The Thin Silver Lining in the Hollywood Strike: A New Era for In-Flight Entertainment


An editorial by Dr Joe Leader, APEX / IFSA CEO

In the midst of the Hollywood strike by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), our hearts go out to striking actors, studios, and all those affected. This is a strike that no one wanted, and the challenges faced by the entertainment industry are deeply felt.

This past week, talks broke down, indicating a longer than expected strike continuing to delay new movies and television.  If no accord is reached by the end of October, the 2023-24 season stands at significant risk, with potential disruptions to movie and TV production and release schedules.  However, as the CEO of the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), I would like to offer a perspective on how these events, while disruptive, present a unique opportunity for expansion of the airline in-flight entertainment sector.

1. A Wealth of Recent Blockbusters “On Deck”

There’s an abundance of recent movies that have made significant waves at the box office this year for in-flight entertainment enjoyment on the horizon.  The top 10 box-office hits include Barbie ($1.4bn), The Super Mario Bros. Movie ($1.3 billion), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 ($845 million), Oppenheimer ($853 million), Fast X ($705 million), Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ($685 million), The Little Mermaid ($567 million), Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 ($523 million), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania ($476 million), and Elementals ($444 million).  While these are the top theatrical blockbusters of 2023, there are countless critically acclaimed movies that are on-deck to be released for enjoyment in the air.

2. A Treasure Chest of Unwatched Content from the “Streaming Wars”

The recent “streaming wars” have led to an overproduction of content, much of which has gone unnoticed by many consumers. With so many platforms vying for attention, a significant amount of high-quality content has been overshadowed. This presents a unique opportunity for airlines and CSPs. There’s a treasure trove of fresh, unwatched content that can be introduced to passengers, ensuring they have access to new and engaging entertainment during their flights.

3. The Rise of Reality, Talk Shows, and Recent Shows

While scripted shows might face a slowdown, the reality, talk shows, and recent TV genre are poised to fill the void. New reality shows, with their diverse themes ranging from cooking to travel to talent hunts, can offer a fresh and engaging experience to passengers. The raw, unscripted nature of these shows often resonates with viewers, offering them a slice of real-life drama and excitement. Airlines can capitalize on this trend, curating a mix of popular and niche reality shows to cater to varied tastes.

4. A Renaissance for Missed Classics

The immediate aftermath of the strikes may see a dip in the production of new movies and TV shows. But this is where the magic happens. Airlines and Content Service Providers (CSPs) now have a golden opportunity to delve into the vast reservoir of classic films and series that have stood the test of time. This is not just about filling the gap but about reintroducing audiences to the masterpieces of yesteryears.

5. Diversifying the In-Flight Experience

While movies and television content remain a cornerstone of in-flight entertainment, airlines are continuously exploring ways to diversify and enhance the passenger experience. The inclusion of interactive games offers travelers a chance to engage their minds, challenge themselves, or simply pass the time in a fun and immersive manner. Additionally, live TV content ensures passengers stay connected to real-time events, be it a crucial sports match, breaking news, or their favorite TV shows. It’s worth noting that these expanded offerings are not a replacement but a complement to the rich tapestry of films and content available on board. By broadening the entertainment spectrum, airlines aim to cater to the varied tastes and preferences of their passengers, ensuring every journey is as enjoyable and memorable as possible.

6. A Global Expansion of Movies

While Hollywood remains the dominant force, cinema from other parts of the world has been making significant strides.  Each film, with its unique narrative and charm, showcases the rich cinematic heritage of its respective country, resonating with audiences worldwide.  While limiting to only one example per country, here are some top non-Hollywood box office winners from various countries in 2023:

  1. India: “Pathaan” with $128,780,000. A movie where the viewer dives into the enthralling world of “Pathaan”, where suspense and covert operations intertwine. With international audiences contributing a significant $95,095,974, this film’s allure on the global stage remains undeniable.
  2. Italy: “The Roundup: No Way Out” with $83,423,445. A film that takes the audience through the dark alleys of Italy’s underworld. Its captivating narrative has resonated across borders, amassing a significant $82,514,034 from international viewers.
  3. Japan: “Detective Conan: Black Iron Submarine” with $106,464,725. An animated feature that embarks on a maritime mystery with the iconic Detective Conan. Its charm has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide, reflecting in its entirely international revenue.
  4. France: “Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom” with $46,493,489. A cinematic journey that sets sail on a comedic expedition to ancient China alongside the legendary Gaulish duo. Its humor and adventure have resonated globally, as seen in its international earnings.
  5. South Korea: “Concrete Utopia” with $28,859,372. A narrative that traverses the post-apocalyptic landscapes, where survivors grapple with challenges beyond imagination. This compelling tale has found a global audience, with all its revenue coming from outside its home country.
  6. Ukraine: “Mavka: The Forest Song” with $16,923,260. A tale that steps into a realm of enchantment, where love and destiny dance in harmony. This mesmerizing story has captivated audiences globally, reflecting in its international revenue.
  7. Germany: “Die drei??? ” with $15,860,016. A thriller that unravels ancient legends and mysteries. Its gripping narrative has found a dedicated international audience.
  8. China: “The Wandering Earth II” with $8,854,786. A sequel that continues the cosmic odyssey, as humanity faces new adversities in space. Its captivating storyline has drawn $3,831,654 from international viewers.
  9. Spain: “Vacaciones de verano” with $8,164,769. A heartwarming film that relives the magic of summer holidays. Its universal themes have found resonance across borders, with all its revenue coming from international markets.
  10. Turkey: “Rafadan Tayfa Galaktik Tayfa” with $6,309,160. An animated spectacle that soars through the cosmos, as characters embark on a space adventure. Its charm has garnered attention and revenue solely from international markets.

In conclusion, while the strike in Hollywood remains challenging for many, there remains an opportune “thin silver lining” moment for airlines and CSPs against the backdrop of this dark cloud. It’s an ideal time for airline passengers to expand their entertainment palate, discovering or rediscovering content that they might have missed. And as a positive note to end on, there are more in-flight entertainment screens now than ever before in the history of aviation, amplifying the potential for passengers to enjoy a diverse range of content. At APEX, our commitment remains steadfast in ensuring that every in-flight journey is as memorable as the destination itself.