Hollywood faces uncertain future after tumultuous year

(CNN)"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" arrives too late to save Hollywood from a tumultuous, no-good, very-bad year, and the uncertain future that goes with it.

Change has become a fact of life in Hollywood, as technology keeps rewriting the script. Yet even by those standards 2017 has been a dizzying year, with a few silver linings visible amid dark clouds that range from the enormous shadow of sexual harassment to more mundane concerns, like the besieged cable bundle and dwindling box office.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal, and waves of sexual-misconduct allegations it triggered, dominated the year, and those ripples -- and fresh allegations -- have kept coming. Although the #MeToo tide has swept beyond the entertainment industry into other high-profile spheres -- including media, fashion and politics -- getting Hollywood's house in order won't be an overnight task after decades of bad behavior.
    The anger and fear unleashed by those revelations, however, wasn't the whole story in 2017. While executives wonder whose career might be upended next, there has also been an increase in more conventional strains of uncertainty, stemming from mergers, acquisitions and the intrusion of deep-pocketed tech titans -- including Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google -- determined to make their mark on the business.
    While the prospect of new money flowing into production is generally good news for the creative community, it's cause for anxiety among more traditional media companies. Those enterprises are already reeling from the influence of Netflix and the shift consumption habits of younger audiences, in particular, away from old models.
    The changes can be seen in cord-cutting -- the phenomenon of people shedding their cable bundle, pursuing more a la carte viewing options -- which has made even sports giant ESPN, once an enormous cash cow, a drain on Disney's stock price due to apprehensions about its future.
    A separate -- though not necessarily unrelated -- decline has also impacted the domestic U.S. box office. The summer, in particular, saw a sharp 15% downturn, sinking to its lowest level in more than a decade as people exhibited less willingness to trek to theaters for middling titles.
    International growth has helped offset those domestic doldrums, but that's small comfort to theater chains. Despite evidence that huge commodities can still draw crowds -- see "The Last Jedi" or to a lesser degree "Wonder Woman" -- many sequels and reboots, once perceived to be almost sure-fire hits, badly stumbled in 2017.
    John Boyega in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'
    Companies are pursuing different strategies to address these realities, but there's no clear blueprint as to which one will work.
    Nothing better exemplifies the conflicting philosophies than Disney's pending acquisition of key Fox entertainment assets, seeking to bulk up to gain leverage against Netflix and its ilk. Fox, by contrast, is moving to reduce its footprint and exposure, raising questions -- and anxiety -- about who might be swallowed next.
    The malaise and sense of unease hanging over Hollywood has also extended into politics, where the election of Donald Trump has simultaneously unified many within the famously liberal entertainment world and alarmed them about the U.S.'s direction. With more performers speaking out, studios and networks can't escape controversy and, in this polarized climate, seem to be constantly buffeted by concerns about alienating a portion of their audience.
    These issues will be evident as the industry embarks on what's usually a celebratory period -- namely, the "awards season" that leads up to the Oscars in March.
    This time around, those festivities will be accompanied by memories of Weinstein's influence on the awards circuit, politics, and whether attempts to improve the symbolic representation of people of color will sustain strides made last year in response to the #OscarsSoWhite campaign.
    Acknowledging problems, of course, doesn't solve them. But recognizing these issues in a clear-eyed and straightforward manner does fall under the heading of not being able to address the industry's myriad challenges, including those lacking hashtags, until you admit that they exist.