Film lovers exist in different time zones. Having reopened last summer, Chinese cinemas are enjoying a booming 2021, box office records broken across May Day holidays and the Lunar New Year. In Los Angeles, still the home of the American film business, some movie theatres have been open since March while operating at 50 per cent capacity (and without the totemic ArcLight chain, now permanently shuttered).
In Britain, from next Monday audiences will be ushered out of their homes by an eager cinema trade after — in most cases — more than six months of closure.
We have been here before, of course. Last July, the damp squib release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet began a stop-start reopening for UK cinemas before a return to lockdown. This time the stakes are higher. After so many silent months, British cinemas need crowds back fast and in numbers. As such, the coming summer is stacked with glittering prizes to lure the Netflix-weary — Oscar winners, blockbusters, and what might even prove the occasional surprise package.
Nomadland and Sound of MetalOffering film-goers the chance to see movies already available to stream is a short-term strategy. Still, this year’s Oscar juggernaut Nomadland (with Frances McDormand, above) should draw a respectful audience. Just as deserving of the second go-around is another awards season favourite, Sound of Metal, whose bravura sound design reminds you that there is more to the big screen experience than simply the big screen. May 17
CruellaBeing released to streaming the same day it opens in cinemas, Disney’s summer spectacular will be keenly watched as an industry case study. Paying customers will find Emma Stone starring as One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ Cruella de Vil in a live-action origin story that gives Disney heritage a playfully jagged makeover, the action set against the punk explosion of 1970s London. May 28
A Quiet Place Part IIThe cinema trade often struggles to articulate what makes physical film-going unique beyond vague talk of wide-eyed wonderment. The 2018 horror A Quiet Place made a far better advert — an expert B-movie whose use of silence as plot point (grisly monsters attracted by noise) brought the live audience in on the act. The sequel too promises the kind of thrills it would be hard to match from your sofa. June 4
GundaAt a point when no one is entirely sure what sort of movie might drag people out of their Netflix torpor, documentary Gunda has the feel of a sleeper hit — a hyper-vérité portrait of the daily life of a mother pig and other livestock. Every bit as dazzling as the most lavish blockbuster. June 4
The FatherAnthony Hopkins has already won an Oscar for his performance in Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his own stage play, a study of an elderly man in the grip of memory loss. The result is a rarity: a film born of theatre that feels like cinema to its bones. June 11
In the HeightsThe movie of Broadway phenomenon Hamilton went straight to Disney Plus last summer. With Broadway itself still shuttered, In the Heights — the musical that began the career of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda — is due into cinemas, a hip-hop-flavoured tableau of life in New York’s Washington Heights. June 18
Another RoundA generation ago, Danish director Thomas Vinterberg sent a jolt through the film world with his caustic debut Festen. Now his latest film Another Round arrives as winner of the Academy Award for Best International Feature, a wry story of the middle-aged male psyche and the siren call of alcohol. July 2
Black WidowCovid-19 sent the movies’ leading superheroes heading for the hills, the stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe taking refuge in streaming series such as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The comic book empire returns to the multiplex with the long-mothballed Scarlett Johansson vehicle Black Widow. July 9
The Green KnightOne of the more intriguing prospects of the summer, a slab of Arthurian legend made indie hip. The star is Dev Patel, the director David Lowery — whose A Ghost Story was a melancholy pleasure in 2017 — the backers New York indie distributors A24. August 6
CandymanThe ravening appetite of modern pop culture for all things ’90s was always going to get to the horror movies eventually. Ahead of the relaunch of the Scream franchise next year is a sequel to 1992 chiller Candyman — a period piece of deathless verve. The signs are promising here too, the director breakthrough film-maker Nia DaCosta, the producer and co-writer Jordan Peele, mastermind of expert crowd-pleaser Get Out. August 27
The NestAs London faces an uncertain future, another moment of seismic change for the city — the financial Big Bang of 1986 — acts as backdrop to The Nest, a brooding story of an British trader (Jude Law) and the family he relocates from their American home. August 27
No Time to Die$600m was the rumoured asking price at which studio backer MGM would have considered selling the new James Bond movie No Time to Die to Netflix or Apple. If so, the streamers were for once priced out of the market. For now at least, Bond remains in situ, at a cinema near you. September 30
Please note: UK release dates are subject to change