This image released by Universal Pictures shows Nathalie Emmanuel, left, and Vin Diesel in a scene from “F9.” (Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Nathalie Emmanuel, left, and Vin Diesel in a scene from “F9.” (Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP)

The blockbuster movie is making a comeback this summer

Excitement in the industry is growing again for a return to a big-screen normal

After more than a year of benching its biggest spectacles, Hollywood is ready to dazzle again.

From “F9” and “In the Heights” to “The Suicide Squad” and “Black Widow,” there will be a steady stream of blockbusters populating multiplexes across the country for the first time since March 2020.

For streaming-weary audiences, the promise of air conditioning, popcorn, soda fountains, 60-foot screens and state-of-the-art sound could be a welcome respite from the living room and virtual watch parties. Not to mention the ever-romantic concept of the shared experience.

For beleaguered movie theaters, it’s not a moment too soon.

RELATED: ‘Sonic 2’ star Jim Carrey surprises B.C. film crew member with vehicle giveaway

RELATED: Nomadland’ wins best picture at a social distanced Oscars

The modern summer movie season, which runs from May through Labor Day, regularly accounts for over $4 billion in revenue and makes up around 40% of the year’s grosses. Last year, summer earnings were $176 million, down 96% from 2019. Although theaters have been ramping up operations for a while, this summer will prove to be the biggest litmus test so far about whether habits have changed irrevocably during the pandemic.

In some ways, the calendar looks like a do-over of last summer. Many of the most anticipated releases were supposed to come out a year ago, including John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place Part II,” up first on May 28, the big screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning “In the Heights” (June 11), the ninth installment of the “Fast & Furious” series, “F9” (June 25), Marvel’s “Black Widow” (July 9) starring Scarlett Johansson, the Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson action adventure “Jungle Cruise” (July 30) and Nia DaCosta’s “Candyman” reboot (Aug. 27).

“In the Heights” director Jon M. Chu had to convince Miranda that it was worth it to wait for a theatrical release. Miranda wanted to get his joyous musical about a bodega owner, Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) and his friends in Washington Heights out to people immediately. But Chu knows just how important a global release is for films with underrepresented casts. Like “Crazy Rich Asians,” “In the Heights” features unknowns in key roles who are poised for a breakout given the right platform.

“We had big dreams for this,” Chu said. “To be able to do it on the biggest scale possible meant so much.”

And it’s not the only blue-sky blockbuster in the bunch. The “Fast & Furious” series has always been about creating a fun theatrical experience and “F9” not only brings back a fan favorite — Sung Kang’s Han — but also literally sends cars into space. It’s expected to be one of the season’s biggest hits.

“Whenever I get together with Vin (Diesel) and everybody to make these movies, we’re not even talking about the plot or anything like that, but the feeling. I just remember as a kid in the summer saving enough money to go to the movies to share that experience with a bunch of strangers,” said director Justin Lin. “When that moment hits and everyone’s laughing or cheering together, it is magical.”

Before the pandemic, going to the movies in the summer was a ritual. Audiences made up for last year by screening retro summer hits at drive-ins. Now it’s a wild card whether the promise of an “event film” will motivate audiences back to theaters, especially if something is also available to watch at home.

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” director Malcom D. Lee called his film, “The epitome of a popcorn movie.” The sequel to the 1996 Michael Jordan pic finds LeBron James now sharing the screen with classic Looney Toons characters.

Those looking for a more R-rated experience can thank James Gunn, who made movie stars out of the once obscure “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and now is out to do the same for the “misfit, Z-grade supervillains” of “The Suicide Squad.” He had his pick of DC characters and turned down Superman for Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Idris Elba’s Bloodsport and John Cena’s Peacemaker.

Gunn looked to one of his favorite genres for inspiration: The 1960s war caper. Think, “The Dirty Dozen” and “Where Eagles Dare.”

“To reinvigorate that genre just using these crappy supervillains as the protagonists was very appealing to me,” Gunn said.

There are many other options too, including a host of big-name documentary titles, from Morgan Neville’s “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” (July 16) to Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back” (Aug. 27). There are family films, like “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” (June 18) and “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” (July 23) and horrors like “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (June 4), and “Don’t Breathe 2” (Aug. 13).

You can see Matt Damon try to save his daughter in the drama “Stillwater” (July 30) or watch as Gael García Bernal starts to age rapidly in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old” (July 23). Ryan Reynolds is in two big action flicks, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (June 16) and “Free Guy” (Aug. 13). There’s even an epic Dev Patel-led take on a classic Arthurian legend, “The Green Knight” coming July 30.

“I’m really glad that our movie is one of the ones that was held back because I really I want audiences to get a chance to see it on the big screen,” said “The Green Knight” director David Lowery. “It was obviously meant to be seen that way but also it’s a strange movie and I think that the idea of having that experience in a cinema with other people is going to be really, really exciting, especially after a year away from the big screen.”

Some studios have been cautiously rolling out bigger films to decent results lately, like “ Godzilla vs. Kong.” But after seven weeks, even that monster sock ‘em up is still shy of cracking the $100 million mark domestically. And it’s unclear what the new benchmarks for success will be or if any movie has a chance of hitting anything close to pre-pandemic expectations. The last “Fast” movie opened to $98.8 million in 2017. “Black Widow” was once pegged for at least a $90 million launch. So far this year, the biggest domestic opening was just over $30 million.

For moviegoers, it’s also become hard to keep tabs on ever shifting dates, delays and multi-platform releases. Some summer-ready titles, like “Top Gun: Maverick” and the new James Bond, “No Time To Die,” are waiting until later in the year to debut. “Jurassic World: Dominion” pushed to 2022. And changes are still being made as some offload titles to streaming services. Sony sold its Camilla Cabello and Billy Porter-led “Cinderella” to Amazon Prime and its Kevin Hart as a single dad pic “Fatherhood” to Netflix.

Even the films with theatrical debuts will have either unique hybrid release plans or shortenedtheatrical windows. All Warner Bros. titles including “In the Heights,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Space Jam,” will be available free for HBO Max subscribers for 31 days as well as in theaters. Most Disney movies, including “Cruella” (May 28), “Black Widow” and “Jungle Cruise” are opening both in theaters and on Disney+ as a premium $29.99 rental. Their Pixar title “Luca” is going straight to Disney+, free for subscribers, on June 17. And the Sundance breakout “ CODA ” is getting a simultaneous release in theaters and on Apple TV+.

For theaters and studios, the unknowns are many. Are movie theaters even on people’s re-opening priority lists? Will there be a $100 million opening weekend any time soon? Will there ever be a $250 million opening weekend again? The filmmakers aren’t trying to concern themselves with that. But everyone is feeling emotional that moviegoing might finally become normal again.

“I think about it all the time,” said Gunn. “I can’t wait to sit in a theater with a group of people and watch films again. It is a true joy in life. It’s a magical space for me and has been since I was a very little boy.”

— Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press

RELATED: Movies are a big part of my reel life

Just Posted

Terry Mazzei next to a truck after it was struck by lightning, with him inside, on Wednesday afternoon, June 9. He walked away from the incident without injury and the truck sustained only mild damage; a blown front tire and newly broken gas gauge. (Wendy Mazzei photo)
Nanoose Bay man walks away unscathed after lightning strike

‘We like to think that his dad was watching over him’

This young fledgling white raven was spotted in the Coombs area on May 16. (Mike Yip photo)
Expert says 2 sets of parents producing rare white ravens in mid-Island area

One of the iconic birds is currently recovering at wildlife centre after being rescued

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

The Parksville Civic and Technology Centre. Offices will re-open to the general public on June 21. (PQB News file photo)
Parksville’s city hall offices to open again on June 21

Offices will resume pre-COVID hours of operation

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Lorraine Gibson, 90, received a COVID-19 immunization at the South Surrey Park and Ride vaccination clinic. (File photo: Aaron Hinks)
Surrey has had 25% of B.C.’s total COVID-19 cases

Surrey recorded 4,012 cases in May

Most Read