LOS ANGELES — In the heart of Hollywood, it seemed unthinkable that we could live without being able to see a movie in an actual theater. Yet that’s where we are, exactly a year after California banned mass gatherings of 250 people or more and social gatherings with over 10 people, shuttering movie theaters.
Now, with the L.A. County Department of Public Health on the cusp of allowing theaters to reopen as early as Monday, it’s difficult to even know what we can expect to see on the big screen. The ritual of scanning movie reviews to determine what to go see that weekend is largely gone, replaced by suggestions from our favorite streaming services.
“There will be several films available,” said Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners, adding that “anything that is in the market now, as well as many films that have played in other markets but not here” are likely to be screened.
If the options playing in other markets with recently reopened movie theaters are a guide, film lovers can expect to see “Tom & Jerry: The Movie,” “The Mauritanian,” “News of the World,” “Minari,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Land,” “The Little Things,” “The Marksman,” “The Croods: A New Age,” and “Promising Young Woman.” That’s the lineup at Cinemark theaters, which reopened in the Bay Area late last month.
In New York City, where theaters were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity March 5, the IFC Center is playing “Ammonite” with Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, the comedic thriller “Kajillionaire” with Miranda July, and “Sound of Metal” starring Riz Ahmed as part of a series called “What Did We Miss.” The Village East Theatre is currently playing “Tenet,” “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry,” “Land,” “The Mauritanian,” and “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
“It will take a week or two for theaters to get up and running, so movies that are opening later in March, those are the ones that people will go to see,” said Claudia Puig, president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
The films that are set to open right as theaters are reopening in L.A. include several titles scheduled for release March 19, including the Johnny Depp crime drama about the murders of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, “City of Lies;” the Jeremy Piven comedy, “Last Call;” and the Benedict Cumberbatch thriller, “The Courier.” One week later, March 26, Universal Pictures will release the Bob Odenkirk action film, “Nobody” (March 26).
May is when we’ll start to see blockbusters start to arrive on the big screen, Puig said, including the Scarlett Johansson Marvel spinoff, “Black Widow” (May 7); the live action comedy, “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” (May 14); and the horror follow-up, “A Quiet Place Part II” (May 28).
When movie theaters reopen in L.A. next week, they will only be allowed to operate at “25% capacity with reserved seating only where each group is seated with at least six feet of distance in all directions between any other groups,” according to an advisory from the L.A. County Department of Public Health released Thursday. So it’s just as well the pickings are slim.
“It’s still a small percentage of people who are vaccinated, and they tend to be older or health workers, so they’re not necessarily the people who flock to blockbusters,” Puig said. “They’re the ones who go to Laemmle.”
Laemmle’s seven theaters aren’t likely to reopen for at least another month, according to Laemmle Theatres president Greg Laemmle. But when they do, they’re likely to screen “Nomadland,” “Minari,” and many of the films that will be nominated for the 2021 Academy Awards best foreign language film.
Their locations in Hollywood and Claremont are also likely to screen some of the summer’s most highly anticipated films, many of which won’t come to the big screen until summer.
The Lin Manuel Miranda musical “In the Heights” won’t be out until June 18, followed by several huge blockbusters that were moved off last year’s docket, including the latest installment of the Fast and Furious franchise, “F9,” out June 25. The new James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” won’t screen until October 8.
But those dates could change.
“A lot of things will start shifting now that we’re seeing the opening of theaters,” Puig said. “If Biden’s plan to get everybody who wants a vaccine vaccinated by the end of May, things could really be taking off by late May or early June. But these next few weeks we’ll be seeing how it all shakes out.”