The summer after Barbenheimer and the strikes, Hollywood charts a new course

Expectations are tempered for the financial prospects of summer of 2024 at the movies

Lindsey Bahr
Wednesday 24 April 2024 16:44 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

“ Barbenheimer ” is a hard act to follow.

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.

In the fallout, theaters lost big titles like “Mission: Impossible 8” and “Captain America: Brave New World” 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 season on May 3 like many Marvel movies before it, is now opening July 26, patiently waiting to dominate the summer charts.

The kickoff weekend instead belongs to an original film about a different kind of superhero: The stunt performer. “ The Fall Guy,” starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt, is an earnest crowd-pleaser that could jumpstart a season that feels like a throwback, with full-throttle spectacle (“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. 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 Bikeriders” could be one of those. It already has stellar reviews from last fall's Telluride Film Festival hailing star turns for Austin Butler and Jodie Comer and was originally planned for December but pushed when it became clear that the strikes weren’t 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 “I Saw the TV Glow” and “Didi” to “ Thelma ” and “Good One.”

Family films also 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.” 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.

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.

Audiences seeking the adrenaline rush of horrors and thrillers have an array of options, 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.”

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. 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 streamers have movie stars and spectacle, too, 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.”

There are even franchises, like “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F,” 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.

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

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