Creepy possessed puppets will give horror fans plenty of Separation anxiety in theaters this weekend.

Let’s talk about the top stories in Hollywood this week!

Horror fans have something terrifying to look forward to on the big screen this weekend from director William Brent Bell, who previously demonstrated his talent for turning low-budget horror films into major commercial hits with such movies as The Devil Inside and The Boy. Separation tells the story of Jenny (Violet McGraw), an eight-year-old child at the center of a bitter custody battle between her divorcing parents, high-powered lawyer Maggie (Mamie Gummer) and underachieving graphic artist Jeff (Rupert Friend). The emotionally scarred little girl takes solace by playing with a lavish assemblage of horrific puppets dubbed the “Grisly Kin,” inspired by her father’s creations. But the death of her mother and potential demonic interference soon take the family (and the giant puppets!) to an even darker place. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Sunday night’s Oscar ceremony was historic in more ways than one, even if the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony, broadcast live from both Union Station and the Dolby Theatre in L.A. on ABC, didn’t fare well in the TV ratings. The Father star Anthony Hopkins nabbed Best Actor (making him the oldest winner of an acting Oscar ever) and Frances McDormand (Nomadland) took home the Best Actress prize, marking two upsets. Meanwhile, Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) won for Supporting Actor and Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn claimed Supporting Actress, becoming the first Korean actor to do so. Nine actors of color earned Academy Award nominations — an Oscar record for diversity in those categories — but only two won. Additionally, more women were nominated in 2021 than in any previous year. Frances McDormand perhaps spoke for all the winners and nominees in her Nomadland speech when she told audiences, ”Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible, and one day very, very soon, take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder to shoulder in that dark space, and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.” Check out the complete list of winners here. (Variety)

Speaking of the Oscars, during the Oscar Pre-Show, the National Association of Theatre Owners, Motion Picture Association of America, and leading entertainment executives launched a PSA for The Big Screen Is Back, a national campaign to support the return to moviegoing. The spot is introduced by Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey who says, “Movie theaters, they employ over 150,000 Americans. They are the unsung heroes who bring movie magic to the big screen. It’s been a very hard year for them: Furloughs, closures, basically the longest intermission that they could have ever imagined. Thanks to their dedication and resilience, theaters are coming back.” (Deadline)

Indeed, they are! This past weekend at the box office was the biggest weekend during the pandemic’s 13 months, thanks to Mortal Kombat and Demon Slayer beating box office expectations as young men showed up at theaters in droves. Mortal Kombat bested Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train this weekend, but exhibition was the real winner. Both R-rated films targeted the action audience, and they both doubled their pre-opening estimates with a combined gross of $42 million, for a total weekend box office of $55 million, which is 25 percent better than any weekend since theater closures began and ahead of March 13-15 last year, the weekend before exhibition shut down. (IndieWire)

Everyone loves a Hollywood comeback story, and even CBS Sunday Morning is touting the fact that movie theaters are primed for a comeback. Correspondent Tracy Smith spoke with industry experts who predict that, for movie studios and brick-and-mortar theater owners, happy days may soon be here again. (CBS Sunday Morning)

Movie theaters and theater capacity continue to open up in the U.S. and around the world, which is great news for the summer movie season. New York City is aiming to fully reopen on July 1, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, nearly a year-and-a-half after COVID-19 restrictions on movie theaters, restaurants and most businesses were put in place. 45.1% of New Yorkers have received at least one vaccine dose and 32.6% have completed their vaccine series. France’s cultural venues, including movie theaters, will be allowed to reopen on May 19 with a 35% seating capacity, increasing to 65% on June 9 before restrictions are fully lifted on June 30— just in time for the Cannes Film Festival, which is scheduled to kick off July 6. (Variety)

Fans of the Fast and Furious franchise can gear up for the latest film in theaters on Fast Fridays by watching all eight films leading up to the summer release of F9 for free! Starting Friday, April 30, 2021, and every subsequent Friday until June 18, movie theaters around the country including AMC, Regal, and Cinemark will show the Fast and Furious movies in chronological order, leading up to the premiere of F9 on June 25. F9 Vin Diesel star took the time to welcome audiences back to theaters in a special video message released by the Fast Saga’s YouTube channel, saying, “There’s nothing like that moment when the lights go down, the projector ignites, and we believe…” Well, we believe you’d better get your free tickets fast at —it’s first-come, first-served! (Gizmodo, SYFYWire)

Also coming to a theater near you in June, a six-day event known as Cinema Week will launch across the U.S. to celebrate the culture of moviegoing and supporting the hard-hit exhibition industry. Cinema Week will showcase exclusive in-theater content and activations, as well as giveaways and special guests, to help reenergize audiences around the theatrical experience. The event will be hosted on more than 28,000 screens nationwide between the 22nd and 27th of June, and participating chains on the independent, regional and national cinema circuits include AMC Theatres, B&B Theatres, CineLux, Cinemark, Cinergy, Classic Cinemas, Fridley Theatres, Kerasotes Showplace, Landmark, Malco Theatres, Marcus, Maya, National Amusement Showcase, Regal, Showbiz, Showcase, Silverspot, Warehouse Cinemas, and more, with support from others in the movie business including National CineMedia (NCM). (Deadline)

Disney is spelling “m-u-s-i-c-a-l,” closing a deal to pick up the rights to the hit Broadway show The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, with the intent of mounting a live-action adaptation. Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich, who produced the billion dollar-grossing live-action Aladdin remake for the studio, are producing Spelling Bee via their Rideback banner. The company’s Ryan Halprin, who appeared in a college production of the show and helped chase the rights, will executive produce. The musical comedy follows several competitors with diverse backstories who are competing in a bee. The show hit Broadway in 2005 and earned six Tony nominations, winning two — best book and best actor. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Lionsgate set the date for a trio of releases this week, including the Samuel L. Jackson-Maggie Q action movie The PROTÉGÉ, which will open on Aug. 20, 2021 against Universal’s Tom Hanks movie Bios and Paramount’s Paw Patrol. Also announced for next year was the new Jennifer Lopez movie Shotgun Wedding, which will load up on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 before the Independence Day weekend stretch which includes Universal/Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru; and White Bird: A Wonder Story, based on the RJ Palacio novel, set to debut on the big screen on Sept. 16, 2022. (Deadline)

Scott Derrickson’s horror thriller The Black Phone will hit theaters on Jan. 28, 2022, Universal and Blumhouse announced on Tuesday. Derrickson and frequent collaborator C. Robert Cargill adapted the script based on Joe Hill’s short story. Ethan Hawke, Mason Thames (For All Mankind) and Madeleine McGraw (Toy Story 4, Secrets of Sulphur Springs) are set to star in the film. According to the studio, the film is about Finney Shaw, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy who is abducted by a sadistic killer and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims. And they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney. (The Wrap)

Stephan James and J.K. Simmons are set to star in National Champions, a college sports drama from Angel Has Fallen director Ric Roman Waugh that’s set up at STXfilms. The Beale Street star James will play a star college quarterback who ignites a players strike 72 hours before the biggest game of the year in order to fight for fair compensation, equality, and respect for the athletes who put their bodies and health on the line for their schools. Simmons’ role is unclear. Adam Mervis wrote the script based on his play of the same name. National Champions will begin shooting in New Orleans next month. (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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