How Studios Failed Family Audiences in 2022

Poster courtesy of MMPA

How Studios Failed Family Audiences in 2022

By Movieguide® Staff

As analysts reflect on a roller-coaster year at the box office in 2022, some claim that family-friendly movies do not have the same draw that they once did.

In a recent article published in The Hollywood Reporter called, “Box Office: As 2023 Begins, Worry and Fear Linger After a Topsy-Turvy Year for Moviegoing,” reporter Pamela McClintok writes: “Families and older adults have come out of the pandemic more discerning in terms of how they spend their leisure time — and money. Kid-friendly animated films, once a bankable staple for Hollywood, continued to face headwinds in 2022.”

McClintok later writes that the “underlying issue was an overall lack of product.”

While analysts blame the 2022 failures on a lack of quantity and variety from studios, many of the top media outlets refuse to recognize that content matters to audiences.

“You can’t underestimate the overall value of animated films to the box office. Without them, it leaves a big hole. I make the same argument for adult dramas and comedies,” a studio insider told THR. “Without a diverse slate, the exhibition is lost.”

Universal president of international distribution Veronika Kwan Vandenberg adds: “At the heart of it is the need for breadth and diversity of content in the marketplace. Consumers need to have interesting choices, not just big, branded IP but a variety of choices to come back.”

While it is true that there were noticeably fewer blockbusters in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic years at the box office, what audiences “need” and are uplifting, moral, and family-friendly offerings.

If anything is clear from the 2022 slate of releases, should movies contain moral values and not fall back on immoral content, like excessive violence and sex, they soar.

One example is Paramount’s TOP GUN: MAVERICK, which became the highest grossest movie ever released by the studio in a year that many considered a throw-away in terms of box office revenue.

As Movieguide®’s review of MAVERICK notes, the movie championed moral themes such as sacrifice and patriotism, and kept immorality to a minimum.

In contrast, Paramount’s grossly immoral BABYLON, which boasted a cast of A-list actors, bombed.

Unfortunately, it was not only the movies geared towards adult audiences that suffered due to a misjudgment of what audiences want to see on screen.

Walt Disney Studios’ STRANGE WORLD and LIGHTYEAR both are now expected to lose the company $100M each, Variety reported.

However, it was not due to a lack of willing families, but rather Disney’s recent obsession with sexuality over story.

MINIONS: RISE OF GRU, which was the only animated feature to break into the top ten highest grossing movies in 2022, proves that families were willing show up to theaters, so long as they strayed away from adult topics like sexuality.

Both LIGHTYEAR and STRANGE WORLD contained LGBTQ+ characters that the studio hoped would hold up weak stories, but ultimately ostracized their largest audience.

Movieguide® previously reported:

Disney’s STRANGE WORLD is expected to lose $100M in its theatrical run after failing to attract families during the 5-day Thanksgiving weekend.

While Dergarabedian claims that Disney’s box office bomb is due to the “constraints of the pandemic,” Hollywood continues to disregard the evidence that family-friendly movies, or movies with an uplifting moral worldview, outperform immoral, or agenda-driven stories at the box office—regardless of the credentials of those making the movie.

Disney failed to take note of why LIGHTYEAR failed to take off with audiences, and made the same mistake with STRANGE WORLD, pandering to a small minority.

According to Variety, STRANGE WORLD would have to earn $360M to break even—a number that LIGHTYEAR fell short of in its worldwide earnings of $226M despite its established IP (intellectual property).

David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research notes: “At a cost of $180 million, plus marketing expenses, the film will finish in the red, even with good ancillary income.”

If Disney wants to retain their audience, they must reject their false assumption that inclusivity can substitute morality, or that sex can substitute for story.

As Disney continues its downward trend in animated features—TURNING RED, LIGHTYEAR, and now STRANGE WORLD—the company should listen to audiences around the country who agree with Movieguide®: the content that our children and families watch together, matters.