After a year of hell for movie theaters, what does 2021 hold? Bill explores challenges and what’s (hopefully) coming

Motion picture theaters need help from the general public to keep their doors open after theater ticket sales dropped nationwide a whopping 80 percent in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.

This is the closest Lubbock has come to losing its entire movie theater business. This movie fanatic might still be weeping had that occurred.

For now, officials at Cinemark’s home office continue keeping very close tabs on box office revenue before deciding when – or indeed whether – to reopen the company’s  Movies 16 in Lubbock.

That’s just a first step. Alamo Drafthouse no doubt hopes to re-open its once extremely lucrative Lubbock market, as well.

The Premiere Cinemas & Imax continue to operate its 16 total screens. Add Cinemark’s Tinseltown and Lubbock is assured of 33 first-run screens, more than many markets Lubbock’s size. Add to that first-run digital capabilities at three beautiful screens at the Stars & Stripes where some moviegoers felt safer during the pandemic’s long summer season.

In late December, Cinemark executives were hoping to see improvements that would allow them to reopen the 16 by late January or early February.

Cinemark executives were hoping to see improvements that would allow them to reopen the 16 by late January or early February.

On the other hand, whenever The Boy (grandson Gage Gregory) and I mask up and do attend a local theater, we rarely have seen more than a dozen other movie fans in our auditorium.

Too many Christmas attractions did not open.

As we all read about high Covid numbers in Lubbock continuing, there’s also hope the vaccine roll out will allow us to return to normal – including movie theaters.

Theater sources indicated last month that bigger turnouts in 2020 often involved private screenings where an entire auditorium was rented out to masked friends and family members. However, studios that forced theaters to rely on older, classic movies in 2020 now plan to release new films, both large and small, throughout 2021.

Movie fans must be eager to see new product.

Keep in mind that practically every highly regarded movie was denied to local theaters throughout 2020 due to pandemic fears. Even right at the very end of 2020, planned major holiday releases were being scratched.

One of the biggest was “The Father,” which was taken away from theaters only two days before its planned opening date near Christmas.

Universal Pictures kept its commitment to open wonderful Oscar contender “News of the World” in theaters on Christmas Day. But Lionsgate Studio removed “The Father” with almost no warning.

“The Father,” starring Anthony Hopkins, became virtually a last-minute casualty, leaving theater bookers scrambling to fill screens.

‘The Father,’ starring Anthony Hopkins, became virtually a last-minute casualty, leaving theater bookers scrambling to fill screens.

Hopkins is one of my favorite actors, so I was disappointed. He became more famous in 1991, when he earned an Academy Award as Best Actor in a Leading Role for “The Silence of the Lambs.” The actor made serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter an iconic, frightening force.

My personal favorite performance by Hopkins arrived two years later with “The Remains of the Day.”

“The Father” was among last year’s highly anticipated films slated to open in theaters. It was co-written and directed by Florian Zeller, and is based on Zeller’s award-winning play of the same name.

Co-starring in “The Father” is Olivia Colman, Best Actress in a Leading Role in 2018 for her stunning comedic work in “The Favourite.”

Hopkins, who celebrated his 83rd birthday on Dec. 31, stars as a fictional character dealing with rapidly oncoming dementia.

Zimmer decided to rename the leading character for the movie, changing his name from Andre to “Anthony.” The story’s “Anthony” is all the more confused because he retains the vim and vigor of a far younger man.

“Anthony” refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. A brief plot summary states: “As he tries to make sense of changing circumstances, Anthony begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and the fabric of his reality.”

More, the play-turned-film also investigates what it is like to love someone with dementia and what it is like to live with a loved one who nears dementia.

Lionsgate Films pushed the film’s theatrical debut forward to Feb. 26.

Other expected 2020 Christmas holiday releases whose opening dates were moved into well into 2021 included director Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” (now opening Oct. 1) and Steven Spielberg’s musical remake of “West Side Story” (now opening Dec. 10).

Major changes included Warner Bros. Studio’s late announcement that it will bypass theaters throughout the year 2021, with each Warner Bros release instead streaming on the studio-owned television network HBO-Max.

Streaming services are another challenge for movie theaters.

Streaming services are another challenge for movie theaters.

Studio reps hope that HBO-Max can one day pass the number of subscribers enjoyed by Disney+ because of its bigger films.

In early December, HBO-Max reported online that its subscriber base had reached 12.6 million viewers. HBO-Max launched on May 27, priced at $14.99 per month.

Meanwhile, website Deadline.com reported Oct. 10 that the Disney+ streaming channel had reached “dozens more global territories.” Its subscriber base at the time exceeded 86.8 million viewers.

Disney+ launched Nov. 12, 2019 and has kept its monthly rate low, at just $6.99.

Disney also decided in July 2020 to push back future “Avatar” and “Star Wars” trilogies. Disney will release the next three “Avatar” sequels and the next three “Star Wars” sequels in alternating years, beginning with “Avatar II” in 2022 and the next “Star Wars” in 2023, etc.

That said, Hollywood plans to stay busy releasing new movies.

“With an ungodly amount of comic book movies from Marvel and DC alike, to the new Fast & The Furious movie, their next calendar year is jam-packed with some of the most anticipated releases ever announced. That is due in part to the fact that many of these films originally were scheduled for release sooner. Some should have been out months ago,” said Website collider.com.

“The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic led to a great deal of rescheduling and reevaluating primary methods of distribution, with some studios taking the straight-to-streaming route. The ones who chose to uphold the tradition of going to the theater often pushed it right into the 2021 calendar, which is why many films will be recognized as titles you had hoped to see in 2020. From “Eternals” to “Black Adam,” or from “Spiral” to “Halloween Kills,” you can now see new dates for movies.”

Hollywood movie producer Jason Blum recently told the New York Times the coronavirus has “shaken the movie business to its bones.”

But I liked some of the other comments he made.

There is no guarantee when Covid will disappear, but Blum is excited about the industry’s post-Covid chances. Blum said, “I don’t think movie theaters are going anywhere.”

They certainly won’t be closing.

Blum feels people will run back to theaters wen it’s safer.

Blum feels people will run back to theaters when it’s safer, and he will be at the front of the lines. Movie fans will have more to choose from – because studios must release all of the pictures which had both 2020 and 2021 release dates.

But because more movies will open each weekend, they just will not stick around as long.

And the bigger movies (like “Avengers” in the past) no longer can fill six or seven screens. Fans will need to rush for their tickets earlier, because theaters need to show more films – at least this year.

Blum also does not believe theaters can compete with streaming. Aside from Netflix, streaming channels cannot afford to make a $150 million movie and deny it to theaters.

He told the Times, “Tent pole movies must play in theaters. You cannot make them worth the investment if you book them only straight to streaming.”

Meanwhile, here’s what – I hope – is coming to theaters near us soon. (Not all films presently are booked in Lubbock on these dates.)

They include:

JANUARY

8, “The Devil’s Light,” with Virginia Madsen and Ben Cross. Rating TBD (to be determined).
15, “One Night in Miami,” Amazon Prime Release, with Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr. Rated R.
15, “Peter Rabbit 2, The Runaway,” with James Corden and Margot Robbie. Rated PG.
15, “Respect,” with Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker. Rating TBD.
22, “Nine Days,” with Bill Skarsgard and Zazie Beetz. Rated R.
29, “The Little Things,” with Denzel Washington and Jared Leto. Rated R.
29, “Rumble,” with Will Arnett and Terry Crews. Rating TBD.

FEBRUARY

5, “Cinderella,” with Camila Cabello and Billy Porter. Rating TBD.
12, “Judas and the Black Messiah,” with Lakeith Stanfield and Jesse Plemons. Rating TBD.
12, “Marry Me,” with Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson. Rated PG-13.
12, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” with Andra Day and Trevante Rhodes. Rating TBD.
12, “What About Love,” with Andy Garcia and Sharon Stone. Rating TBD.
19, “Nobody,” with Bob Odenkirk and Connie Nielsen. Rating TBD.
19, “Nomadland,” with Frances McDormand. Rated R.
26, “The Father,” with Anthony Hopkins. Rated PG-13.
26, “Tom and Jerry,” with Chloe Grace Moretz and Michael Pena. Rating TBD.
26, Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse,” Amazon Prime Release with Jamie Bell and Michael B. Jordan. Rating TBD.

MARCH

5, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” with Paul Rudd and Bill Murray. Rating TBD.
5, “Coming 2 America,” Amazon Prime Release with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. Rating TBD.
5, “Raya and the Last Dragon,” with Awkwafina and Cassie Steele. Rating TBD.
12, “The King’s Man,” with Ralph Fiennes and Gemma Arterton. Rated R.
12, “The Many Saints of Newark,” with Jon Bernthal and Vera Farmiga.
19. “Morbius,” with Jared Leto and Adria Arjona. Rating TBD.
19. “Tomb Raider 2,” with Alicia Vikander and Kristin Scott Thomas. Rating TBD.
19, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” with Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal. Rating TBD.
26, “The Boss Baby 2,” with Alec Baldwin and John Flanagan. Rating TBD.

APRIL

2, “F9 (Fast and Furious 9,” with Vin Diesel and John Cena. Rated TBD.
2, “Fatherhood,” with Paul Alexander Desire and Rodney Alexandre. Rating TBD.
2, “No Time To Die,” with Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas. Rated PG-13.
9, “Bob’s Burgers: The Movie,” with H. Jon Benjamin and John Roberts. Rating TBD.
16, “BIOS,” with Tom Hanks and Caleb Landry Jones. Rating TBD.
16, “Mortal Kombat,” with Jessica McNamee and Hiroyuki Sanada. Rating TBD.
23, “A Quiet Place, Part II,” with Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds. Rated PG-13.
23, “The Asset,” with Michael Keaton and Samuel L Jackson. Rating TBD.
23, “Monster Hunter,” with Milla Jovovich and Ron Perlman. Rated PG-13 .
23, “Last Night in Soho,” with Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie. Rating TBD.
23, “Ron’s Gone Wrong.” Rating TBD.

MAY

7, “Black Widow,” with Scarlett Johansson (above) and Florence Pugh. Rating TBD.
14, “Spirit Riding Free.” Rating TBD.
21, “Free Guy,” with Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi. Rating TBD.
21, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” with Millie Bobby Brown and Eiza Gonzalez. Rated R.
21, “Spiral,” with Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. Rated PG-13.
28, “Cruella,” with Emma Stone and Mark Strong. Rating TBD.
28, “Infinite,” with Dylan O’Brien and Mark Wahlberg. Rating TBD.

JUNE

4, “The Conjuring, The Devil Made Me Do It,” with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. Rating TBD.
4, “Micronauts.” Rating TBD.
4, “Samaritan,” with Sylvester Stallone and Martin Starr. Rating TBD.
4, “Vivo,” with Pamela Morales. Rating TBD.
18, “Luca,” with John Ratzenberger. Rating TBD.
18, “In the Heights,:” with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Anthony Ramos.
25, Venom, Let There Be Carnage,” with Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson. Rating TBD.

JULY

2, “Top Gun: Maverick,” with Tom Cruise and Miles Teller. Rating TBD.
2, Minions: The Rise of Gru,” with Steve Carell and Lucy Lawless. Rating TBD.
9, “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” with Simu Liu and Awkwafina. Rating TBD.
9, “The Forever Purge,” with Ana de la Reguera and Leven Ramblin. Rating TBD.
16, “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” with Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. Rating TBD.
16, “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” with Lebron James and Don Cheadle. Rating TBD.
16, “Uncharted,” with Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. Rating TBD.
23, “The Tomorrow War,” with Betty Gilpin and Chris Pratt. Rating TBD.
23, “Old,” with Abbey Lee and Thomas McKenzie. Rating TBD.
30, “The Green Knight,” with Dev Patel and Alicia Vikander. Rating TBD.
30, “Jungle Cruise,” with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. Rating TBD.

AUGUST

6, “The Suicide Squad,” with Margot Robbie and Viola Davis.
6, “Hotel Transylvania 4,” with Adam Sandler and Selena Gomez. Rating TBD.
13, “Deep Water,” with Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck. Rating TBD.
20, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” with Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. Rating TBD.
20, “Paw Patrol: The Movie,” with Lilly Bartlam and Raoul Bhaneja. Rating TBD.
27, “The Beatles: Get Back,” documentary with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Rating TBD.
27, “Candyman,” with Tony Todd and Yahya Abdul-Matteen II. Rated R.

SEPTEMBER

3, “Jackass,” with Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O. Rating TBD.
17, “The Bad Guys.” Rating TBD.
17, “Death on the Nile,” with Kenneth Branagh and Gal Gadot. Rating TBD.
17, “The Man from Toronto,” with Jason Statham and Kevin Hart. Rating TBD.

OCTOBER

1, “Dune 2021,” with Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferfuson. Rating TBD.
8, “The Addams Family 2,” with Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron. Rating TBD.
15, “Halloween Kills,” with Jamie Lee Curtis and Anthony Michael Hall. Rating TBD.
15, “The Last Duel,” with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Rating TBD.
22, “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins,” with Henry Golding and Samara Weaving.

NOVEMBER

5, “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” with David Allen Grier and Rosie Perez. Rating TBD.
5, “Eternals,” with Angelina Jolie and Richard Madden. Rating TBD.
5, “Untitled Elvis Presley Project,” with Austin Butler and Tom Hanks (above). Rating TBD.
5, “Untitled Spider-Man Sequel,” with Tom Holland and Zendaya. Rating TBD.
12, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3,” with Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law. Rating TBD.
19, “King Richard,” with Will Smith and Jon Bernthal. Rating TBD.
19, “Mission Impossible 7,” with Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson. Rating TBD.
24, “Encanto.” Rating TBD.

DECEMBER

10, “West Side Story,” with Maddie Ziegler and Ansel Elgort. Rating TBD.
10, “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story,” with Zachary Levi. Rating TBD.
22, “The Nightingale,” with Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning. Rating TBD.
22, “Sing 2,” with Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson. Rating TBD.
25, “Babylon,” with Brad Pitt and Emma Stone. Rating TBD.

2021 FILMS, DATES UNKNOWN

“Antlers,” with Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons. Rated R.
“Black Adam,” with Dwayne Johnson and Noah Centineo. Rating TBD.
“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” with Max Harwood and Lauren Patel. Rating TBD.
“Reminiscence,” with Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson. Rating TBD.
“The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” with Tom Kenny and Keanu Reeves. CBS All Access Release. Rating TBD.
“Voyagers,” with Colin Ferrell and Tye Sheridan. Rating TBD.

MOVED TO 2022 OR LATER

“The 355,” with Jessica Chastain and Sebastian Stan. Rating TBD.
“The Batman,” with Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz. Rating TBD.
“Jurassic World: Dominion,” with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. Rating TBD.