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

Part 2

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

The Hype of 3-D:

After the success of the record-breaking Avatar (2009) and Alice in Wonderland (2010) in 3-D, studios embraced the ground-breaking technology. In 2010, 21% of total box-office revenue in North America ($10.6 billion), or $2.2 billion, came from 3-D tickets sales. Four major studios (Fox, Paramount, Disney, and Universal) spent $700 million to equip theaters with new projectors, and started to release more 3-D pictures.

3-D Box Office
Sources: Variety and ComScore
Number of 3-D Releases
3-D Revenue
Total Domestic Box Office Revenue
3-D Percentage of Total Box-Office Revenue
$0.2 billion
$9.6 billion
$1.1 billion
$10.6 billion
$2.2 billion
$10.6 billion
$1.8 billion
$10.2 billion
$1.8 billion
$10.8 billion
$1.8 billion
$10.9 billion
$1.4 billion
$10.4 billion
$1.7 billion
$11.1 billion
$1.6 billion
$11.4 billion
$1.3 billion
$11.1 billion
$11.9 billion
$11.4 billion

At first, the number of 3-D releases jumped from 20 in 2009 to 45 in 2011, usually with an average of $3.50 more per ticket. Four of the biggest box-office hits ever made were re-released in 3-D in the year 2012: Beauty and the Beast (1991), Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999), Titanic (1997), and Finding Nemo (2003), and Jurassic Park (1993) was released in 3-D in 2013. By the end of 2012, the number of domestic 3-D screens increased to almost 15,000, more than four times the count in 2009.

The phenomenon of 3-D didn't entirely live up to its promise, threatening to repeat its 1950s status as a short-lived fad. It was becoming clear (with some exceptions) that the prediction that 3-D films would be the wave of the future was fizzling. The best example of failed 3-D was for the incoherent flop Clash of the Titans (2010), whose conversion from 2D to 3-D in post-production backfired. 3-D was also misused in The Nutcracker in 3D (2010), The Last Airbender (2010), and Saw 3D (2010). The costly and lengthy conversion to 3-D of the seventh Harry Potter film was fortuitously scrapped. Maybe 3-D might be more appropriate when applied to a guilty-pleasure sexploitation film Piranha 3D (2010), the fourth installment of a zombie horror film (based on a computer game) Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D (2010), or the immature stunt-filled Jackass 3D (2010).

Audiences were obviously tiring of the added phenomenon. By 2013, the golden age or craze for 3-D films had hit some lows - fewer and fewer 3-D ticket sales (usually averaging $3.50 or more per ticket) were being tallied. Consistently, shares of 3-D grosses were below 20% of total grosses. In 2016, 3-D revenues amounted to $1.6 billion, down 8 percent from 2015. And then in 2017, the number of 3D releases dropped 15% to 44, and box-office revenues fell 18% to $1.3 billion. Despite troubling numbers, Hollywood remained committed, but to fewer 3-D releases.

It appeared that the success of 3-D was often dependent upon a film's content. Universal's two 'Jurassic' films (Jurassic World (2015) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)) both performed well with 3-D (RealD), as well as Marvel's Doctor Strange (2016). One of the biggest 3-D hits of 2016 was Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book (2016), which earned 43% of its opening weekend gross from 3-D screens.

In 2017, a new strategy evolved to limit the number of 3-D films to be released each year, because audiences were expressing a clear preference for 2D. IMAX announced a movement away from 3D technology after audiences clearly stated their preference for standard IMAX screenings. Critics argued that it was an unnecessary, gimmicky enhancement of the special effects, in most cases, and had nothing to do with the plot, character development, or acting quality. Backlash came from users who complained about eye strain, the silly glasses, dark images, shoddy transfers, etc., and expressed preferences for 2D films if given the choice. Many reasons were given to assess the problem, including fatigue with inferior 3-D products, and unnecessary post-conversions of films to 3-D.

One of the biggest indicators that 3-D was dying emerged within the US TV consumer market. In 2016 and 2017, leading TV manufacturers began to phase out 3D support in TVs, and by the end of the decade had virtually disappeared. Some studios released 3D Blu-rays in HD resolution but very few (if any) streaming services supported the format. Overseas, especially in China and Russia, the novelty in 3-D hadn't worn off, but its demise and downward trends in the saturated US market were fairly conclusive.

The year 2019 saw the total of 3D releases drop below 40 for the first time since 2010.

The End of Celluloid Film - Conversion to Digitization:

The end of celluloid film was coming - no more celluloid with sprocket holes and gear-driven projectors. The rise of 3-D in the previous decade, propelled by the success of James Cameron's blockbuster Avatar (2009), encouraged the digital conversion of many theatre-houses, because 3-D movies could only be shown on digital screens. A 3D-led growth spurt for digital screens saw theatres choosing to convert their screens - and the rise of digital projection. Then, it took over a decade for changes to be made in the technology and in the film industry for the complete conversion.

The rise of digital cinema projection began in 1999 just when digital optical discs became popular in the home market with the DVD format. Historically, the first major film to be digitally projected was Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). And then the next installment of the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), was the first Hollywood movie shot using digital cameras for the entire production.

In 2013, Paramount Pictures became the first major studio to stop releasing movies on film in the US - the Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013) was their last film released on 35 mm film. Their first major all-digital release was Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) - the first film to be released entirely through digital distribution.

By the end of 2013, 89% of the over 40,000 US theatre screens were digital, up from 75% just one year earlier. This allowed exhibitors more flexibility in showtimes and number of showings per film, depending on demand and space. By the end of 2014, the phase-out from 35 mm to digital was almost complete for the motion picture industry. Statistically by mid-decade, almost all US film-screening theatres were entirely digital with only a few remaining with analog projection. However, not all screens in the US had converted to digital, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners. In response to this problem, Paramount committed itself to exhibitors by helping to replace film projectors with digital systems (at a cost of roughly $100,000 each), or to install satellite systems to receive digitally-beamed movies.

The reasons for the change were financial -- digitization would substantially reduce the cost of delivering movie prints to theaters. It was a boon for the industry, since digitization made it easier and cheaper to produce and ship film prints (by using satellites), and the digital prints were of higher quality (free of lint and scratches, with crisper and brighter images) with superior copyright protection (preventing large-scale piracy of movies). Digitization would also help studios in preserving, storing and keeping digital archives.

Resurgence in Use of Celluloid Film Stock:

One of the results of the digital revolution was that Kodak was forced to shut down its film manufacturing plant in Rochester, NY in the year 2014. However, a group of top film directors and A-list auteurs (Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Judd Apatow, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, Bennett Miller and J.J. Abrams) convinced Hollywood studio bosses to invest in Kodak by guaranteeing the purchase of celluloid film stock each year. This saved the company (Kodak reopened labs New York, Atlanta and London), and insured that film-makers continued to have the option to shoot on celluloid.

Therefore, beginning in 2015, there was a resurgence in films made with celluloid, including (to name a few): Carol (2015), Spectre (2015), Joy (2015), The Big Short (2015), Steve Jobs (2015), and Quentin Tarantino’s 70mm road show of The Hateful Eight (2015). The most significant film shot on celluloid was J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015). This was a turn-around from the late 1990s and early 2000s when George Lucas was responsible for ushering in digital film-making. It was clear that into the future, films would continue to be shot on real film stock.

Biggest Hits of the Decade vs. The Most Honored Films of the Decade:

Oscars for Best Picture typically weren't awarded to Hollywood's biggest blockbusters. There was a major disconnect between the films with the highest domestic revenue for the year, and the films honored with Best Picture nominations and Oscars, especially since 2003. [Note: The last year that the highest-grossing (domestic) film also won Best Picture was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Since 1980, only three other Best Picture winners reached No. 1 at the box office: Titanic (1997), Forrest Gump (1994), and Rain Man (1988).]

There has been a major difference in taste between what the Academy honored as the "Best Picture" and what the moviegoing public voted for as the most popular (by movie-theatre attendance-viewing). An increase in movie-ticket prices and shifting moviegoer demographics meant that the Best Picture winners were now more frequently seen in theatres by niche adult audiences (baby boomers and seniors). And the Oscar winners were often lesser-seen, non-mainstream titles. [See also article on Best Picture Genre Biases.]

Invariably, the box-office revenue of each Best Picture winner in this decade was considerably lower than the revenue of the highest-grossing film of the same year. In some cases, the Oscar win helped to bolster the already-low revenue figures:

Best Picture Winner
(Domestic Revenue)
Top Film
(Domestic Revenue)
($53.4 million)
Avengers: Endgame
($858.3 million)
Green Book
($85.1 million)
Black Panther
($700 million)
The Shape of Water
($63.9 million)
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
($620.2 million)
($27.9 million)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
($532.2 million)
($45.1 million)
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
($936.7 million)
($42.3 million)
American Sniper
($350.1 million)
12 Years a Slave
($56.7 million)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
($424.7 million)
($136 million)
Marvel's The Avengers
($623.4 million)
The Artist
($44.7 million)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2
($381 million)
The King's Speech
($135.5 million)
Toy Story 3
($415 million)

Three of the Best Picture winners in the decade were on the subject of Hollywood and movie-making: The Artist (2011), Argo (2012), and Birdman (2014).

Academy Award Best Picture
(see Best Picture Milestones for 2010s)
Highest-Grossing (Domestic) Film
Highest-Grossing (Worldwide) Film
Best Animated Feature Film
Razzie Awards 'Worst Picture'
The King's Speech (2010, UK)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
The Last Airbender (2010)
The Artist (2011)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 (2011)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 (2011)
Rango (2011)
Jack and Jill (2011)
Argo (2012)
Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
Brave (2012)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012)
12 Years a Slave (2013)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Frozen (2013)
Frozen (2013)
Movie 43 (2013)
Birdman (2014)
American Sniper (2014)
Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Saving Christmas (2014)
Spotlight (2015)
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
Inside Out (2015)
(tie) Fantastic Four (2015) and Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Moonlight (2016)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Zootopia (2016)
Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (2016)
The Shape of Water (2017)
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017)
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017)
Coco (2017)
The Emoji Movie (2017)
Green Book (2018)
Black Panther (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Holmes & Watson (2018)
Parasite (2019, S.Korea)
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Toy Story 4 (2019)
Cats (2019)

It was widely noted that no film in the top 10 of films in 2016, in terms of domestic revenue, was based on reality. There were no biopics, thrillers, dramas, musicals, westerns, or comedies. All of the top-ranked films were either animated movies or adaptations about comic-book or sci-fi heroes - and the trend seemed to be strengthening.

Significant Developments in the Decade:

  • At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster video rental stores boasted having 9,000 locations. However, due to intense competition from Netflix, Redbox automated kiosks, and VOD (video on demand) services, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010. In 2011, the company (with 1,700 remaining stores) was purchased by satellite provider Dish Network, and within about five years, most of the stores were closed. By April 2017, only 10 stores still existed across the entire US, and then by late summer of 2019, only one Blockbuster store was left - located in Bend, Oregon.
  • The first crowd-funded Oscar winner was the coming-of-age story, Inocente (2012), which won the Best Documentary (short feature) Oscar on February 24, 2013. The film had raised over $52K on Kickstarter to help fund its making. It was the first Kickstarter-funded movie to win an Oscar.
  • Two of the oldest film studios celebrated their 100th year anniversaries (both were founded in 1912): Paramount Pictures (now owned by media conglomerate Viacom, but founded as Famous Players Studios) and also the last major film studio still headquartered in Hollywood, and Universal Pictures (founded by Carl Laemmle originally, and now controlled by General Electric, the parent of NBC), with production studios in Universal City, CA.
  • The 50th Anniversary of the James Bond Series was celebrated in 2012, with the release of the 23rd Bond film Skyfall (2012).
  • In 2012, four films crossed the billion-dollar (worldwide) box-office milestone, surpassing the previous year's record of three billion-dollar films, and then in 2015, five films crossed the milestone. The trend of 4-5 films per year topping a billion-dollars worldwide continued in 2016 (4 films), 2017 (4 films), 2018 (5 films), and 2019 (on track for 6 films, but TBD).
  • Also in 2012, high frame rate technology debuted in the first wide-release, theatrical feature film using the higher rate for both shooting and projection, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) - Peter Jackson's opening film of another trilogy. The industry standard of 24 fps was doubled to 48 fps.
  • The Chinese film market had become the largest international film market, even though it was tightly-regulated and subject to quotas. A major box-office trend by 2012 was that Hollywood films were beginning to earn more internationally than domestically, with China poised as the fastest-growing worldwide market. China was becoming a significant and lucrative film market - in second place behind the US North American market. Much of the growth in the movie industry was poised to occur internationally (not domestically), mostly in China and other burgeoning markets (such as India). To increase revenue shares even more and make US films more appealing to Chinese audiences, some film studios were adapting or creating Chinese versions of major films - with bonus footage. There was a race by the major film studios to form new partnerships with Chinese companies and to build production studios in the country for better access to their fast-growing film market.
  • Zombie films continue to intrigue and spark interest among film-makers (and film-goers). World War Z (2013) had the highest all-time box-office gross for a zombie movie, at $202.4 million (domestic), and $540 million (worldwide).
  • In 2014, a group of female celebrities were victimized by hackers who stole their nude 'selfie' photos and leaked them online. Victimized females included Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Jenny McCarthy, Ariana Grande, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Emily Ratajkowski, Rihanna, Kirsten Dunst and Kim Kardashian (who later publically bared all in a photo shoot for Paper magazine).
  • In late 2014, the FBI confirmed that North Korea was behind cyber-attacks on Sony Pictures. Sony was hit by hackers (dubbing themselves 'Guardians of Peace') on November 24th in response to the planned release of Columbia Pictures' (owned by Sony) satirical comedy on Christmas Day, The Interview (2014), about a plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The Sony Pictures' breach rendered thousands of its computers inoperable (caused the leak of personal employee data and some embarrassing emails by company executives), forced the company to take its computer network offline, disrupted the company's business operations (i.e., by releasing digital copies of yet unreleased films), and ultimately forced a cancellation of the release of The Interview in major US national theatre chains in the wake of threats from North Korea and its supporters. However, over 300 independent cinemas showed the film around Christmas Day, and it was available for rental, with end of year earnings of about $6.1 million. Sony was expected to lose as much as $100 million on the film as a result of the state-sponsored attack. Some critics called the move to censor the film a violation of First Amendment rights and freedom of creative expression - the right of a movie studio to make any movie they wished.
  • Tax credits and other financial incentives in other locations drove more film-making out of California. A non profit group known as Film-L.A., Inc. released a feature film study (their second annual report), stating that only 22 of 106 films (about 16%) released by the major studios in 2014 were actually filmed in California. Local film production peaked in 1997 when 64% of the top 25 films at the box-office were filmed in California. California's financial incentives typically benefited lower-budget films and TV shows. The most prominent film-making locales used now included New York, Britain, Canada, Georgia, Louisiana, Australia, and a dozen other states and countries.
  • With the release of Godzilla (2014), the Japanese monster series became the longest, continually-running movie franchise of all time. Japan's Toho Studios have promoted the Gojira franchise for nearly 60 years. The original Gojira (Godzilla) film was released in 1954 by director Ishirô Honda.
  • To offset the exorbitant cost of making films, independent film-makers turned to online crowd-funding, with sites such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe. The feature-length film Veronica Mars (2014), based upon the original television series beginning in 2004 (and cancelled in 2007) raised $5.7 million on Kickstarter, the largest amount ever raised for a film project at the time (April, 2013) (at 285% of its goal, with 91,585 total backers). The success of the film catapulted a string of new movie projects seeking funding from various crowdfunding platforms. The movie premiered on March 14, 2014, a year and a day after the appeal launch.
  • The year 2015 marked a significant milestone for a single studio: Universal released three films that each grossed over $1 billion (worldwide): Minions (2015), Furious 7 (2015) and Jurassic World (2015), and in addition, the latter two films both grossed over $1.5 billion (worldwide).
  • Finding Dory (2016) became the highest-grossing (domestic) animated film of all-time (at $486.3 million domestic), surpassing Shrek 2 (2004) in the middle of the decade. But then Pixar's sequel Incredibles 2 (2018) took the top spot, with $608.6 million (domestic)
  • Disney's The Lion King (2019) surpassed Frozen (2013) as the highest-grossing (worldwide) animated film of all-time (at $1.276 billion), with other films trailing behind: Incredibles 2 (2018) at $1.243 billion, and Minions (2015) at $1.16 billion.
  • Director Quentin Tarantino's western thriller The Hateful Eight (2015) (distributed by The Weinstein Company) was reputedly the widest 70mm release the industry has seen in more than 20 years, since Ron Howard's romantic adventure Far and Away (1992). It was filmed entirely in 70mm (Ultra Panavision 70), a rare widescreen format usually reserved for big-screen epics.
  • The adult computer-animated comedy Sausage Party (2016) was the first fully American CGI-animated film to be rated R by the MPAA. The animated film also surpassed South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999) as the highest-grossing R-rated animated film of all time.
  • Fox Searchlight's hotly-anticipated slave rebellion drama The Birth of a Nation (2016) - a biopic about Nat Turner, stirred political-correctness controversy and negative public opinion when it was revealed that co-writer/director/star Nate Parker and Birth's co-writer Jean Celestin had allegedly raped an 18 year-old female, a Penn State freshman classmate in 1999 during their college years. Parker was charged, tried and subsequently acquitted. Celestin was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to six to 12 months in prison. A judge ordered a second trial for Celestin following an appeal and the case was overturned in 2005 after the accuser decided not to testify. Reports later surfaced that their accuser committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 30, at a rehab facility. As a result of negative publicity about the trials and Variety's August 2016 publication of the news of the suicide, revenues plummeted 60% at the box office in the film's second weekend. Ultimately, the film managed to earn $15.8 million at the box-office (domestic) - less than what Searchlight had paid for it at Sundance.
  • There was an embarrassing and historic mix-up over the Best Picture award, originally announced for La La Land (2016), which eventually was rightfully awarded to the African-American coming-of-age drama Moonlight (2016).
  • Google's short animated film Pearl (2016), released both as a theatrical and 360-degree virtual reality film, became the first VR film nominated for an Oscar.
  • Japan’s consumer electronics company, Funai Electric Company, announced in mid-2016 that they would permanently curtail the manufacture of VHS equipment (VCR/DVD player combos), including videocassettes.
  • MTV became the first major awards show to adopt gender-neutral categories. During their annual Movie & TV awards ceremony, Emma Watson accepted MTV’s first 'gender-neutral' acting award - Best Actor for her role in Beauty and the Beast (2017).
  • The action film Wolf Warrior 2 (2017, China) was the first non-Hollywood film to be listed on the Top 100 box office (worldwide) hits of all-time, with a worldwide gross of $870 million. It became the highest-grossing Chinese film ever released, to date.
  • 68 year-old Meryl Streep acquired her 21st Academy Award nomination (a significant record), for her role as Washington Post publisher-heiress Katharine Graham during the Vietnam War-era at the time of the Pentagon Papers scandal, in Steven Spielberg's political thriller The Post (2017).
  • A movie subscription service known as MoviePass (founded in 2011) offered customers to purchase three movie tickets per month for a monthly fee; the service became well-known when it offered - in August 2017 - a short-lived plan with an unlimited, single film per day priced at $9.95 per month; in just six months, the service had 2 million subscribers by February 2018. The company's tremendous growth was soon unsustainable by the end of the 2018 summer movie season, and the subscription offer was downgraded and transitioned to a monthly limited plan with other availability restrictions. The subscriber base to MoviePass dropped precipitously following the service’s complete rehaul of its plans and pricing. However, MoviePass proved that movie-goers loved an affordable film subscription plan. Competitors to MoviePass included the creation of AMC's Stubs A-List, Regal Unlimited, Sinemia, and Cinemark's Movie Club..
  • Black Panther (2018) - one of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (a series of superhero films), became the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture. The domestic box-office total for the superhero film, $700.5 million, was virtually the same as the domestic total made by all nine of the Best Picture nominees in the years 2016 and 2017! It scored three Oscar wins for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design and Best Original Score. It was Marvel's first black superhero standalone film; it was an historic achievement that a film in Marvel's Cinematic Universe had now won its first three Oscars - and two were also exceptional. The winner in the category of Best Production Design, Hannah Beachler, became the first African-American to win in the category. And the winner for Best Costume Design, Ruth Carter, was also the first black person to win the Oscar in her category.
  • In 2018, the Marvel Cinematic Universe became the first film franchise to gross more than $16 billion (worldwide revenue) with the release of Avengers: Infinity War (2018). And then after the releases of three other blockbusters in 2019 (and reaching a total of 23 films in the franchise), Captain Marvel (2019), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), the franchise topped all other franchises with a total of over $22.5 billion (worldwide) - and was still growing.
  • In late 2018 after two years of providing a unique streaming service (a joint venture of Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection), WarnerMedia's Filmstruck ended. The niche service was one of the few ways to watch examples of classic Hollywood films, arthouse cult movies, foreign pictures, and repertory cinema. To fill the void, The Criterion Collection launched its own standalone streaming service in spring 2019.
  • There were an astounding number of franchise films in 2019: 58 in total, that took up 82% of the worldwide Hollywood box office. In the same year, Disney Studios accounted for more than 35% of domestic market share for the year.
  • Disney's and Marvel's Avengers: Endgame (2019) took over the top spot from Avatar (2009), becoming the top-grossing film of all time (worldwide) with $2.79 billion.
  • South Korean writer/director Bong Joon Ho's subtitled psychological thriller, twisting drama and dark comedy Parasite (2019, S. Korea) was a surprise, upset Best Picture winner. It marked the first Best Picture nomination for a South Korean film (and win) in the Academy's history. It was the first non-English language film to ever win the top honor. It was only the 10th foreign-language film to be nominated for Best Picture. It was the first nomination and win in the category of Best International Feature Film for a South Korean film. It also won the Palme d’Or at Cannes (the first Korean film to do so). To date, it was one of only 12 films that won Best Picture without receiving a single acting nomination.

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

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