Entertainment

This year, cinema stars in its own comeback story – Chicago Tribune

This summer in the movies, Tom Cruise returns to the airplane cabin. Doctors Grant, Sattler and Ian Malcolm have new encounters with dinosaurs. Natalie Portman takes Thor’s hammer. And Jordan Peele returns to terrify us with the unknown.

Hollywood debuts some of its biggest and most anticipated movies of 2022 this summer season, which kicks off this weekend with the help of Marvel and Disney’s “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” and runs through the end of August. It’s an uncertain time for the movie industry as studios and exhibitors are still making up for losses suffered during the pandemic and adjusting to new ways of doing business, including shorter release windows, competition from streaming and the need to feed your own services. And everyone is wondering if cinema will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.

However, although the pandemic is not over, there is an air of optimism.

“We’re still waiting for the big audiences to come back, but it really feels like we’ve turned a corner,” said Jim Orr, head of national distribution for Universal Pictures. “You have the impression that the public wants to go out, wants to be in theaters. I think it’s going to be an extraordinary summer.”

Last week, studio executives and movie stars met with theater owners and exhibitors at a convention in Las Vegas, proudly promoting movies that promise to keep audiences coming back to the movies week after week.

Expectations are particularly high for “Top Gun: Maverick,” which Paramount Pictures will release on May 27 after two years of delays due to the pandemic. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer said he never hesitated to release “Top Gun: Maverick” — an all-out action movie made with lots of aerial footage, mechanical effects and up to six cameras inside the cockpits of fighter jets — exclusively on the cinemas.

“It’s the kind of movie that embodies the experience of going to the movies. It takes you somewhere else, it transports you. We always say we’re in the transportation business, we transport you from one place to another, and that’s what ‘Top Gun’ does,” said Bruckheimer. “There is a lot of pent-up demand for some movies and we hope to be one of them.”

The movie industry has already had several notable successes in the last six months, including “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which has become the third highest-grossing film of all time; “The Batman”, “The Lost City” and, although smaller, “Everything Everywhere All At Once”. The hope is that momentum will only continue to build in the coming months.

Before the pandemic, the summer movie season could safely produce more than $4 billion in box office, or about 40% of the year’s gross, according to Comscore. But in 2020, with theaters closed for most of the season and most releases postponed, that total plummeted to 176 million. Last summer saw a marked improvement with $1.7 billion, but things barely returned to normal, with many opting to further delay their releases or employ hybrid strategies.

Now everyone is refocusing on theatrical releases, even though the showing windows are shorter. Ticketing service Fandango recently surveyed more than 6,000 ticket buyers and 83% said they plan to see three or more movies on the big screen this summer. Another no less important fact is that Netflix reported its first loss of subscribers in 10 years last month and expects to lose 2 million more this quarter.

“It’s finally movie time, with blockbuster movie after blockbuster after blockbuster after blockbuster,” said Adam Aron, president and CEO of AMC Theaters, the largest chain of theaters in the United States. He highlighted franchises such as “Doctor Strange 2,” “Top Gun 2 ″,” Jurassic World: Dominion “, which opens on June 10, and ” Thor: Love and Thunder “, for July 8; “new movie concepts” like Jordan Peele’s “Nope” (July 22) and “Elvis” (June 24), as well as family-friendly movies like “Lightyear” (June 17) and “Minions: The Rise of Gru” (July 1).

“It’s a bold statement, but this summer could match 2019, which would be monumental for the film industry,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore.

Analysts forecast that “Doctor Strange 2” could gross $170 million this opening weekend, twice as much as the character’s first film. Marvel and Disney will then present Thor, in which Chris Hemsworth’s character travels with the Guardians of the Galaxy after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” wondering “what now?”

“Thor is just trying to figure out his purpose, to figure out exactly who he is and why he’s a hero or if he should be a hero,” said director Taika Waititi. “I guess you could call it a mid-life crisis.”

The film brings back Jane Foster (Portman), who becomes Mighty Thor, as well as Waititi’s Korg and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, and adds Russell Crowe as Zeus and Christian Bale as Gorr the Butcher God. Waititi has said that it is the craziest movie he has ever made.

“It’s a really cool, really fun, weird little group of heroes, a new team for Thor with Korg, Valkyrie and Mighty Thor,” Waititi said. “And, IMHO, we have probably the best villain Marvel has ever had in Christian Bale.”

But superhero movies alone don’t create a healthy or particularly compelling cinematic landscape. There have to be options for theaters to survive.

“Our business cannot be built on blockbuster movies and branded IP alone. We really need to continue to put out as broad an offer as possible,” Orr said. “We have something for every segment of the audience. The public craves that and the exhibitors too”.

Universal is proud of its diverse summer lineup, which includes dinosaurs, family-friendly animation, thrillers and horror films, comedies like “Easter Sunday” (Aug. 5), and Focus Features period films like “Downton Abbey: A New Era” (May 20) and “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” (July 15).

Jason Blum, the powerhouse producer and director of Blumhouse, hopes that Scott Derrickson’s supernatural horror film “The Black Phone,” with Ethan Hawke in a rare villainous role, will be the “non-superhero movie of the summer” when opens on June 24.

Movies that are not part of franchises will also hit theaters. There are literary adaptations like “Where the Crawdads Sing,” with Daisy Edgar-Jones; action movies like “Bullet Train” (July 29) with Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock, Baz Luhrmann’s drama about the life and music of Elvis Presley, a mockumentary about a tiny mollusk “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” ( June 24), Regency Period fun on “Mr. Malcolm’s List” (July 1) and goosebumps movies like “Watcher” (June 3), “Bodies, Bodies, Bodies” and “Resurrection” (both due August 5).

“Annihilation” writer-director Alex Garland also has a new thriller, “Men,” opening in theaters May 20. In it, Jessie Buckley plays a woman who retreats to the English countryside in search of peace after a personal tragedy only to face more horrors from the men of this picturesque town, all played by Rory Kinnear.

As someone who makes original and challenging films for the big screen, Garland is a bit worried about the film industry and the sweeping changes taking place under the surface that are “part cultural and part economic.”

“Any time an interesting movie comes out and it underperforms, I feel a kind of constant anxiety,” Garland said. “If the only movies that make money are for younger audiences, something cultural changes. Something changes about the kind of movies that are financed and why they are financed.”

“It almost feels old-fashioned or actually kind of boring, but I think there’s value in cinema,” he added. “A movie like ‘Men’ works differently in a theater. Not being able to stop it until it’s over means it has an equally different effect.”

Streaming companies, meanwhile, remain strong. Netflix has more than 35 movies coming out this summer, including the spy thriller “The Gray Man” (July 22), directed by the Russo brothers and starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, and “Spiderhead” (June 17). , with Chris Hemsworth. He also has a documentary on Jennifer Lopez, “Halftime” (June 14); a basketball movie with Adam Sandler, “Hustle” (June 8), and a buddy movie starring Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg, “Me Time” (Aug. 26).

Some of the hottest titles from this year’s Sundance Film Festival will premiere on streaming services, including “Good Luck To You, Leo Grande” on Hulu, “Cha Real Smooth” on Apple TV+, “Emergency” on Amazon and “AM I OK?” on HBO Max.

“Streaming has a place in the world, but it’s not the only thing in the world,” said Blum, who is convinced there is still an appetite to go to theaters. “There were people out there saying that the movies were over. I never thought that, although I was worried about how much demand was left. But it looks like that part of our world isn’t going away any time soon.”

For Bruckheimer, the equation is perhaps simpler.

“It all depends on the movies. It’s always about the movies. If there are things that people want to see, they will go,” she said. “I always use the analogy: you have a kitchen in your apartment or house, but you like to go out to eat. You want a different meal.”

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