Cast your mind back to March 2020 – a time of at-home workouts, Tiger King and banana bread. One of the big questions at this time, apart from ‘How long will this pandemic thing last?’, was ‘What does this mean for the cinema industry?’.
For years, streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and more had been making up ground on traditional Hollywood filmmakers and, with the pandemic forcing cinemas across the globe to shut their doors for a then-unknown period of time, many were expecting this may prove the final nail in the coffin of the old ways of the movie industry.
Fast-forward to the end of 2021 and the picture is less clear. We’ve seen a few movies try the ‘at-home premiere’ model, with mixed success. Whilst hybrid-release Black Widow was far from a flop – taking $371m worldwide – it performed below Marvel’s expectations (and involved Scarlett Johansson suing Disney over its distribution), whilst other at-home releases Mulan and Jungle Cruise hardly caused seismic shifts in box office takings.
Throughout the pandemic, industry commentators expected the much-delayed 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die, starring the supposedly-begrudging Daniel Craig in the tuxedo for his last 007 outing, to fail to lift film studio’s fortunes when it finally hit cinemas.
But expectations couldn’t be further from reality – as Bond bounced back into theatres this week to earn $119m across 54 markets, breaking box office records, and enjoying the widest release of any film in UK history, showing in 772 cinemas with over 9,000 shows per day.
But is this blockbuster Bond box office a flash in the suave, super-spy pan, or is it a signal that shows the start of a new golden period for cinema as it recovers from the pandemic? Personally, my money is on the latter, with an exciting few months of films – delayed and new – set to hit cinemas and offer something for everyone.
From sci-fi and fantasy epics including Dune (21st Oct), The Matrix Resurrections (22nd Dec) and Ghostbusters: Afterlife (18th Nov), to superhero flicks such as Spider-Man: No Way Home (17th Dec), Venom: Let There Be Carnage (15th Oct) and Marvel’s Eternals (5th Nov), even to blockbusters including Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story (10th Dec), Last Night In Soho (29th Oct) and The King’s Man (22nd Dec), there’s every reason to expect the cinema industry can go from strength to strength as 2021 ends.
So does this mean streaming services are still likely to kill off cinema? Based on the figures so far, the answer is a resounding “Not yet”.
There’s no doubt the likes of Netflix, Amazon, HBO Max and more are creating competition in the industry, producing quality content that is gaining critical and commercial success at pace, but perhaps these changes aren’t showing a fundamental shift in the world of film consumption just now, but rather an evolution to offer even more choice for consumers.
Whether you favour at-home cinema or in-person picture houses, there’s more to sink your teeth into than ever before. And personally, I’m all for it.
Bonus content: I know you didn’t ask, but here are my top films I’m most looking forward to in this upcoming period of motion pictures, and why I feel they’re worth a look…
Dune (21st Oct)
Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac and Jason Momoa in a big fantasy world that’s directed by the brilliant Denis Villeneuve (Bladerunner 2042, Sicario)? What’s not to like? Already got tickets to see it in IMAX.
Spider Man: No Way Home (17th Dec)
Tom Holland is easily the most entertaining Spider Man, and the franchise has never looked better since it came back into the Marvel fold. This film brings in Benedict Cumberbatch, classic villains (hello Dr Octopus) and – rumoured – Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Yes please.
West Side Story (10th Dec)
Who doesn’t love a film musical (apart from Cats)? After the success of Tom Hooper’s Les Mis, I’m all for a remake of the classic West Side Story, and expecting Spielberg to do a fantastic job. Also interested to see Ansel Elgort in his next biggest role after Baby Driver.
The Matrix Resurrections (22nd Dec)
The original Matrix is one of my favourite films of all time. I also enjoyed Reloaded, and didn’t hate Revolutions (don’t @ me). This new entry into the franchise looks like an exciting return to the universe, with a great new cast alongside old favourites (although no Laurence Fishburne, which is a shame). Bring it on.