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The 5 biggest geek pop culture questions heading into 2020
They say hindsight is 2020 (be prepared to hear that a lot this coming year), but here on the first day of the new year, we have a lot of questions that we can’t totally predict the answer to. The start of the next decade will also mean the start of a whole new era of genre entertainment — one that’s no longer defined by the Skywalker Saga, Infinity Stones, or winter’s coming.
The first year of the 2020s will likely see everyone scrambling to find the next big thing as an ever-increasing number of streaming services will ensure that there’s a deluge of content vying for the crown. Also, the Sonic the Hedgehog movie comes out in 2020.
Here are five of the biggest genre questions that SYFY WIRE has for 2020. With any luck, we’ll know the answer to all these queries in 366 days (it’s a leap year, y’all).
01. Where does the MCU go from here?
Avengers: Endgame wasn’t the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it did mark the end of both Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans’ time as superheroes, not to mention the completion of a decade-long story. What’s next for the franchise is a bit of a mystery. Spider-Man: Far From Home was set after Endgame, but it didn’t do much in the way of charting a bigger path for the MCU going forward, and 2020’s first Marvel movie, Black Widow, is set before the events of Endgame, meaning it likely won’t set up the next Thanos, or whoever.
The MCU’s next phase seems like it will introduce a lot of heroes that the general public isn’t familiar with — which Marvel has certainly done before, just ask the Guardians of the Galaxy. Still, it remains to be seen how The Eternals, a cosmic group of godlike beings, will connect with audiences when their movie hits theaters in November. On the small screen, Disney+ looks poised to debut a Falcon and the Winter Soldier show late in the year, and on New Years Day news broke that WandaVision would also hit Disney+ this year.
Really, the MCU’s 2020 seems like it’s both tying up loose ends (Black Widow) and taking the first big step into uncharted territory (Eternals) — and in WandaVision's case, doing both. Disney has the franchise’s next several years planned out, so we’ll see if 2020 goes how Kevin Feige and Co. would hope.
02. Will Bloodshot start the first successful independent comic franchise?
Sadly the answer to this one is “probably not,” and for a reason that’s become familiar to anybody who followed the Sony versus Marvel Spider-Man kerfuffle: Licensing.
In February, Vin Diesel will star in Bloodshot, an adaptation of the Valiant Entertainment comic series. Bloodshot, who boasts grey skin, red eyes, and a red circle on his chest, is a nanotechnology-enhanced superhuman — one of many who exist in Valiant’s interconnected comics universe, which has a similar shared continuity as the more-famous DC and Marvel canons. The movie was meant to be the Valiant Cinematic Universe’s Iron Man, and Harbinger, another Valiant title about superpowered teens, would follow-up.
However, in September, Paramount Pictures obtained the rights to the Harbinger film, while Bloodshot remains a Sony production. This means it’s unlikely that the two franchises will ever crossover, putting dreams of an Infinity War-style lead-up to Valiant’s big Harbinger Wars event in jeopardy. Still, that leaves Bloodshot as its own attempt to start a superhero franchise independent of DC or Marvel — and DC’s mixed record has shown that making a superhero cinematic universe is hard even with name-recognition. If Bloodshot succeeds, it’ll be something new to start the decade indeed.
03. How will new streaming services change The Streaming Wars?
Netflix. Hulu. Amazon Prime. HBO. CBS All-Access. Apple TV+. Disney+. There are already a lot of streaming services, most with vast libraries of content and a seemingly constant stream of new titles on the way, but 2020 will likely be the year that the so-called “Streaming Wars” will start to peak.
There are three major new streaming services set to launch in the new year, starting with HBO MAX (WarnerMedia’s somewhat confusingly named service) in May, followed by NBC’s Peacock and the micro-sized content streamer Quibi in April. All this is going to add up to a number of new original shows that are nearly impossible to keep up with (and then you add in normal cable). Perhaps even more than that, consider how much the cost of subscribing to all of these services will be.
It’s likely that not all these new streaming services will survive long-term. Most folks just don’t have the cash (or the willingness) to shell out for every single one, meaning many will probably end up getting shuttered. It doesn’t seem likely that any of the brand-new streamers will close up shop in 2020 — even if they’re a flop, the corporations behind them have pumped a lot of money and planning into their wannabe streaming titans, but expect to see the first signs of which services might not be around for the long-haul in 2020, once all the major players are in the game.
04. Will 2020 be a disaster at the box office?
Last year was actually not that great a year for movies, revenue-wise, if you take a step back and really look at it. According to Comscore, the U.S. box office brought in $11.45 billion in 2019, which sounds like a lot but is 3.6 percent less than 2018's total of $11.88 billion. There are a number of reasons why movie viewership is decreasing — tickets are expensive, and, crucially, streaming services offer easy, essentially free ways to watch movies at home.
That $11.45 billion haul is still the second-biggest in box office history, but industry insiders seem concerned that a year that had some of the biggest movies of all time — Avengers: Endgame, Rise of Skywalker, The Lion King, etc. — could only manage second place. What’s more, as you might have gathered from that list of titles, almost all of the big blockbusters were made by Disney, which was responsible for an unprecedented 35 percent of total revenue, with seven of the top ten blockbusters coming from the House of Mouse.
But, look at Disney’s slate of movies for next year. There’s no Star Wars, Black Widow and The Eternals almost certainly won’t be as big of a deal as Endgame or Captain Marvel, and the live-action Mulan probably won’t best The Lion King. There aren’t many surefire, out-of-this-world blockbusters on the 2020 schedule compared to 2019, and when moviegoers are increasingly leaving their couches only to see big event movies, that could be troubling. Perhaps there will be surprise hits that jack up the numbers, but that's inherently hard to predict. How the box office will fare is a big question and it could shape how the movie industry looks for the next decade.
05. Will there be any major acquisitions?
Look, while it would be fun to end this list of questions with a query that’s not so business-focused — like, was re-doing the Sonic the Hedgehog design worth it? (No.) — but there are some big-picture trends that could have huge ramifications for genre entertainment. Think about how much of a game-changer Disney’s acquisition of Fox was. Now Marvel owns the film rights to the X-Men again, but more importantly, Disney has even more of a monopoly, thousands of people are losing jobs, and classic Fox films could be headed for the Disney vault.
What big mergers might happen this year? It’s hard to say. It doesn’t seem too unlikely that some giant corporation might buy MGM, which has been struggling for a while and owns the valuable James Bond IP. It would be more shocking if Netflix got bought, for instance, and it would have a much more drastic impact on pop culture as we currently know it. Perhaps the “answer” to this, and 2020’s other pop culture questions, is to not get too comfortable with how things are. You never know what’ll change.