Autumn preview: Is it, perhaps, a return to normality in the cinema?

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NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time in three years, the fall movie industrial complex is kicking back into gear. The festival’s red carpets are rolled out. The Oscar campaigns are ready. Long-awaited blockbusters like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Avatar: The Path of Water”, they are prepared for a big box office.

But after the tumult of the pandemic, can the fall movie season go back to the way it was before? Many hope that it can. After two spring editions, the Academy Awards have returned to a more traditional date of early March.. The Golden Globes, after almost cancellation, plan a comeback. Some movies also try to bring back a spirit of yesteryear. At the Toronto Film Festival in September, Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” has booked the same theater that “Knives Out” opened to a packed house almost exactly three years ago.

“It seems like yesterday,” Johnson says, laughing. “Okay, some things have happened.”

After a 2020 fall all but wiped out and a 2021 season hampered by the COVID-19 delta and omicron variants, this fall could, perhaps, be something more like the normal annual cultural renaissance that happens every fall, when most of the seasons arrive. best movies of the year

“I think we’re all trying to make it exist as at least a version of what we knew before,” says Johnson. “As with everything, you just have to jump in the pool and see what the water is like. I really hope that at least the illusion of normality is maintained. I guess that’s all that is normal.

But “Glass Onion,” with Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc in a new mystery, is also a reminder of how much has changed. After “Knives Out” was a box office hit for Lionsgate, grossing $311 million worldwide for Lionsgate, Netflix shelled out $450 million to grab the rights to two sequels. And while exhibitors and the streaming company discussed a larger theatrical release for “Glass Onion” (a surefire hit if it did), expect a more modest release in theaters before the film hits Netflix on December 23. .

The balance between film and broadcast remains unresolved. But after a summer box office revival and an evolving outlook for streaming by Wall StreetMoviegoing, with its billions in annual ticket sales and cultural footprint, looks pretty good. For the first time in years, going to the movies has a strong wind at its back. Or at least it did until an especially slow August ran out of steam. due in large part to a dearth of new broad releases.

“If you look at how many movies we had compared to the business we were doing, we were operating at 2019 levels,” says John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners. “We had 70% of the general release movie supply in the first seven months and did 71% of the business that we did in the same period in 2019. Moviegoers are back to pre-pandemic numbers, we just still need more movies.”

That will be less of an issue as the fall season ramps up. “Wakanda Forever” (Nov. 11) and “The Way of the Water” (Dec. 16) can compete with summer hit “Top Gun: Maverick” ($1.36 billion worldwide and counting) for best movie of the year Less clear, however, is whether the fall’s strong slate of films aimed at adults and Oscar contenders can boost movie attendance again. Last year’s winner for best film, “CODA,” of Apple TV +, ran the gauntlet of the prizes without a box office penny.

Among the most highly anticipated films hitting the fall festival circuit and theaters are Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical “The Fabelmans” (Nov. 23); “Blonde” (September 23), starring Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe; Todd Fields’ “TÁR” (October 7), with Cate Blanchett; Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light” (December 9); “The Son” (November 11), the follow-up to Florian Zeller’s “The Father”; Chinonye Chukwu’s Emmett Till saga “Till” (October 14); Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” (October 21); James Gray’s “Armageddon Time” (October 28); and the winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or “El Triángulo de la Tristeza” (October 7).

Superhero movies (“Black Adam,” Oct. 21, starring Dwayne Johnson), kids’ movies (“Lyle Lyle Crocodile,” Oct. 7), horror movies (“Halloween Ends,” Oct. 14) romantic comedies ( “Ticket to Paradise,” Oct. 21, with Julia Roberts and George Clooney) and more high-flying adventures (“Devotion,” Nov. 23) will also be mixed in, as will featured titles from streamers. These include ” Amazon’s My Policeman” (October 21), with Harry Styles; and Netflix premieres “Bardo” (in theaters November 4), by Alejandro González Iñárritu; “White Noise” (in theaters November 25) by Noah Baumbach and Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio” (available December 9).

But if much of the fall movie season is about restoring what’s been lost in recent years, for some upcoming movies, change is the point. “Woman King” (September 16), directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood and starring Viola Davis, is a fact-based muscle epic about an army of West African women warriors. For Prince-Blythewood, the filmmaker behind “Love & Basketball” and “The Old Guard,” “Woman King” represents “an opportunity to reframe what it means to be female and feminine.”

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a movie like this before. So much of our history has been hidden, ignored or erased,” says Blythewood. “’Braveheart,’ ‘Gladiator,’ ‘The Last of the Mohicans.’ I love those movies. Now here was our chance to tell our story in this genre.”

“Bros” (September 30) is also something different. The film, starring and co-written by “Billy on the Street” comedian Billy Eichner, is the first gay romantic comedy from a major studio (Universal). All of its main cast members are LGBTQ. Comedies have struggled in theaters in recent years, but “Bros,” produced by Judd Apatow, hopes a new perspective will enliven a familiar genre.

“It’s a historical film in many ways,” says Eichner. “That’s not something we thought about when we were first developing it. No one sits down and says, ‘We’re going to write a historical film.’ We said, ‘Let’s make a fun movie.’ It will make people laugh, but it’s unlike anything the vast majority of people have seen.”

“Bros” and “Woman King” are productions aimed at challenging the Hollywood status quo. That, too, is part of the nature of Ella She Said (Nov. 18), a dramatization of New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s investigation of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Sarah Polley’s “Talking Women” (December 2) also chronicles a real-life female uprising. It is based on events that occurred in 2009, when Bolivian Mennonite women gathered after being drugged and raped by men from their neighborhood.

Olivia Wilde’s controversial “Don’t Worry Darling,” starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles as a married couple living in a 1950s-style suburban male fantasy, tackles some similar themes through a sci-fi lens. .

“I want to do something that is really entertaining and fun and interesting, but is actually my way of sparking conversations about real issues like bodily autonomy,” says Wilde. “I didn’t know it would be as timely as it is now. Not in my wildest nightmares did I think Roe would have been shot down just before the release of this film.”

Other movie production timelines seem to exist almost apart from our earthly reality. James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of the Water” will be released 13 years after 2009’s “Avatar” (still the highest-grossing film in history), a sequel originally scheduled for release in 2014. Since then, many dates have gone and come. that the sequels (four films are now slated to be released in the next five years) have at times seemed like blockbuster Godots that could wait forever in the wings.

Speaking from New Zealand, where “The Way of the Water” was being mixed and scored, producer Jon Landau promised that the wait is, in fact, almost over.

“This is finally happening,” Landau said. “Those delays, what would you call them, were really about us creating a foundation for a movie series. It wasn’t about saying, ‘Let’s make a proper script.’ It was about: ‘Let’s get four scripts right.’”

Measuring change in the movie industry is even more difficult when it comes to the time between “Avatar” installments. When the first “Avatar” was in theaters, 3-D was heralded (again) as the future. Barack Obama was in the first year of his first term. Netflix rented DVDs by mail.

“A lot has changed, but a lot hasn’t,” says Landau. “One of the things that hasn’t changed is: Why do people turn to entertainment today? Just like they did when the first ‘Avatar’ was released, they do it to escape, to escape from the world we live in.”

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AP film writer Lindsey Bahr contributed.

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Follow AP film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP


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