Paramount Is Scaling Back On Blockbusters To Focus On Streaming

Paramount has a new chief executive officer – one that appears to be taking the 100-plus-year-old studio in a new (and depressing) direction. Jim Gianopulous, who has run the famed film studio since 2017, is leaving the company. Brian Robbins, who has been running Nickelodeon since 2018, will be stepping in to replace Gianopulous as Paramount's CEO while continuing to oversee Nickelodeon. This type of corporate reshuffling happens all the time and typically would be too boring for us to care much about, but what makes this interesting is an assertion that was buried in The Hollywood Reporter's article about the new boss: because Robbins has not dealt with A-list movie stars like Tom Cruise and John Krasinski, insiders believe "Paramount will be scaling back on its theatrical tentpole productions to focus on titles that will service Paramount+." So get ready for fewer impressive-looking blockbuster-type films, and prepare instead for an onslaught of streaming content.

Is This As Bad As It Sounds?

So is Paramount getting out of the theatrical business altogether? No. But it sounds like it will be significantly scaling back on the types of mega-sized movies that earn serious cash at the global box office and help finance the types of smaller-scale projects that pop up throughout the year. THR's Borys Kit says that according to insiders, Robbins' new leadership will usher in an era which sees Paramount "retreating from big theatrical productions to focus on titles – remakes, branded content, cheaper fare – that will service its streamer, Paramount+." That sounds like a nightmare for cinephiles who care about seeing a wide swath of expensive, high quality genre films. It's important to remember that in addition to the few big name franchises like "Transformers," "Star Trek," and "Mission: Impossible" that Paramount has under its belt, the studio also made Denis Villeneuve's "Arrival" a few years back – a brilliant, beloved, critically acclaimed movie that's one of the best films of the past several years. That's a good example of the type of film that likely won't be made under this new regime, and that's bad news for an industry that has experienced a wave of consolidation in recent years.

Netflix's impact on the entertainment industry cannot be overstated. Since that company launched its streaming service and redefined the way audiences engage with entertainment, the whole film industry has tripped over itself to follow in Netflix's footsteps. Some studios, like Disney, have enough recognizable properties that they've been able to introduce their own streaming service while keeping a healthy grip on the box office (global pandemic notwithstanding). But then there's Paramount, which does not have a huge number of successful movie franchises to work with, and has subsequently prioritized theatrical releases for its biggest potential blockbusters instead of dropping them on streaming. "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Mission: Impossible 7" were recently delayed until 2022 because the studio can't afford to leave any money on table – it has to make as much as possible on those films to justify their massive budgets and buoy the studio until its next big hit comes along.

It's easy to get all doom and gloom about the implications of Paramount's focus on streaming, but it isn't the first studio to make an announcement like this. This type of development definitely seems like a loss for the film industry, but if you'll recall, the film industry had been floundering for a while even before COVID-19 threw everything into turmoil. Movies no longer hold the position they once did in our culture as the dominant form of entertainment. The silver lining to an announcement like this, if you there is one, is that as the studio shifts its focus to streaming, we might see a high-quality "Mission: Impossible" streaming series head to Paramount+. Is that worth the loss of movies like "Arrival" and "Annihilation" and "Silence" and "The Wolf of Wall Street"? You be the judge. (Note that if Paramount was the studio behind the Robert Duvall/Robert Downey Jr. movie "The Judge," that movie probably wouldn't get made, either.)