The summer battle of the female superheroes — DC’s Wonder Woman vs. Marvel’s Black Widow — was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down theaters and prompted Hollywood studios to delay their releases.
It looked like the faceoff would happen this fall, when Warner Bros. moved “Wonder Woman 1984” from June to Oct. 2, and Disney shifted “Black Widow” from May to Nov. 6.
Now the showdown between Gal Gadot’s Amazon princess and Scarlett Johansson’s Russian superspy looks as dicey as it did this summer.
Last week, Warner Bros. announced it would move “Wonder Woman 1984” to a Christmas Day release. This week, the Hollywood trade paper Variety speculated that Disney likely will bump “Black Widow” off that November date.
The reason: Even though theaters are reopening in most of the country, movie fans aren’t necessarily ready to come back.
Studios see as evidence the lackluster box office numbers for “Tenet,” the Christopher Nolan thriller that Warner Bros. spent $200 million to make. In its second weekend, “Tenet” made an estimated $6.7 million (estimated because Warner Bros. stopped releasing its numbers), and, according to experts, may top out around $50 million overall in North America.
Theaters nationwide, including chains with locations in Utah — Cinemark, AMC, Regal and the Utah-based Megaplex Theatres — have signed on to the National Association of Theatre Owners’ “Cinema Safe” campaign, designed to make patrons feel comfortable returning to a darkened theater.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the national expert on the coronavirus, won’t be going out to the movies any time soon. In a recent interview with actor Jennifer Garner, posted on her Instagram account, Fauci said he wouldn’t bet on the safety inside theaters until the end of 2021 — or until a safe and reliable vaccine is readily available.
Still, movies are being released this fall and into the winter — some in theaters, others on streaming services, as independent distributors try to fill the void the studios have left behind.
Here, broken down by genre, is what you can see, if you want to take the risk. And, now more than ever, release dates are subject to change.
Besides “Black Widow” (Nov. 6, theaters) and “Wonder Woman 1984” (Dec. 25, theaters), the big name in action movies this fall is a familiar one: Bond. James Bond. Daniel Craig takes his last pass at playing 007 in “No Time to Die” (Nov. 20, theaters), facing a new villain — played by Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) — alongside some familiar faces, with Christoph Waltz back as Blofeld, Ralph Fiennes returning as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Jeffrey Wright as Bond’s CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter, and Léa Seydoux (“Death Stranding”) as the mysterious Madeleine Swann. Ana de Armas (“Knives Out”) and Lashana Lynch (“Captain Marvel”) also join in the gunplay.
Some action will be centered on teens and college kids. In “Spontaneous” (Oct. 2, some theaters; Oct. 6, VOD), Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer find each other just as kids in their high school are inexplicably exploding. A mousy high-schooler (Kathryn Newton) switches bodies with the town’s serial killer (Vince Vaughn) in the comic slasher flick “Freaky” (Nov. 13, theaters). An autistic boy and his family are terrorized by a demon that comes through his iPad in “Come Play” (Oct. 30, theaters). And Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”) debuts as Sherlock Holmes’ equally smart teen sister in “Enola Holmes” (Sept. 23, Netflix).
Women at the heart of the action include: Janelle Monae in the slavery-centered thriller “Antebellum” (Sept. 18, VOD); Jessica Chastain as an assassin in “Ava” (Sept. 25, theaters and VOD); Claudia Karvan trying to save her husband (Jim Caviezel) from an Iranian prison in the conservative-produced “Infidel” (Sept. 18, theaters); and Ella Balinska (“Charlie’s Angels”) tries to survive the night after a bad blind date in “Run Sweetheart Run” (TBD, Amazon Prime Video).
Action-packed literary adaptations are coming this fall. In “Death on the Nile” (Oct. 23, theaters), Kenneth Branagh returns to direct and star as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, cruising Egypt with a cast including Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening, Letitia Wright (“Black Panther”), Rose Leslie (“Game of Thrones”) and more. Daphne du Maurier’s mystery “Rebecca” (Oct. 21, Netflix) returns, with Lily James as the new bride of the brooding Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer, again), and Kristin Scott Thomas as the stern housekeeper Mrs. Danvers. “Deep Water” (Nov. 13, theaters), based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, stars Ben Affleck as a rich guy suspected of killing the lovers of his wife (played by Ana de Armas, Affleck’s real-life girlfriend).
Liam Neeson is a bank robber trying to confess to the feds, only to get double-crossed, in “Honest Thief” (Oct. 9, theaters). Hilary Swank plays a police detective who tricks a married man (Michael Ealy) into a murder plot in “Fatale” (Oct. 30, theaters). Kevin Costner and Diane Lane fight to save their grandson from a family living off the grid in “Let Him Go” (Nov. 6, theaters). Tom Hanks plays an Old West traveling scribe who agrees to help rescue a kidnapped girl in “News of the World” (Dec. 25, theaters).
Action with a science-fiction bent: “Possessor” (Oct. 9, theaters), with Andrea Riseborough as an assassin who takes over people’s bodies to do her killing; paramedics (Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie) find that a series of deaths are linked to something otherworldly in “Synchronic” (Oct. 23, theaters); a crew of astronauts, led by Colin Farrell, plunge into madness in “Voyagers” (Nov. 25, theaters); and Gerard Butler labors to get his family to safety when a comet approaches Earth in “Greenland” (fall TBD; theaters).
And the end-of-the-year blockbuster, for now, is “Arrival” director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s space epic “Dune” (Dec. 18, theaters) — with Timothee Chalamet as the prince, Paul Atreides, and a supporting cast including Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgard and Charlotte Rampling.
Pixar, for the first time, has an African American character in the lead in “Soul” (Nov. 20, theaters), with the story of a jazzman (voiced by Jamie Foxx) who dies prematurely — leaving his soul to find a way back to Earth, aided by a new soul (voiced by Tina Fey) just learning who she is.
In the animated “Connected” (Oct. 23, theaters), a family puts away its electronics for a weekend road trip — only to learn they’re missing the tech uprising. Technology is friendly in “Over the Moon” (fall TBD, Netflix), an animated musical in which a girl takes off in a homemade rocket to the moon. Meanwhile “The Croods: A New Age” (Nov. 25, theaters), a sequel to the 2013 animated hit about a Stone Age family, pits the Croods against a more advanced family.
In the live-action “The War With Grandpa” (Oct. 9, theaters), Oakes Fegley (“Pete’s Dragon”) takes to pranks when he has to give up his bedroom to his grandfather (Robert De Niro). And a teen (Darby Camp) has to help Santa (Kurt Russell) in “The Christmas Chronicles 2” (TBD, Netflix).
A family of con artists (Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger, Evan Rachel Wood) find their unusual lifestyle causing tension in Miranda July’s “Kajillionaire” (Sept. 25, theaters). A woman (Rashida Jones) who suspects her marriage is crumbling seeks advice from her playboy dad (Bill Murray) in Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks” (Oct. 2, theaters and AppleTV+).
Radha Blank won the Directing Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival for “The 40-Year-Old Version” (Oct. 9, Netflix), in which she plays a once-promising playwright trying to reinvent herself as a rapper. Elsewhere, movie producers (Robert De Niro and Zack Braff) try to hire a washed-up actor (Tommy Lee Jones) so they can kill him on the set and collect the insurance money, in “The Comeback Trail” (Nov. 13, theaters).
A yuppie couple tries to spend a weekend without electronics, just as an alien invasion hits, in “Save Yourselves!” (Oct. 2, theaters). Two friends, one of whom is toxic to the other’s relationships, endure each other in “The Climb” (December TBD, theaters).
The holiday comedy “Happiest Season” (Nov. 25, theaters) stars Kristen Stewart as Abby, who plans to propose to her girlfriend, Harper (Mackenzie Davis), when they visit Harper’s family for Christmas — until Abby learns Harper hasn’t told her parents she’s gay.
In “Free Guy” (Dec. 11, theaters), an action comedy originally slated for this summer, Ryan Reynolds plays a man who learns he’s a non-playable character in a video game — and decides to change the rules.
One of the most-anticipated dramas of the season is director Francis Lee’s “Ammonite” (Nov. 13, theaters), about a fossil hunter (Kate Winslet) in 1840s England, whose solitary life is disrupted by the arrival of a young woman (Saoirse Ronan). Also high on the anticipation list, after winning the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, is Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland” (Dec. 4, theaters), starring Frances McDormand as a woman who lives out of a van and encounters others on the fringes of society.
“The Nest” (Sept. 18, theaters and VOD) sounds like the title for a horror movie, and it’s in a creaky old English mansion — but it’s a tense drama about a troubled marriage, with Jude Law as a British stockbroker husband looking for a quick financial fix, which troubles his American wife (Carrie Coon).
Lena Olin plays “The Artist’s Wife” (Sept. 25, theaters), who has to help her famous husband (Bruce Dern) when he’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Olivia Colman must handle the mental decline of her dad (Anthony Hopkins) in “The Father” (TBD, theaters).
Julie Taymor directs “The Glorias” (Sept. 30, Amazon Prime Video), an unconventional biographical drama of feminist icon Gloria Steinem, played by Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore. Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men”) returns to the courtroom to write and direct “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Oct. 16, Netflix), chronicling the police riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and the trial of activists Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and others. And David Fincher’s “Mank” (fall TBD, Netflix) stars Gary Oldman as screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz as he finishes work on Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.”
The revival of the pioneering play “The Boys in the Band” (Sept. 30, Netflix), about seven gay friends in 1968 confronting their lives at a birthday party, is captured on screen, with a cast led by Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer and Andrew Rannels. A man (Paul Bettany) and his niece (Sophie Lillis, from “It”) take a road trip in 1973, joined by the man’s lover (Peter Macdissi), in “Uncle Frank” (Nov. 13, Prime Video).
A Filipino teen in Texas dreams of country-music stardom in “Yellow Rose” (Oct. 9, theaters). And a heavy-metal drummer (Riz Ahmed) finds his life upended when he begins to lose his hearing, in “The Sound of Metal” (Nov. 20, theaters).
Love crosses time and space, in the romance “2 Hearts” (Oct. 16, theaters). “After We Collided” (Oct. 23, theaters) continues the steamy romance between young people started in last year’s “After.” And Tessa Thompson stars as an aspiring TV producer who falls in love with a musician (Nnamdi Asomugha) in 1950s New York in “Sylvie’s Love” (TBD, theaters).
Speaking of music and New York, one of the big year-end movies is Steven Spielberg’s remake of the classic musical “West Side Story” (Dec. 18, theaters) — if it doesn’t get pushed into next year.
Political documentaries are coming with some urgency — to get to the public before voters cast ballots by Nov. 3. “The Way I See It” (Sept. 18, theaters) profiles Pete Souza, who was the official White House photographer for Ronald Reagan for two years and Barack Obama for all eight years — and who has opinions about how a president should behave. “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Sept. 18; Amazon Prime Video) uses the story of Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to detail how voter suppression tactics are denying citizens the right to vote. And Oscar winner Alex Gibney is working fast to finish “Totally Under Control” (October TBD; theaters and VOD), an investigation into the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There also are two documentaries about the murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi: “Kingdom of Silence” (Oct. 2, Showtime), which examines both Khashoggi’s death and the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States; and “The Dissident” (TBD; theaters and VOD), a deep dive into the case and the cover-up.
“The Dissident” made a splash at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, but it’s not the only doc coming that debuted there. In “Time” (Oct. 9, theaters), filmmaker Garrett Bradley chronicles the fight Fox Rich took to get her husband, Rob, out of prison — told in Fox’s video diaries. Filmmaker Kristen Johnson pays tribute to her father, a Seattle psychiatrist dealing with Alzheimer’s and approaching the end of his life, by staging the ultimate funeral in “Dick Johnson Is Dead” (Oct. 2, Netflix). And “The Truffle Hunters” (December TBD; theaters) is a quirky look at the people who search for the elusive fungus.