Let’s talk about the top stories in Hollywood this week!
Warner Bros.’ animated family film Tom and Jerry debuted to $13.7 million at the domestic box office, one of the biggest opening weekend hauls of the coronavirus era and a signal that moviegoing may be on the mend.Nothing else that has been released in the past 10 months has been able to crack the $10 million-mark; The Croods: A New Age ($9.7 million) and Tenet ($9.35 million) were the only others to come close to that benchmark. “There’s undoubtedly an element of cabin fever among parents and kids at play with these successful family movies during the pandemic, but I also think we’re looking at the beginnings of a larger trend,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro. (Variety)
Speaking of big new family movies, Disney’s cartoon fantasy adventure Raya and the Last Dragon hits select theaters (and Disney+ for a premium price) this Friday, March 5. The reviews are in, and they are glorious. As The Hollywood Reporter said, “Add [it] to the list of 2020 and 2021 movies you’ll desperately wish you could see on the big screen… This is a film that knows how to soar.” From voice talent like Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina to the animators, the majority of Raya and the Last Dragon was made by hundreds of people working from home – an incredible feat of moviemaking during the pandemic. (CNBC, The Hollywood Reporter, Collider)
In another sign of optimism, Sony Pictures now plans to release Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway on the big screen earlier than anticipated. The animated sequel, which was originally scheduled for June, will now arrive in movie theaters on May 14. Sony was encouraged by news that cinemas in New York City, one of biggest movie markets in the country, can reopen starting this weekend. Also heartening is that the Biden administration recently announced the United States is on track to have enough COVID-19 vaccines for “every adult American” by the end of May, which could help fast-track the revival of movie theaters. (Variety)
New Yorkers who have been waiting to see Tenet on the big screen will finally get their chance! Nearly six months after Tenet was released in the United States, Warner Bros. announced the Christopher Nolan sci-fi spectacle will open in five newly-reopened New York City movie theater locations this Friday. Tenet, which is led by John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, was the first major Hollywood tentpole film to premiere in theaters amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally scheduled to debut last July, Tenet’s release date was pushed back three times and finally opened in select U.S. cities on Sep. 3. (Variety)
In other movie shifting news, Universal has shifted the theatrical release dates for its much-delayed titan tentpoles F9 and Minions the Rise of Gru. F9 will no longer go on May 28, but rather one month later on June 25 to give COVID-19 conditions in overseas markets a little more time to improve, as the Fast & Furious franchise is incredibly popular internationally and has made over $5 billion around the world. F9 now leaves Disney’s Cruella and Paramount’s Mark Wahlberg movie Infinite in theaters over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. Minions 2 will now open on July 1, 2022 instead of July 2 of this year. Minions is the most profitable franchise for Universal, so it makes sense that the studio is shifting the date to make sure that the pic’s promotional partners are able to join the ride and support their brands up through the film’s 2022 release. (Deadline)
Akili McDowell has signed on to star in More Than Rivals, a feature based on the New York Times best selling book by Ken Abraham. From the writer of Rudy and Hoosiers, Angelo Pizzo’s screenplay captures another great sports moment in history. The timely story shows how two young kids are able to look past the pressures and rules and do what kids do – have fun. Black and white fade away and they create a lifelong bond that changes a city. Based on a true story, the film is set in 1970 in Gallatin, Tennessee, and follows two boys, Eddie Sherlin and Bill Ligon (McDowell), growing up on opposite sides of the tracks who shared a passion for basketball. After years of playing wherever they could find a hoop, Eddie and Bill entered the rigors of their respective high school teams. And at the end of the 1970 season, all-white Gallatin High and all-black Union High faced each other in a once-in-a-lifetime championship game. What happened that night would challenge Eddie and Bill and transform their town. Production is slated to begin this spring in Georgia. (Deadline)
Universal is changing its strategy to focus on its classic movie monster properties after the success of The Invisible Man, forgoing their previous plans to interconnect a monster universe and instead focus on standalone projects rooted in filmmakers’ visions. Exciting upcoming projects based on Universal’s classic monster movies in development include: Bride of Frankenstein, from The Mummy script writer David Koepp; Dark Army, which will be an homage to James Whale’s old monster movies that started it all for Universal; two new Dracula movies (Karyn Kusama’s Dracula which will be a faithful adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel, and Chloe Zhao’s Dracula with will be a new version of the classic monster set in an original, futuristic, sci-fi Western; a fresh take on Frankenstein from James Wan; The Invisible Woman, being described as Thelma & Louise meets American Psycho; a live-action/animation hybrid called Little Monsters from the writer/director behind Toy Story 4, Josh Cooley; the original musical Monster Mash; yet another unique take on the Dracula storyline with Dexter Fletcher’s Renfield; and of course, Leigh Whannell’s The Wolf Man with Ryan Gosling. (CinemaBlend)
Bruce Willis, Luke Wilson and Devon Sawa are set to star in the rollicking action thriller Gasoline Alley. Sawa stars as Jimmy Jayne, a “bruise-fisted” boss-type who becomes implicated in the triple murder of three Hollywood starlets drowned in a luxury hotel pool. As the prime suspect for homicide detectives Freeman (Willis) and Vargas (Wilson), Jimmy takes up his own rogue investigation, bending the law in ways the police can’t in order to clear his name. Production will begin in early March across the U.S. (Variety)
J. Smith-Cameron, best known for her scene-stealing role in the Emmy-winning series Succession, is set to join the Blumhouse thriller Vengeance, B.J. Novak’s directorial debut. Besides directing, Novak also penned the script and is starring in the pic. Issa Rae, Ashton Kutcher and Boyd Holbrook are also on board. As usual with any Blumhouse pic, the logline is being kept under wraps, but it is currently filming in Santa Fe. (Deadline)
The 78th Golden Globe Awards were a somewhat glitchy virtual affair, but the social distancing rules did afford the stars a rare chance to celebrate their wins at home with their families and the ones they love. Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland took home two top prizes – Best Motion Picture – Drama, and Best Director. The raw political satire Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was another big winner, with two top awards for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, and Best Actor (Sacha Baron Cohen). Disney-Pixar’s Soul also landed two wins for Best Animated Film and Original Score. The late Chadwick Boseman was another big winner of the night, and his wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, accepted his posthumous award for Best Actor in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom with a deeply emotional and moving tribute. Other major wins included Daniel Kaluuya for Best Supporting Actor in Judas and the Black Messiah, and Lee Issac Chung’s critically acclaimed Minari, which grabbed Best Foreign Language Film. (Noovie.com)
While Hollywood is still a long way from gender parity, the fight to get more women in the director’s chair hit a milestone this year: For the first time, 27% of the 366 films eligible for this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture had a female director. That’s up from last year, when 23% of eligible films had a woman as director or co-director (79 out of 344 films) — and a marked improvement from five years ago, when only 15% did. The 93rd Oscars ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on April 25, honors the best films released between January 1, 2020, and February 28, 2021. (The Wrap)
For a full schedule of all the new movies coming to a theater near you, check out Box Office Mojo’s Domestic Release Calendar.
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