Movies love a comeback story; this summer, it’s their turn

The incredible line-up of movies releasing this summer includes Top Gun: Maverick and Thor: Love and Thunder

Photo: AP
Photo: AP


Published: Sat 7 May 2022, 12:21 PM

Hollywood is bringing out some of its biggest and most reliable players for the 2022 summer movie season, which unofficially kicked off this weekend with the help of Marvel and Disney’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and will run through the end of August. This summer at the movies, Tom Cruise is back in the cockpit behind those iconic aviators. Doctors Grant, Sattler and Ian Malcolm are returning for another round with the dinosaurs. Natalie Portman is picking up Thor’s hammer. And Jordan Peele is poised to terrify us with the unknown. Again.

Studios and exhibitors are still making up for losses incurred during the pandemic, adjusting to new ways of doing business, including shortened release windows, competition from streaming and the need to feed their own services, and wondering if movie-going will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.

Though the pandemic lingers on, there is optimism in the air.

“We’re still waiting for older audiences to come back,” said Jim Orr, the head of domestic distribution for Universal Pictures. “But it really feels like we’ve turned a corner.”

Last week, studio executives and movie stars schmoozed with theater owners and exhibitors at a convention in Las Vegas, hyping films that they promise will get audiences back to the movie theaters week after week.

Top of the list

Expectations are particularly high for Top Gun: Maverick, which Paramount Pictures will release after two years of pandemic postponements. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer says he never waivered in wanting to release Top Gun: Maverick — a full-throttle action film made with extensive aerial photography, practical effects — exclusively in theaters.

“It’s the kind of movie that embraces the experience of going to the theater,” said Bruckheimer.

Before the pandemic, the summer movie season could reliably produce over $4 billion in ticket sales, or about 40 per cent of the year’s grosses according to Comscore. In 2020, that total plummeted to $176 million. Last year recovered some with $1.7 billion, but things were hardly back to normal—many chose to either delay releases further or employ hybrid day-and-date strategies.

This summer, though some slates are slimmer than usual, everyone is refocusing on theatrical. The ticketing service Fandango surveyed more than 6,000 ticket-buyers recently and 83 per cent said they planned to see three or more movies on the big screen this summer. Netflix last month also reported its first subscriber loss in ten years and expects to lose two million more this quarter.

And it looks like the summer will start off with a bang: Analysts are predicting Doctor Strange 2 could open to $170 million, double that of the first film. Marvel and Disney then follow that with the new Thor, which picks up with Hemsworth’s character after Endgame and wondering “what now?”

“It’s a great, really fun, weird little group of heroes,” director Taika Waititi said. “And, in my humble opinion, we have probably the best villain that Marvel’s ever had in Christian Bale.”

Diverse list

But superhero movies alone don’t make for a healthy cinematic landscape. Universal is proud of their diverse summer slate that includes a certain dinosaur tentpole, family animation, thrillers and horrors, comedies and period charmers from Focus Features like Downton Abbey: A New Era and Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.

Beyond the franchises, there are a wide array of options: Dramas (Where the Crawdads Sing, Elvis); action pics (Bullet Train); romantic comedies (Shotgun Wedding); hair-raisers (Watcher, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Resurrection); and even a mockumentary about a tiny seashell, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On.

Annihilation writer-director Alex Garland also has an original thriller, Men, coming to theaters May 20. Jessie Buckley plays a woman who retreats to the English countryside for some peace following a personal tragedy only to be confronted by more horrors from the men in this quaint town.

Streaming companies, meanwhile, are still going strong. Netflix has a massive 35-plus film summer slate, including the spy thriller The Gray Man, directed by the Russo brothers and starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. Other streamers are releasing some of the most interesting titles from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, including Cha Cha Real Smooth (Apple TV+), Emergency (Amazon) and AM I OK? (HBO Max).

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