An autumn movie season (like everything else) in flux

NEW YORK (AP) – Filmmaker Cary Fukunaga has been waiting more than a year and a half for the biggest movie of his career, the James Bond film “No Time to Die,” to hit theaters. It has been a strange and surreal wait. Months before the much-delayed film even comes out on October 8, the film’s theme song, by Billie Eilish, has already won a Grammy.

“I had a dream last night where Sam Mendes was there,” Fukunaga said in a recent interview, referring to the director of the two previous Bond films. “We were on holiday on a frozen lake. He was done with Bond movies. And he was like, ‘Oh, you’re done with one. Now you get a break. ‘Then we started as water skiing on a frozen lake. ”

“It was a strange dream,” says Fukunaga.

The autumn film season – usually a reliable rhythm and cozy autumn comfort – is this year, like much of the last 18 months, a bit disorienting. Along the way, films are once scheduled to open all the way back in April 2020, such as “No Time to Die,” summer films hoping to find better conditions this fall, and films that have been filmed and edited during the pandemic.

What has united is a film mishap – something much more robust than last fall’s cobbled, mostly virtual autumn film season – a season that stretched all the way to the Oscars in April. But the recent rise in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant has added new uncertainty to a time Hollywood once had hoped would return to normalcy.

“Everything is fluid, and everything will remain fluid,” said Tom Rothman, President and CEO of Sony Pictures. “It simply came to our notice then. In the old days you planted your flag and you did not move for hell or high water. Now there is a great reward for being very flexible and agile. ”

The unpredictability of the terms is universally shared, but is felt acutely in studies such as Sony that even through the pandemic has largely committed to exclusive theatrical releases. While Disney (with Disney +) and Warner Bros. (with HBO Max) have tried to uncover their games and boost subscribers to their streaming services with day-to-day releases in 2021, Sony, Universal, Paramount and MGM (home of Bond) – with different window strategies – have mostly held to theater -first plans.

In all the movies coming this fall – among them “The Last Duel” (October 15), “Dune” (October 22), “Eternals” (Nov. 5), “House of Gucci” (24. nov.) – nothing can be quite as tense as the ever-unfolding drama around old-fashioned, ass-in-the-seats going into movies. Referring to the delta-driven rise, Paramount has moved up from the season and started “Top Gun: Maverick” for next year. But on the heels of some promising ticket performances, many of this autumn’s best films and leading Oscar-hopers are doubling down only on theatrical and the cultural effect that comes with it. Although it’s a game.

“We have a lot of stock. You will not keep pushing for all the movies, ”says Rothman. “At a certain point, you have to go.”

After building confidence in going to the movies over the summer, Delta has taken some of Hollywood’s momentum. The National Research Group had recorded that more than 80% of moviegoers were safe going to cinemas in July. But that number dropped to 67% last month.

Still, this summer’s final big movie, Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” gave a big boost with an estimated $ 90 million in ticket sales over the four-day Labor Day weekend — one of the best performances and pandemic. In particular, it only played in theaters.

Even before all the tracks were in, Rothman and Sony moved up with the release of “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” the sequel to their $ 856 million superhero hit, by two weeks until October 1st. It launches Sony’s Slate including Jason Reitman’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (November 19), Denzel Washington’s “A Journal for Jordan” (December 10) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Dec. 17).

No studio is betting as much on theaters this fall as Sony. The studio lacks a major streaming platform, but has signed lucrative pacts with Netflix and Disney to stream movies after theatrical release. Discusses the disappointing results of day-and-date movies like Warner Bros. ” The Suicide Squad ‘versus a theater-first hit like Disney’s’ Free Guy,’ “Rothman recently told the explanation:” It’s the window, stupid. “

“There is no economic model for – regardless of making money – breaking right on the assets themselves without a window universe. It does not exist, ”says Rothman.

That debate – which films will open where and when – will certainly remain unresolved in the coming months and probably far beyond. Warner Bros. has promised to return to exclusive theater releases for 45 days next year. But a little bit in the fall – including the movie calendar – is a sure thing.

“Until the pandemic is really behind us, I don’t think you can predict what the future of cinema will be,” Rothman says. “It’s still an emergency right now.”

So Hollywood’s summer in limbo will extend into the fall. But more than any previous point in the pandemic, there are a lot of movies lined up. The Venice and Telluride Film Festivals have kicked off a host of upcoming films, including Jane Campion’s acclaimed Netflix drama “The Power of the Dog” (November 17), starring Benedict Cumberbatch. The Oscar race could also have a big star power. Among the early standouts: Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in “Spencer” (November 5) and Will Smith as Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, in “King Richard” (November 19).

In “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”, Jessica Chastain transforms into the infamous compulsive artist. Searchlight Pictures releases on September 17 in theaters.

“We like the shared experience, especially after a year and a half of being hungry for it. This does not mean that streaming disappears. It’s here to stay, ”says Chastain, who also stars in the HBO miniseries” Scenes from a Marriage. ” “In my mind, I just see the industry as expanding.”

How many films have been released during the pandemic is often underestimated. But even with a few high-profile departures, the upcoming season is crowded. Apple has Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” with Denzel Washington. Amazon has the musical adaptation “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” (September 17). New films are in print from world-class filmmakers such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Guillermo del Toro (“Nightmare Alley”, December 3), Pedro Almodóvar (“Parallel Mothers”, December 24), Asghar Farhadi (“A Hero”, 7 January) and Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”, November 24).

There’s also a party of documents, including Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s Julia Child portrait “Julia” (not yet dated); Liz Garbus’ “Becoming Cousteau” (October 22); Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s “The Rescue” (October), about the Thai cave rescue in 2018; and fittingly a portrait of one of the pandemic’s most ubiquitous faces, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, in John Hoffman and Janet Tobias’ “Fauci” (September 10).

Netflix is ​​releasing three dozen movies between now and Christmas – including Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut “The Lost Daughter” (December 17); the western “The Harder They Fall” (Nov. 3), starring Jonathan Majors and Idris Elba; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut “Tick, Tick… ​​Boom!”; and Antoine Fuqua’s “The Guilty” (September 24), a single-setting crime story starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a degraded police officer taking 911 calls.

Just before production began earlier this year, Fuqua came into close contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus. To keep his distance from his cast and crew, he directed the film from a van parked outside the set.

“It’s a strange world we are in at the moment, and it’s wearing us all out a lot,” Fuqua says. “But I try to be positive. That’s why ‘The Guilty One’ happened. I believe there is a responsibility for all of us to move forward, not fall into the situation we are in and find new ways to do it. ”

Hopefully the long delay of a series of films that have been waiting in the wings for more than a year – including Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” (December 10), Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” (October 22) and, yes, “No Time to Die” – is soon over.

“What I did not get on this one is the satisfaction of someone else watching the film and saying ‘I hated it’ or ‘I like it’,” says Fukunaga. “It’s the part you’re waiting for. Some people will like it. Some people will not like it. But you will still hear it. Even if you do not want to hear it, you want to hear it. ”

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