It’s quite possible that the film industry as a whole is going to be a massive victim of the COVID lockdowns. Shutting down ANY industry for six months is enough to ruin most companies but movie theaters have been struggling for years now. AMC was threatening to file for bankruptcy earlier this summer (supposedly) and most every film studio is struggling to get new film productions off the ground with COVID restrictions. As it stands, the late August-Mid-September reopening of major movie chains has been a lukewarm success at best.
Summer 2020’s most anticipated film Tenet was released to modest profits for Warner Brothers. While the movie has made roughly $200 million in the United Kingdom, American box office numbers haven’t been released yet which would suggest that the domestic box office is in shambles. A nearly $280 million blockbuster earning less than $750 million in the box office is effectively a box office non-starter and that’s for a film with Christopher Nolan’s name on it. Other newer releases like Unhinged, A Personal History of David Copperfield, New Mutants, Sponge on the Run, Peninsula and Bill and Ted Face the Music have been lucky to cross the $1 million per week mark on a weekly basis.
Right now, a movie only seems to be responding well to Video-on-Demand releases like Trolls: World Tour, The Outpost, Capone, Mr. Jones, King of Staten Island and the subsequently released Bill and Ted Face the Music which all did modestly better than anything in theaters for the past few months. The results aren’t perfect however as the allegedly so-so earnings of Mulan‘s Disney+ exclusive release would suggest. The only films really controlling the cultural discourse at the moment are streaming exclusives like Hamilton, Palm Springs, An American Pickle, Da 5 Bloods and Vast of the Night. As a result of this, many major released including The King’s Man, Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984, Ghostbusters Afterlife, A Quiet Place Part II, Godzilla vs Kong, F9, Top Gun Maverick and The Eternals all got blasted out of their 2020 release dates into late December or sometime next year. Most of them have tentative release dates at best.
The delay has also put upcoming films in production into question. Ongoing major productions including Marvel’s Shang-Chi, Matt Reeve’s The Batman and many more all had to be postponed during the outbreak and have only recently STARTED getting productions rolling. Even if these films finish shooting, it’s questionable what the state of the film industry is going to look like in a year. If one or more major movie chains defaults and shuts down, mainstream audiences may just stop going to movies entirely and move the entire market online.
The result would be numerous studios dumping their expensive blockbusters online just to cut their losses and likely completely shifting their business strategies. One can imagine big-budget visionaries like Martin Scorsese, the Coen Brothers, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino aren’t going to fit into a new market entirely focused on low budget streaming films and prestige television dramas. As such, it’s going to be curious just HOW many of the upcoming films coming out are even going to be released or when. That said, whatever ends up happening to the film industry, there’s a lot of interesting stuff that’s currently in the pipeline.
The following films are some of my most anticipated major films releases, most of which SHOULD have released this year but many of which may not be released for a long time. Keep in mind, all of the release dates for these films are tentative at best given how unreliable the economy and the fickle viewing habits of the public are right now. Half of these may be released on VOD or delayed into 2022 for all we know. That said, they’re all exciting and worth keeping an eye on going into next year!
Writers Note: In the several days it took to write and edit this piece, No Time to Die, Dune, The Batman, most in-production DC projects and likely several other films had their released dates moved back yet months or upto a year in some cases. The situation around these film’s release dates is fluid and thus the labeled release dates below are tentative at best.
No Time To Die (Early 2021)
As I was writing this article, the film was announced to be delayed from November to early next year. Figures… That said, James Bond in the current regime under Sony has been a mixed bag. Then again, most Bond regimes have been mixed bags. Most Bond stars get one or two GREAT films and then a bunch of mediocre ones. This hasn’t been different with Daniel Craig as Casino Royale and Skyfall are both intensely excellent gems in an otherwise awful series of modern action films. No Time To Die has been contentious for years now as it’s gone through multiple creative teams, delays and political controversies. That said, the trailer offered some interesting stuff and I’m eager to see it despite the fact that my patience for this series has been seriously drained in the past decade.
Death on the Nile (Late 2020 – Hopefully)
I just found out during the time of writing that this film was delayed from it’s October release date and that honestly really bothers me. This was going to be the ONLY major film release between now and November and it’s been dropped already. That’s an enormous disappointment. I really loved Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and I’ve been excited for another Hercule Perot film, especially following the success of last year’s Knives Out. It’s likely to be just as sprawling and corny as it’s predecessor!
Dune (Late 2021)
The only major upcoming release that hasn’t had a date change in the past few months is Dune which likely will be changed too because Warner Brothers has too much riding on that film’s success and probably doesn’t want to release it the same time as their other upcoming film Wonder Woman 1984. That said, if the film does drop this year it’ll easily be my most anticipated major release! Dune the book is massive, complex and one of the most influential science fiction novels of all time. In the hands of a master like Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners), there’s little chance it won’t be one of the most excellent films of the year!
News of the World (Late 2020 – Hopefully)
Paul Greengrass is a bit of a mixed bag of a journeyman director. He’s made great films like Bourne Ultimatum, United 93 and Captain Phillips and crappy ones like Green Zone, 22 July and Jason Bourne. That said, I’m always interested to see what kinds of new projects he decides to pursue. His newest film, a western starring Tom Hanks, is due this holiday season and may be one of the more interesting minor films of the year! I don’t know what side of quality it will air on but the premise sounds fascinating! I always welcome new westerns in modern Hollywood regardless!
The Green Knight (No Release Date)
David Lowry’s trippy adaptation of the famous Welsh epic-poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has been one of the year’s genuine oddities. It was supposed to premiere at SXSW in March and then dropped off the face of the Earth entirely with an indeterminate release date. If you haven’t seen the trailer for this film, go check it out now! The movie looks creepy and intense like a grotesque oppressive middle ground between Mandy and It Comes At Night. It seems A24 is determined to sit on this one till a proper theatrical release can be secured but I wouldn’t be surprised if the pulled a Under the Silver Lake and dropped it unromantically on DVD without warning. Regardless, this is probably my most anticipated film of the year!
Minari (No Release Date)
The other big A24 release without a release date is the Korean-American drama Minari. The film documents as Christian family of Koreans immigrating to the American South where they struggle with being outsiders and fitting in to this new place that seems casually prejudiced against them. The trailer looks awesome but as the first announced Post-COVID A24 film it’s unclear when or if it’ll ever get to theaters given how timid the studios are right now. A24 films don’t tend to be blockbusters so they have good reason to be scared of loosing money if they can’t release their films in progressive inner-city arthouse theaters.
Without Remorse (Early 2021)
I really miss the days when Hollywood adapted Tom Clancy novels with some earnest respect and respect for authorial intent. Amazon’s Jack Ryan series has abandoned the politics of it’s character’s creator for cheap jabs at modern politics in America. Similarly, the colorblind casting of John Clark in two upcoming adaptations of his books suggests a weak attempt to “update” the material. That said, the upcoming adaptations of Without Remorse and Rainbow Six do excite me! While it remains to be seen just how the creative team from Sicario 2 is going to approach the source material, it’s nice that the books are finally being adapted for the first time since Sum of All Fears completely botched the Jack Ryan books. Now they should do Red Storm Rising since the Russians are bad guys again!
Last Night in Soho (Early 2021)
Edgar Wright’s post-Cornetto trilogy trajectory has been somewhat meandering. After walking away from Ant-Man, he turned around and directed Baby Driver which became one of his most popular films to date. Still, it’s unclear exactly what his career is going to look like without a regular stable of frequent collaborators working with him. So far, he’s mostly fixated on homage. Baby Driver was a homage to the films of Walter Hill and his newest project was pitched as an homage to Roman Polanski’s psychological thriller Repulsion. I have no idea where he’s planning to take this but I am fascinated!
Army of the Dead (Mid-2021)
2021 is going to be a massive year for director Zack Snyder! His most notable project of the year is going to be the infamous Snyder-Cut of Justice League which is going to be released on HBO Max as a mini-series. Before that though, he has a smaller project that he worked on in the immediate aftermath of the events of 2017 that forced him to back away from production on the film. Army of the Dead is his first zombie movie since Snyder infamously remade Dawn of the Dead with a script from James Gunn. It’s not based on any source material so it’s anyone’s guess how it’ll turn out (Sucker Punch was his last original movie that didn’t draw from any source material…). That said, this is a Netflix film so i’m interested to see what he’s come up with! If both projects turn out well, who knows what that will mean for Snyder. Maybe he’ll be allowed to finally direct an adaptation of The Fountainhead like he’s wanted or maybe HBO will greenlight a second Justice League miniseries. Time will tell!
Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (Summer 2021)
“Based on a true story” is the greatest lie of modern horror films. Whenever a film has those words attached to it, you can almost be certain it’s a Fargo level falsehood designed just to screw with the audiences. The stories are, at best, exaggerations or outright lies. That said, James Wan’s franchise about the late paranormal investigators Ed and Loraine Warren has been a fascinating one. The controversial reputations of these two have been called into question numerous times by skeptics but their lives and stories make great fodder for horror movies! The third film in the franchise seeks to be an explanations of one of the darkest supposed cases in their career and it has the potential to be a great film like it’s predecessors!
The Suicide Squad (Summer 2021)
Following his termination from Disney Studios back in August of 2018, James Gunn was immediately picked up by Warner Brothers and allowed to reinvent one of their most struggling franchises before being allowed to return to Marvel for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3! The Suicide Squad is a sequel to the 2016 flop of the same name but also functions as a direct sequel that brings back Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn for a third movie. The cast for this movie is enormous and given his ability to write for the two Guardians movies, there’s reason to believe this will be the best DC film since Joker!
Halloween Kills (Late 2021)
Blumhouse’s sequel to John Carpenter’s original Halloween film was a strange film. It tried soooooo hard to lift the plot of Terminator 2 into the single most disabused horror franchise in existence and it mostly succeeded but left a lot of fans feeling cold. The two upcoming direct sequels sound fascinating but I have no idea where they’re going after the insane final act of the 2018 film. This could mean anything from Halloween 2 to Halloween Resurrection in terms of quality!
The Last Duel (Late 2021)
Ridley Scott has reached THAT age when there is a sincere possibility that every film he directs may be his last. As such, there’s an urgency to every project he takes on. You really want to know WHY this story is so important for him to tell at this point. At the moment, he’s signed on to direct multiple films including an adaptation of Wraiths of the Broken Land, a film about the Battle of Britain, a film adaptation of The Merlin Saga for Disney, an adaptation of the graphic novel Queen and Country and a film about the assassination of Maurizio Gucci. He’s even floated the idea of directing a third Blade Runner film and a sequel to Alien Covenant. His first upcoming film since All The Money in the World (2017) is a medieval combat movie starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Adam Driver. Given his penchant for sand-and-sandles films like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, this is a fascinating choice for a project but it remains to be seen what kind of story it is.
West Side Story (Late 2021)
Spielberg is another director whose age makes his films seem more precious and urgent. His career path though has been radically different than most directors as his interesting in blockbusters has fallen by the wayside for slow paced and socially conscious dramas like Munich, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies and The Post. It’s for this reason that his upcoming adaptation of Hollywood’s most famous musical West Side Story has confused me. Clearly he’s fascinated in the idea of taking a crack at one of the great classic Hollywood films but it’s such a massive undertaking that it’s been three years in the making and pushed aside some of his smaller more interesting projects for the time being.
The Card Counter (Late 2021)
Paul Schrader came into my attention in a big way in 2018 with his critically acclaimed drama First Reformed. Suddenly he was propelled onto the international film stage! Since then, he’s sold multiple scripts that are going to be shot and released in 2021 including Nine Men From Now and The Jesuit. His most exciting film though his The Card Counter starring Oscar Isaac. Martin Scorsese was initially attached to the project upon announcement in February but he may or may not be director or producing the film at this stage for whatever reason.
Killers From the Flower Moon (Late 2021)
Scorsese caught himself in a bit of a controversy earlier this year when he approached Paramount Pictures and AppleTV with a proposed budget for his upcoming film of $200 million. That’s roughly the same budget he had for The Irishman and that film needed years of CGI work to de-age Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. It’s hard to imagine why he needs that much money to shoot a film about an FBI investigation in the countryside (besides the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t come cheap nowadays). That said, a new Scorsese film is always something to celebrate! His last three films Wolf of Wall Street, Silence and The Irishmen are among the best of his entire career and there’s reason to believe he’ll keep it up going into the final years of his career!
The Matrix 4 (Late 2021)
The Wachowski’s have had a long path to success and dives of failure since their masterpiece premiered in 1999. They made two poorly received Matrix sequels, an adaptation of Speed Racer, an adaptation of Cloud Atlas, a series for Netflix called Sense8 and the highly ambitious box office non-starter Jupiter Ascending. Both brothers also came out as transgender and transitioned into the Wachowski Sisters and watched as their idea of “the Red Pill” became a rallying cry for political opinions they hated. As such, they’re taking a lot of cultural and qualitative baggage into a fourth Matrix film. That said, this was the only film in production right now to have it’s release bumped up several months into next December. Maybe the studio has some faith in this film!
The Batman (2022)
It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten a good Batman movie (besides LEGO Batman). Whatever you think of The Dark Knight Rises or Batman vs. Superman, the franchise has needed a back-to-basics reset for the better part of a decade. Following Ben Affleck’s departure, Matt Reeves has done an admirable job picking up the pieces and finding new ways to explore the character we haven’t seen on screen before.
Passion of the Christ 2: Resurrection (2022)
Mel Gibson’s Hollywood comeback has been impressive! Hacksaw Ridge was one of the best original films of the decade and his recent performance in Dragged Across Concrete was spectacular. While some of his work-for-hire performances of late have been fairly forgettable, he’s established himself as someone who can produce quality work when he’s passionate about it. As such, his late sequel to Passion of the Christ is one of the most interesting things he’s decided to do since his revival. The film has gone through numerous stages of screenwriting in the past three years but seems to follow Christ’s death, descent into Hell, resurrection and subsequent ministry prior to rising to Heaven. I don’t know if it’ll actually be a good film or not but it’ll certainly be worth watching!
The Lord of the Rings – Amazon Prime Series (Mid-2021)
Okay so this isn’t a movie… That said, it’s one of the most exciting things coming out next year! As a burgeoning Tolkien fanboy, I’ve wanted a series or film based on The Silmarillion for years! Amazon Prime’s ultra-high budget fantasy series is the closest we’ve come so far to achieving that! Following the plot of Akallebeth (the story of the fall of Numenor), the series’ plot has been somewhat vague. That said, there’s ALOT of story to be told in the Second Age of Middle Earth from Sauron’s tempting of humanity to the destruction of mankind’s greatest civilization at the hands of Illuvatar. I’m hoping the series bookends the story with the War of Wrath and the War for the Rings so that we can start with the death of Morgoth and end at the prologue to Lord of the Rings!
What are your most anticipated movies to see in theaters? Do you feel comfortable yet returning to theaters for major films like Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 or if not when will you feel comfortable in theaters again? Comment below and let us know!