Screenwriters will shift the perspective of their screenplays next year to reflect the lives of Gen Z (born after 2001, although some groups have labeled them from 2000) as they move into decision-making roles in America. In 2019, this upcoming generation is also expected to outnumber the Millennials. According to Bloomberg analysis, our population next year is estimated to be made up of 32% Gen Z and 31.5% Millennials.
The tonality of many films will also shift from dark stories to happier and more optimistic ones, in keeping with Gen Z’s outlook on life. This generation is the first to have only known a digital world. They were raised during the war on terror and the global recession, driving them to seek out things associated with joy, peace, and happiness. To capture this market, studios will have to shift to stories that bring hope and joy to audiences.
Faith-based production companies will have to be careful with how they proceed. Films with a utopian worldview go too far to the opposite extreme and will be seen as silly. This is due to Gen Z being surrounded by a tremendous amount of darkness in their upbringing, and yet they were able to learn how or found ways to overcome it. Films with redemptive endings will quickly capture the market. Stories depicting true life with happy endings, which Gen Z can directly relate to, is expected to dominate the box office.
Having planned ahead for this shift in the market, several companies will join the streaming and video-on-demand competition. Due to the disposition of Gen Z for happier programming, you’ll see Disney and WalMart enter the market in 2019 and 2020. In the meantime, Netflix will hit its saturation point and may have to rebalance and reduce its original programming to meet the slowing subscription growth and the influx of Gen Z decision makers.
Niche companies like Pure Flix will also have to adjust to the shifts in market demand. Their primary (Baby Boomers) and secondary (Gen Xers) market is rapidly shrinking, so Pure Flix will have to develop new lines of programming to satisfy the Millennials and Gen Z. However, they might have a wider window to adjust than most companies, as their evangelical audience lags in the area of change by 10-20 years depending on demographics.
This lag effect began in the 1980s with religious programming on TV stations, and then moved into Christian Contemporary music. Prior to the 1980s Evangelicals created cutting-edge entertainment that competed head-to-head in the general marketplace. Most Christian entertainers today are no longer able to manage a livelihood in the field of entertainment, let alone create cutting-edge films, TV shows, and music.
While there are less than 15,000 TV stations (includes low-powered stations) still working that once carried a few hours or more of religious programming each week, today only 100 TV stations broadcast evangelical shows. The story online is a bit different with Roku offering about 200 religious channels. However, most of these channels are large churches uploading their sermons for their congregation with little narrative stories to choose from.
The top three companies perfectly positioned for this new generation are Disney, Marvel, and Pixar. Their upcoming shows have just enough darkness in them to keep the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers coming to the theatres, while stepping up the Gen Z joy indicators. As for the Millennials, the only satisfaction aimed at this people group comes from the Millennial stars playing the characters within the Gen Z stories.
For those tracking the entertainment news carefully, most have already noticed the companies that led the release of darker films a couple decades ago have hit financial and political struggles. If they haven’t already, most will see bankruptcy looming or larger companies buying out their libraries.
The best news about these major changes in the industry will be at the independent level. Film budgets will slowly drop, making name artists more available for new cutting-edge and uplifting stories aimed at Gen Z. Redemptive stories will be salted with romance, chivalry, and patriotism. Heartwarming films like The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins have even begun to see a resurgence.
This is not to say that people will long for the sappy; those days are over when it comes to Gen Z. This generation wants reality with silver linings. They know that happiness can be found in the darkest of situations, especially since darkness can only prevail for a shortened duration.
I’m looking forward to these changes and can’t wait to see all the films written with Gen Z in mind. The doors will be open for more mainline films with universal stories that are filled with redemptive qualities, wholesomeness, and morals.