2015 was an enormous year for Hollywood. Both the television and film industry had what many could argue for as their best stretch ever. Legendary shows left the airwaves, franchises we reborn, and superheroes became the dominant force in entertainment. Everywhere you looked, there was a new TV show or movie worth seeing, making it difficult for many to keep everything straight. The world of entertainment is rapidly expanding, and you could point to 2015 as ground zero for that expansion.
What exactly happened this last year? The short version: plenty. The longer one we’ll lay out for you ourselves, running through everything that went down in movies and TV over the course of 2015. Consider this your comprehensive retrospective for all the year’s biggest and most significant happenings in the realm of Hollywood.
1. 2015 set the record for most scripted TV shows in a single year
A study from FX estimated that the last year saw a record 409 scripted television shows, besting the previous number of 376 from 2014. From 2009, this marks a staggering 94% increase in scripted series, as more and more networks and streaming services pile on their offerings. While some could potentially view this as too much TV, it also represented a massive period of experimentation and boundary-pushing. Hollywood is doing everything it can to give us the next big hit show, and in the process is venturing far outside the normal boundaries of television.
2. Marvel domination flew into full effect
Few studios had a year like that of Marvel, pushing out two films, three new TV series, another season of the recurring television show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and all while laying down the groundwork for the next five years of offerings. Early in the Spring, Avengers: Age of Ultron hauled in $1.5 billion at the box office, which at the time of release was the fifth highest number of all time. On the heels of this came the first two shows in Marvel’s ambitious Netflix universe, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, representing some of the studio’s best work to date.
3. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert left their respective news-desks on Comedy Central
Two of politics’ most respected and clever commentators left their arenas behind this year. Jon Stewart passed the Daily Show torch to the young Trevor Noah, while Stephen Colbert made the leap to late night, replacing the legendary David Letterman on CBS. It’s left a gaping hole in the realm of political commentary ever since, and while Noah and Larry Wilmore have done admirable work, it’s hard to shake the feeling that something is missing.
4. Jurassic World shocked everyone with a record-breaking opening weekend
We all knew Jurassic World was going to be a big movie, but no one could have predicted the insane box office numbers it netted over its run in theaters. Beating out even the new Avengers film, Jurassic World set an opening weekend record, making $208 million domestic. It finished as the third highest grossing movie of all time, sitting right behind Avatar and Titanic respectively. We’ll be getting at least one more sequel from the Jurassic franchise, in the biggest “no duh” green light of the year.
5. Mad Men signed off with its series finale
Marking the end of an era as AMC’s breakthrough into the world of dramatic television, Mad Men finished out its seven-season run back in May. It’s safe to say the series will be remembered as one of the greatest television shows of all time, having found its way onto the airwaves at the dawn of what’s now known as the Golden Age of the medium. And while much was said about the slightly ambiguous ending to the show, we’ve since gotten a full explanation from star himself, Jon Hamm.
6. Star Wars returned to its place as the ruler of all pop culture
That record Jurassic World set earlier in year? Yeah, that’s been obliterated. Much to no one’s surprise, The Force Awakens shattered the opening weekend number set by the iconic dinosaur franchise, raking in over a half billion dollars. Before the release ever happened though, Disney kicked the recently-acquired Lucasfilm into high gear, debuting a new TV series in Star Wars: Rebels, declaring the expanded universe novels to be no longer canon, and pushing out a series of books and comics to replace them. For anyone wondering if Disney made back their $4 billion investment in the franchise, the answer is a resounding yes.
7. Women took center-stage as full-fledged action heroes
Spurred by the release of Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015 became the most progressive year for women in the action genre we’ve ever seen. We saw the first round of female-led comic book shows (Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, Supergirl), and movies that defied classic gender stereotypes (Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Virtually every major blockbuster was followed by a genuine discussion about gender roles and the treatment of women, culminating in the infamous “running in heels” debate from Jurassic World. All told, sci-fi and action are better off for the massive cultural shift.
8. Hollywood absolutely cleaned up at the box office
The general consensus last year was that 2014 was a down year for movies across the board. Box office numbers were down, blockbusters fell flat, and the Best Picture field was grim to say the very least. 2015 made up for any of the sins of the previous year in spades though, both creatively and financially. Four of the top 10 grossing movies of all time came from 2015, with Jurassic World (3rd), Furious 7 (5th), Avengers: Age of Ultron (6th), and Minions (10th). Soon, The Force Awakens will likely join that group, with many estimates pegging it as a contender for Avatar‘s crown at No. 1. The Oscar field features the deepest field of potential “Best Picture” nominees in years, rounding out a banner year for the film industry.
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