With cinemas re-opening, Andrew wonders if new releases like Peter Rabbit 2 and Fast And Furious 9 will reignite the cinema industry.

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, people are going to have more freedom to go to places like shops, restaurants, bars, and of course the cinema – which, out of the businesses that suffered due to the pandemic, seem to have been one of the worst-hit. There was some hope in August 2020 when restrictions were relaxed and cinemas were allowed to open again, but when it came to studio fare, what they were showing was mostly old films apart from a few new ones like Tenet, Bill And Ted Face The Music and The New Mutants.

Looking back, a lot of people hoped Tenet would be able to undo some of the damage done to cinemas, and while I think it possibly made a start, it wasn’t the success many were expecting. Most fingers pointed at an overcomplicated plot, but I don’t know what was expected given that Tenet is a Christopher Nolan film. He’s known for existing properties like The Dark Knight trilogy and Dunkirk, but when he makes something like Interstellar or Inception you can be excused for missing some important details that may require a second viewing.

Tenet can’t be called an outright success or failure, but it was far from being the film that would restore the cinema to pre-pandemic attendance levels. It didn’t help matters that the end of the year and the start of 2021 saw tougher restrictions re-imposed, of course.

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But that’s set to change soon with the lifting of restrictions again. Cinema chains have set a re-opening day for Monday 17 May. This time it seems that we may get more choice for new films to see; looking at the upcoming release schedule you’ll see there’s quite an impressive line-up, with a bunch of films that will be charged with expectations of starting to reinvigorate the box office.

Two of the first films set to come out following the reopening are Peter Rabbit 2 and Nomadland.

Peter Rabbit is a sequel, although not much about the first one seemed that impressive (apart from its box office take). Nomadland – this year’s Best Picture Oscar winner – is already available on Disney+, which is probably how most people will choose to watch it. More films are not far behind.

Let’s start at the Mouse House. It’s safe to say 2020 wasn’t kind to some of Disney’s big feature releases, with releases like Artemis Fowl and the reboot of Mulan getting their fair share of criticism. Pixar did fare well with the well-received Soul and Onward. But then again, luck appears to be something Pixar always has on its side.

Cruella is Disney’s next big release that will out in both cinemas as well as Disney+. It’s directed by Craig Gillespie who may be best known for helming I, Tonya but before that he also helmed 2016’s The Finest Hours. The odds of Cruella being a huge success are understandably hard to predict: Emma Stone is a well-regarded actor and Cruella de Vil is an iconic Disney villain but there are problems that could threaten the chances of success. Many people have had their idea of de Vil coloured by the well-remembered portrayal from Glenn Close in the 1996 live-action remake.

Another detail to consider is that the plot looks much the same as Maleficent, where an attempt is being made to portray a classic villain sympathetically. Some audiences may be a little tired of this device, especially when the sympathetic villain blockbuster was surprisingly well-received not thanks to Maleficent but to Joker. If people want more sympathetic villains, fair enough and maybe Cruella will give us that, but if the criticisms of Maleficent 2 are anything to go by, then maybe stories from a classic villain’s point of view are not Disney’s strength.

Then there’s the fact that it’s heading to Disney+ Premier Access at the same time. Will that have an impact?

Friday 9th July meanwhile brings us two significant films: Black Widow and Fast And Furious 9. They’re currently scheduled for release on the same day, and big things are expected from both.

Black Widow is the first big screen Marvel release in what feels like a very, very long time, and is going to Disney+ Premier Access on the same day. Again, will that hurt its cinema impact?

It may well be bulletproof there, given it’s part of a large cinematic universe that’s been going on for years and is showing no signs of slowing down. Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of Black Widow has been much praised and the supporting cast has promise, with Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour.

In the case of Fast & Furious, this franchise has been producing films since the start of the 2000s and has evolved from movies about street races with a strong emphasis on family to, well, globe-trotting action films with a strong emphasis on family. No Dwayne Johnson in this one, it’s worth noting, as he’s instead headlining Jungle Cruise for Disney later in the summer.  Still, there are few bigger standalone movie franchises on the planet than Fast & Furious, and write it off at your peril.

I can’t talk about films delayed by the pandemic without mentioning No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s fifth and last time portraying James Bond. It’d already had a bumpy journey, with Danny Boyle attached to the project as director at one point before walking away and being replaced by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Let’s hope those who have enjoyed Craig’s previous Bonds will flock to the cinema to see it on opening day – 30th September. It’s worth noting that No Time To Die also features Lashana Lynch, whose role – spoiler free – seems potentially fascinating.

Those aren’t the only big films coming out this year. A Quiet Place: Part II is coming out on 4th June and Halloween Kills lands on 15th October. There’s also Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and Spider-Man: No Way Home, both of which are scheduled for December. In fact, the schedules are awash with big movies this time around.

Assuming the easing of restrictions goes according to plan, it’s going to be a very interesting time to be a fan of cinemagoing. And for the films that are coming out soon, to paraphrase a great man, “I just want to tell you good luck, we’re all counting on you….”

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