Summer 2021 at the movies showing some signs of life

John Cairns

It’s May again, and that usually means one thing: it’s time for my annual summer box office prediction column!

Ha, ha, ha! Good luck with that. “The Roaring ‘20s” is still “not” — at least at the cineplexes.

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Obviously, I have no idea what to make of the summer movie season of 2021, which is why I am certainly not going to make a prediction on who the summer box office champion will be. It looks like another not-so-hot summer at the turnstiles, just like last year was, with many people either hitting the drive-ins or downloading at home due to continued issues with COVID-19.

Let’s simply say that “summer blockbuster season” is a little short of blockbusters this year. Nevertheless, it’s the most enticing lineup we have seen at the cinemas in a long, long time, with a number of new releases planned including established franchises. Here are some of the movies on the release schedule which stand out for me:

A Quiet Place Part II(May 28)

Luca(Pixar) (June 17)

Fast and Furious 9(June 25)

Black Widow(July 9)

Space Jam: A New Legacy(July 16)

Jungle Cruise(July 30)

The Suicide Squad(August 4)

Respect(August 13)

Candyman(August 27)

Whether all of these movies stay in their summer slots remains to be seen, and some are looking at digital releases. Already, we know that Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, previously scheduled for July, has been moved to Nov 19. Jackass 4, previously an early September release, now is set to roll out on Oct. 22. Again, check your local listings for the exact date and time in your area.

You want some good news? Here it is: this pandemic will be over soon. The vaccines continue to roll, and the only question really is when will we hit herd immunity and be back to normal. 

My guess, and the guess of a lot of people, is that we’ll be done with the pandemic this fall. From a box office standpoint, the closer to the fall, the better it is likely to be simply because more people will be vaccinated and more lockdowns will be lifted — and also because Hollywood has loaded the fall with blockbusters on the schedule.

I fully expect the year’s true blockbuster “hits” won’t happen until then. At that time, we will finally see the often-delayed release of the new James Bond flick No Time to Die on Oct. 8 and Spider-Man: No Way Home on Dec. 17. November and December flicks also include Clifford the Big Red Dog, Ghostbusters: Afterlife andThe Matrix 4.

I firmly believe the cinemas are going to do booming business, particularly in November and December. There is clearly a desire by the public for life to get back to normal and to return to the activities they loved to do, and that includes heading to the cinemas.

Forget about the bad TV ratings for the recent Oscars: that was due to a lousy show that honoured a bunch of movies that nobody watched. That isn’t a good barometer of what the real anticipation is like out there. For a better one, look at the business this spring for Godzilla vs. Kong — in the middle of a lockdown-filled pandemic no less.

This flick is easily the biggest hit of the pandemic so far. To this point, Godzilla vs. Kong has earned a domestic $90 million and a worldwide $415 million.

Given the state of the world, this is an impressive showing. It makes you also wonder how it could have fared if times had been normal. It could have made billions! But we will never know.

Other domestic box office results for 2021 according to Box Office Mojo: Tom and Jerry earned $37 million, Raya and the Last Dragon $29.7 million, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train earned $28.8 million and Mortal Combat $25.1 million. Of course, if this had been a “normal” year these kinds of numbers would be considered laughably bad. But with expectations as low as they are in this pandemic, these are considered “hits.”

I will end with this: it is nice to be able to turn on the TV and see promos for movies again. Whether it is for Godzilla vs. Kong, Fast and Furious 9, Raya and the Last Dragon or these other movies, just seeing these trailers really makes you feel like normal life is, at the very least, right around the corner. What a contrast to last summer, when all we could look forward to when the cinemas re-opened were re-releases from the 1980s. 2021 is already a better year at the movies.

That is all from me for the time being, and as much as you are going to get for a “summer blockbuster season” preview. Hang in there, folks; this pandemic will be over soon.

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