There has perhaps never been a more important season for Hollywood, with cinemas reopening around the world and finally bringing the industry out of its pandemic-imposed hibernation for a summer of blockbusters.
Europe is open for business, along with the US and parts of the Gulf, including the UAE, with theatres luring in movie enthusiasts with promises of an action-packed adventure on the big screen. The season has already kicked off with promise, with ‘Fast and Furious 9’ zooming past the $250 million (Dh918.25 million) mark globally (not including the US) since its release in the UAE last month.
The film, starring Vin Diesel, John Cena and Michelle Rodriguez, surpassed the $203 million mark in China alone, while raking in $2.64 million in the UAE with its early release, according to Deadline Hollywood, making it the fourth highest-grossing film of 2021 and paying off a bet by Universal while paving the way for others to follow suit.
Paramount Pictures followed through with its release of John Krasinski’s ‘A Quiet Place II’, which has already earned $140.6 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo, with more territories to be added soon as the film releases in the UAE and other parts of the region on June 10.
Horror appears to be a popular genre, with ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ (already screening in the UAE) raking in $24 million in the US alone for Warner Bros over the weekend. This is a strong indicator for the business of cinemas considering the film is readily available on HBO Max at no extra cost to subscribers in the US.
Despite plenty of summer releases heading straight to streaming, with Warner Bros and Disney banking on that model in the US, the picture is slightly different with international releases. Tentpoles such as ‘Black Widow’ (July 9), ‘Jungle Cruise’ (July 30) and ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ (September 3) promise to set the cash registers ringing for Disney when the line-up heads for a cinematic release in international markets over the summer.
The superhero genre also has a contribution from DC, with ‘The Suicide Squad’ (August 6), almost starring half of Hollywood with names such as John Cena, Sylvester Stallone, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Idris Elba and Nathan Fillion attached to the Warner Bros project.
Other notable summer draws, promising plenty of popcorn fare, includes two Ryan Reynolds films, one being ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ (June 16), along with ‘Free Guy’ (August 13). Meanwhile, horror makes yet another case with ‘Candyman’ (August 25), starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo and Tony Todd, which is a follow-up to the 1992 scare fest.
Time will tell whether this summer holds promise for Hollywood. But to rephrase an adage: if you screen it, they will come. The pandemic may have laid waste to a year of summer blockbusters in 2020, but Hollywood is ready to strike back, armed with popcorn, nachos and Dolby Surround Sound. All it needs now is an audience.
Web keeps up the momentum with star-studded releases
Another COVID-19 summer is here and there’s more to look forward to than last year — especially in terms of streaming content.
Last year, production houses stalled major film projects due to the pandemic and the relative inexperience of dealing with such a situation. However, because streamers such as Netflix had been filming swathes of content prior to the pandemic, they were able to release a number of shows and movies and keep people hooked at a time when we all needed some form of distraction.
With people relegated to their homes and consuming online content like never before, there was even a worldwide bandwidth crisis!
A year on, things have picked up again — award shows are being held with celebrities taking to the red carpet once again, film and TV production is able to be conducted with precautions in place, new shows are being created and new seasons are being greenlit.
Since some countries still face restrictions — which impact cinema footfall — there are going to be movies releasing to streaming sites first and theatres later. This model was also followed last year in countries such as the US and India with movies such as ‘Mulan’ and ‘Coolie No 1’. However, UAE audiences can expect to catch all the biggest movies in theatres.
For those who prefer to watch from their couches, there is no shortage of shows and movies set to release online in the coming months. For example — Netflix has brand new content releasing almost every day in the month of June, which includes the Gina Rodriguez sci-fi movie ‘Awake’ (June 9), season two of the hit French drama ‘Lupin’ (June 11) and the South Indian drama starring Dhanush, ‘Jagame Thandhiram’ (June 18). Other much-awaited projects during the summer include Bollywood mystery ‘Haseen Dillruba’ (Netflix, July 2) and ‘Kissing Booth 3’ (Netflix, August 11).
In the past few years, streaming has given actors and producers a chance to bring to life freewheeling and creative ideas that might otherwise have never made it onto the big screen. This has meant that the traditional summer blockbuster doesn’t necessarily apply anymore. While the appetite for action, thrillers and big-budget entertainers still exists and needs to be satiated, there is also room for smaller, indie projects that don’t scream ‘summer’.
Can Bollywood mark a return to theatres this summer?
On the Hollywood front, it’s likely to be an eventful summer filled with blockbusters, but Bollywood has a more underwhelming story up its sleeve.
According to industry experts and top officials from major production houses in Bollywood, the summer of 2021 — usually reserved for big-ticket, star-led bonanzas — is going to be a bleak one. But the drought of cinematic releases will hopefully end by August if cinemas in India resume operations and the vaccination drive gains momentum, believe movie insiders.
Due to a savage second wave in India, cinema halls across Indian cities have shut down to stem the spread of the pandemic which meant that the big-budget, star-driven releases have been naturally stalled and put in the freezer.
“Given the current scenario it doesn’t look like cinemas across the country [India] will open before August. For any big film like our ‘Sooryavanshi’ and ‘83’ we will wait for cinemas to open across the country,” said Dhruv Sinha, Head of International Businesses, Reliance Entertainment.
Akshay Kumar’s cop drama ‘Sooryavanshi’, also starring Ajay Devgn, Ranveer Singh and Katrina Kaif, and Singh’s sporting biopic ‘’83’ were meant to be summer blockbusters.
But Sinha is pragmatic. He adds that his country — which consumes Bollywood films with great gusto — has faced ‘the most stressful 60 days’. “In its history, India has not faced this kind of unprecedented medical infrastructure challenge. This has put everything on hold … In the coming few months cinemas will open in phased manner in states where things are coming back to normal. Small to medium size films might release, but big ticket films will wait for cinemas to open across the country,” he added.
Another top Bollywood production house, Yash Raj Films, is relatively more optimistic. Their slate of star-fuelled projects are filled with bombastic Bollywood fare including ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’, ‘Shamshera’, ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’, and ‘Prithviraj’.
“As far as Indian content is concerned we should see a flow of films hopefully starting August with the vaccination drive in India starting to gather pace, We will definitely see movies releasing soon. As and when cinemas open in India, there are movies slated for release,” said Nelson D’Souza, Vice President – International Distribution, of Yash Raj Films.
UAE distributor Ahmed Golchin of Phars Films, which distributes a majority of Bollywood films in this region, is equally optimistic.
“On August 12, we have Mohanlal’s ‘Marakkar’ planned for release. It’s a very big film for South Indian movie fans and hopefully we will get the ball rolling with that one and begin rolling out other big films in cinemas too,” said Golchin.