theatrical showcase that presented digital video content from the most prominent creators on YouTube. The annual showcase of YouTube video premieres brought together the most acclaimed digital creators and their audiences.

[Note: YouTube was already functioning as the venue to view established film festival content (usually short films), for Sundance and the Toronto Film Festivals.]

The video platform YouTube went further to help encourage development of some YouTube channels by allowing owners the option of joining Multi-Channel Networks ("MCNs" or "networks"). Third-party service providers affiliated with multiple YouTube channels offered services, including cross-promotion and audience development, content programming, creator collaborations, digital rights management, funding and monetization, and/or sales. An MCN promised to broker brand deals, connect with other top YouTube channels or brands, and sometimes provide studio space to produce content. In exchange for signing up with a MCN, channel owners had to give up a percentage of their revenue or whatever else was negotiated. Increasingly, MCNs catered to niche audiences like gaming, beauty, dancing, music, film, comedy, and cooking/food to better serve audiences looking for a specific type of content.

In the latter part of the decade, MCNs were affected when YouTube networks adopted controversial and radical new policies and dropped thousands of creators. This marked a major pivot for the business, to focus more on studio or media-brand models (by identifying great talent, connecting with audiences, and creating original entertainment content (TV-like shows) that could be scaled). This approach was similar to how Netflix had evolved its streaming business with more original shows and movies. As TV and movie consumption continued to fragment across media distributors, shifting from home video and theatrical viewings to low-cost media consumption on mobile devices by a new and growing demographic, this new model was making inroads on Hollywood's traditional models.

Fewer Original Films - and Sequelitis:

In the decade, there were fewer and fewer one-off or original films - they were viewed as too risky or less safe. Filmmakers and studios were also being more careful about sensitive or offensive subjects, especially after the hack of Sony by N. Korea in 2014 - thereby causing some film ideas or projects to be either censored or heavily edited. Because the multiplexes were crowded with major franchise films, smaller, indie movies were being edged out - and were appearing in other places, such as on Netflix and other VOD services (without a theatrical release).

Remakes and sequels (made in abundance) were often mediocre efforts that only reshaped storylines, characters, and recognizable brands that had already been successful, rather than investing in more original works or new material. There was poor audience response to the superfluous comedy Sex and the City 2 (2010) with its extravagant stars not in the Big Apple but in the Middle East, or the third episode of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) that was received only lukewarmly as another fantasy film with nothing special in it.

But it was clear why Hollywood studios were concentrating on sequels and remakes as the centerpiece of their business. In 2011, the top twelve films at the box-office (domestic) were all sequels or continuations of previous films.

Top 12 Films (Domestic Box-Office) in 2011

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

7. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

8. Cars 2

3. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

9. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

4. The Hangover, Part II

10. Thor

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

11. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

6. Fast Five

12. Captain America: The First Avenger

However, the downside was the creation of a dangerous glut of remakes, new installments, or sequels - unnecessary and poorly done - and mostly flops or disappointing attempts, especially by the year 2016:

The Year 2016: A Glut of Poor-Performing Remakes/Sequels
  • Ghostbusters (2016)
  • X-Men Apocalypse (2016)
  • Zoolander 2 (2016)
  • Disney Re-Imaginings: Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)
  • Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)
  • The Huntsman: Winter's War (2016)
  • The Divergent Series: Allegiant (2016)
  • Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
  • Robert Langdon Series: Inferno (2016)
  • Ben-Hur (2016)
  • Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)

[Note: There were, to be fair, a few exceptional remakes or spin-offs in 2016, including: Deadpool (2016) and Captain America: Civil War (2016).]

It was no surprise, then that movie theater attendance in the US and Canada in 2017 fell to a low point in the decade, with only 1.23 billion tickets sold (a drop off of 5.8% from the previous year). And even with higher ticket prices, domestic revenue also dropped 2.7% from 2016, from $11.4 billion to $11.1 billion. (See earlier discussion in Part 1).

One of the major reasons for the decline of original programming was that mass audiences were not supporting movies that were not sequels, remakes, reimaginings, spinoffs or an adaptation of a young adult novel. For example, in 2016, five of the top 10 domestic films were superhero films (or related franchise films) that took in almost $2 billion - about 18% of the entire year's box-office revenue.

Superhero or Sequel Films in Top 10 in 2016
Box-Office Revenue
1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
$532.2 million
3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
$408 million
6. Deadpool (2016)
$363 million
8. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
$330.4 million
9. Suicide Squad (2016)
$325.1 million
$1.96 billion

Sequel and Franchise Craziness:

The decade spawned dozens of successful derivative formats, including remakes (or reboots), sequels, prequels and spin-offs in major franchises or film series.

Major Franchises or Series Represented in the 2010s Decade
Marvel's Cinematic Universe (2008-present)

Pixar-Disney Animations

Pixar-Disney Animated Films
Star Wars Sequel Trilogy

Star Wars Anthology Spin-Offs (2016-present)

Iron Man 2 (2010)
Thor (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Ant-Man (2015)
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Black Panther (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Cars 2 (2011)
Brave (2012)
Monsters University (2013)
Inside Out (2015)
The Good Dinosaur (2015)
Finding Dory (2016)
Cars 3 (2017)
Coco (2017)
Incredibles 2 (2018)
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
X-Men and Spinoffs

Disney Reimaginings

Spider-Man Reboot

The Lord of the Rings - The Hobbit (2012-2014)

X-Men: First Class (2011)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

The Wolverine (2013)
Logan (2017)

Deadpool (2016)
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Maleficent (2014)
Cinderella (2015)
The Jungle Book (2016)
Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)
Pete's Dragon (2016)
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

DC Extended Universe

Fast and the Furious


Pirates of the Caribbean

Man of Steel (2013)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Suicide Squad (2016)
Wonder Woman (2017)
Justice League (2017)

Fast Five (2011)
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Fast & Furious 7 (2015) (aka Furious 7)
The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)
The Hunger Games

Jurassic Park: Sequel Trilogy (2015-present)

Star Trek Reboot

Twilight Saga

The Hunger Games (2012)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015)
Jurassic World (2015)
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Star Trek (2009)
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek Beyond (2016)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (2011)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 (2012)
Despicable Me

Mission: Impossible


Planet of the Apes: Reboot (2011-2017)

Despicable Me (2010)
Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Minions (2015)
Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Jason Bourne (2016)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Film History of the 2010s
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

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