The Summer after Barbenheimer and the Strikes, Hollywood Charts a New Course

 This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Cailey Fleming, left, with Blue, voiced by Steve Carell, in a scene from "IF." (Paramount Pictures via AP)
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Cailey Fleming, left, with Blue, voiced by Steve Carell, in a scene from "IF." (Paramount Pictures via AP)
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The Summer after Barbenheimer and the Strikes, Hollywood Charts a New Course

 This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Cailey Fleming, left, with Blue, voiced by Steve Carell, in a scene from "IF." (Paramount Pictures via AP)
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Cailey Fleming, left, with Blue, voiced by Steve Carell, in a scene from "IF." (Paramount Pictures via AP)

“Barbenheimer” is a hard act to follow. But as Hollywood enters another summer movie season, armed with fewer superheroes and a landscape vastly altered by the strikes, it’s worth remembering the classic William Goldman quote about what works: “Nobody knows anything.”

Four decades later, that still may be true. Yet one thing Hollywood has learned in releasing films through the pandemic and the strikes is how to pivot quickly.

The summer of 2023 brought a new enthusiasm for moviegoing, with the fortuitous counterprogramming of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” and surprise hits like “Sound of Freedom,” helping the season’s box office crack $4 billion for the first time since 2019. But before the industry could take a victory lap, there was another crisis looming with the dual Hollywood strikes, which shuttered most productions for months.

MOVIES FIND A WAY POST-STRIKE In the fallout, theaters lost big summer titles like “Mission: Impossible 8,” “Captain America: Brave New World” and “Thunderbolts” to 2025. But they gained a gem in Jeff Nichols’ “The Bikeriders” (June 21), about a 1960s Midwestern motorcycle club, as studios moved films around on the summer chessboard. “Deadpool & Wolverine,” once set to kick off the summer moviegoing season on May 3 like many Marvel movies before it, is now sitting happily on July 26, patiently waiting to dominate the summer charts.

“I do love being right there in the belly of summer,” said director Shawn Levy. “That’s a juicy moment.”

The kickoff weekend instead belongs to an original film about a different kind of superhero. “The Fall Guy,” starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt, is part romantic-comedy, part action-comedy, and all love letter to the stunt performers that make movies spectacular. It’s an earnest crowd-pleaser that could jumpstart a season that feels, in some ways, like a throwback, with full-throttle spectacles (“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” “Twisters”), comedies (“Babes"), IMAX wonder (“The Blue Angels”) and even a Kevin Costner Western.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has seen the highs and lows of summer movies over the decades, with blockbusters including “Top Gun: Maverick” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

This season, he has three very different offerings on the calendar, two are fourth installments in popular franchises — “Beverly Hills Cop” (July 3, Netflix) and “Bad Boys” (June 7, theaters) — and one was planned for streaming but tested so well that it’s getting a theatrical rollout (“Young Woman and the Sea,” May 31).

“People just want to be entertained,” Bruckheimer said. “It really comes down to us to make the right movies that they want to go see.”

THE $4 BILLION GOAL POST A Hollywood summer lasts 123 days from the first Friday in May through Labor Day Monday in September. Pre-pandemic, $4 billion was a normal summer intake and theaters could count on anywhere between 37 and 42 films to open on over 2,000 screens. The outlier was 2017, which had only 35 movies on over 2,000 screens and topped out at $3.8 billion. It makes last summer’s $4 billion haul with 32 wide releases (45% of the $9 billion domestic haul) even more impressive.

This summer should have 32 wide releases as well and over 40 movies opening in 500+ theaters. Notably only two of them are Marvel movies (“Deadpool” and Sony’s “Kraven the Hunter”) and are the only superhero movies on the calendar until the “Joker” sequel in the fall.

“People are going to see movies, not box office, and it looks like a really solid summer from a moviegoer's perspective," said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore.

REVVING UP FOR ORIGINALS “The Bikeriders” was one that planned for an awards season rollout, with a turbo boost from stellar reviews out of the Telluride Film Festival hailing star turns for Austin Butler and Jodie Comer. But as they inched closer to its release date it became clear that the strikes were not going to resolve in time for a press tour.

“It was kind of like walking on frozen glass for three months,” Nichols said. “I was touring around doing press and trying to build this energy on my own. Let me tell you, it’s not the same as Austin Butler.”

Later in June, after a splashy Cannes debut, Kevin Costner will begin rolling out his two-part Western epic “Horizon: An American Saga,” set during the Civil War. And as always there are a slew of Sundance breakouts peppered throughout the summer, from Jane Shoenbrun’s “I Saw the TV Glow” and “Didi” to “Thelma and “Good One.”

FARE FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY Family films often go into hyperdrive in the summer, capitalizing on long days out of school. This year has plenty, like “The Garfield Movie” and “Despicable Me 4,” re-releases of Studio Ghibli classics, and streaming options (“Thelma the Unicorn”). But perhaps none has more anticipation behind it than “Inside Out 2” (June 14, theaters), which meets up with Riley as she enters her teenage years as a new group of emotions crash Joy’s party, including Anxiety, Envy, Ennui and Embarrassment.

“That age gives us everything we need and love for a Pixar film,” director Kelsey Mann said. “It’s full of drama, it has potential for a lot of heart, and I could also make it really funny.”

John Krasinski is also delving into the inner world of children with his ambitious live-action hybrid “IF” (May 17, theaters) about the imaginary friends that get left behind and two humans (Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming) who can still see them.

THE ALLURE OF HORROR Audiences seeking the adrenaline rush of horrors and thrillers have plenty of choices, including “MaXXXine,” the conclusion to Ti West’s accidental Mia Goth trilogy (“X” and “Pearl”) that debuts around the fourth of July.

Goth’s aspiring actress has made her way to Hollywood where a killer is stalking Hollywood starlets around the time of the home video boom of the 1980s.

“We recreated the sleazy side of Hollywood in a hopefully charming way,” West said. “It’s definitely a pretty wild night at the movies. A big, rockin’, fun movie.”

On June 26, audiences can also delve into the beginnings of “A Quiet Place” with a prequel set on “Day One” starring Luptia Nyong’o and “Stranger Things’” Joseph Quinn. Director Michael Sarnoski said they wanted to explore the “scope and promise” of a Quiet Place movie in New York. Later, Fede Álvarez brings his horror acumen to “Alien: Romulus” (Aug. 16), set between the first two.

M. Night Shyamalan is back as well with a thriller set at a pop concert (“Trap,” Aug. 9) and his daughter, Ishana Night Shyamalan, makes her directorial debut with the spooky, Ireland-set “The Watchers” (June 14) with Dakota Fanning.

“It's very suspenseful and unexpected,” Ishana said. "And it's very much built for the experience of being in a theater.”

THE STARS ARE STREAMING Much to the chagrin of theater owners, big summer movies have also existed off the big screen for years now. And the streamers have movie stars and spectacle with the festival favorite “Hit Man,” the Anne Hathaway romance “The Idea of You,” Jerry Seinfeld’s starry pop-tart movie “Unfrosted” and a Mark Wahlberg/Halle Berry action comedy “The Union.”

They have franchises too: “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” (July 3) was a movie that was in and out of development since the mid-1990s, but got new life when Paramount licensed the rights to Netflix.

“We raised our hand to make sure we got the franchise right and kept the integrity and fun of the original,” Bruckheimer said.

This installment adds an emotional component in which Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley reunites with his estranged daughter (Taylour Paige). It also sees the return of Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Paul Reiser and Bronson Pinchot and adds Kevin Bacon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

On Aug. 9, Apple TV+ will also have “The Instigators,” a new action-comedy starring Matt Damon and Casey Affleck as normal guys attempting a heist. “Midnight Run” was one of their touchstones.

“The script was so funny and I wanted to really embrace that,” Doug Liman, who directed, said.

BUT ALSO, NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING Remember, anything can happen with summer movies.

We can pretend we knew that “Barbie” would be the biggest movie of the year, but would anyone have bet that an R-rated drama about the father of the atomic bomb would have made almost three times as much as Harrison Ford’s last ride as Indiana Jones? Or that a $14 million crowdfunded movie from a new studio about child trafficking with next to zero promotion would earn over $250 million?

“Nobody knows anything is right,” said “The Instigators” producer Kevin Walsh. “The movie business is so unpredictable. You never know what’s going to work and what isn’t. But you have your taste. And following your taste and your instincts in this business is paramount.”



RSFF Concludes Milestone Participation in Cannes Film Festival

Members of the public walk in front of the Palais des Festival prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, July 5, 2021. (AP Photo/ Brynn Anderson)
Members of the public walk in front of the Palais des Festival prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, July 5, 2021. (AP Photo/ Brynn Anderson)
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RSFF Concludes Milestone Participation in Cannes Film Festival

Members of the public walk in front of the Palais des Festival prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, July 5, 2021. (AP Photo/ Brynn Anderson)
Members of the public walk in front of the Palais des Festival prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, July 5, 2021. (AP Photo/ Brynn Anderson)

The Red Sea Film Foundation (RSFF), which participated in the recently concluded 77th Cannes Film Festival, played an important role in supporting Arab cinema and promoting it globally, an RSFF press release said.
A notable achievement at the festival was the Saudi film "Norah", directed by Tawfik AlZaidi and supported by the Red Sea Fund. "Norah" made history as the first Saudi film to compete in the prestigious "Un Certain Regard" section, receiving a special jury mention and selling out screenings within hours, according to SPA.

The Egyptian film "The Brink of Dreams", also supported by the Red Sea Fund, directed by Nada Riyadh and Ayman El Amir, won the Golden Eye Award for Best Documentary Film, which it shared with the French film "Ernest Cole: Lost and Found".
According to the release, RSFF has supported unique film projects and emerging talent through programs like Red Sea Fund, Red Sea Souk, and Red Sea Labs. These programs have led cinematic works to gain recognition and awards at international festivals.
One notable film is "Four Daughters" directed by Kaouther Ben Hania, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary.