The fall movie season is usually where we decide the future of the next round of Oscars, but this year the future of movies is also being decided.
Where will the prestige titles play? In theaters? At home? Some combination of both? That question was at the center of the dispute between Netflix and the major exhibition chains over plans to release the Netflix’s The Irishman, Martin Scorsese’s three-hour, epic look at the life of Philadelphia hit man Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), with Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa.
The chains insisted on an exclusive three-month theatrical window, Netflix wanted a shorter route to streaming, and talks broke down. The result: no wide release for the The Irishman. It will play in independent and art-house theaters (as awards favorite Roma did last year) on Nov. 27, then make the jump to the streaming giant. Other Netflix titles, like Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, will also have short theatrical runs.
On the other hand, the Downton Abbey movie heralds a potentially different future and a happier marriage of exhibitors and content shared with other platforms. The Downtown Abbey movie, based on the hit TV series, is getting a proper theatrical roll-out Sept. 20, and based on outstanding presales on Fandango, already represents the kind of partnership we may see more of down the line — a drama that develops a following on TV or online, and looks to provide fans with an opportunity to enjoy an exclusive in-theater communal experience before returning to the small screen.
Exhibitors are playing up the communal aspect. The Bryn Mawr Film Institute, for instance, will host a special Downton Abbey premiere event on Sept 19, one night before the film’s official opening. The 8:30 p.m. screening will be preceded by a Downton-themed reception (dressing up encouraged), featuring cocktails, which is probably the best way to see the movie.
Speaking of the in-theater experience — Center City is slated to get its first new theater in two decades when AMC opens its eight-screen multiplex in the Fashion District complex, though all AMC can say at this point is that the facility will open “before year’s end.”
Stay tuned. Meanwhile, here are the highlights of the fall schedule, with dates subject to change:
Downton Abbey (Sept. 20). Picks up a year and a half after the series left off. The aristocrats (Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern) prepare for a visit from the king and queen.
Rambo: Last Blood (Sept. 20). Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) tangles with a drug cartel, ghosts from his past, and uses a lever action rifle to repel invaders.
Ad Astra (Sept. 20). Spaceman Brad Pitt goes to the outer edges of the galaxy looking for his missing father, and solving problems related to the survival of the planet. With Tommy Lee Jones.
The Laundromat (Sept. 27). While on vacation in Panama City, a woman (Meryl Streep) investigating insurance fraud stumbles onto a hidden world of money laundering.
Judy (Sept. 27). Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland, circa 1968, embarking on a European concert tour.
Joker (Oct. 4). Joaquin Phoenix gets the superhero bug in this DC origin story, directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), that revisits the title character’s roots as a failed stand-up comedian. With Zazie Beetz.
Lucy in the Sky (Oct. 4). Another far-out space adventure, this one starring Natalie Portman as an astronaut who has psychological troubles after re-entry. Also co-starring Zazie Beetz. Oct 4.
Gemini Man (Oct. 11). Ang Lee directs Will Smith in this sci-fi thriller about a hired killer whose adversary is a younger version of himself.
The Addams Family (Oct. 11). Animated movie, inspired by the Charles Addams characters, featuring the voices of Oscar winner Charlize Theron, Oscar nominee Oscar Isaacs, and can’t-believe-she-hasn’t-won-an-Oscar Catherine O’Hara.
Parasite (Oct. 11). Korean director Bong Joon-ho won the Cannes Festival’s Palme d’Or for this drama about con artists who prey on rich families.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Oct. 18). Angelina Jolie returns in the title role. Here’s where I complain about IP sequels, except I actually kind of want to see this one…
Zombieland 2: Double Tap (Oct. 18). The original cast returns, including Oscar winner Emma Stone, and Ruben Fleischer directs. Even though Bill Murray died (again) in the first iteration, rumor has it he’s back for the sequel. Oct. 18
The Lighthouse (Oct. 18). Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are lighthouse keepers in the 1800s who contend with the effects of isolation, from The Witch’s Robert Eggers.
Jojo Rabbit (Oct. 18). Taika Waititi’s weird new comedy about a bullied boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (played by Maori-Jewish Waititi, who’s probably known best as the director of Thor: Ragnarok and the delightful Hunt for the Wilderpeople). Billed as an “anti-hate” satire. With Sam Rockwell. Oct. 18
Motherless Brooklyn (Nov. 1). Edward Norton directs and stars in this adaptation of the Jonathan Lethem novel about a ’50s detective investigating a conspiracy. With Alec Baldwin. Nov. 1.
Terminator: Dark Fate (Nov. 1). Linda Hamilton returns as the ultimate mother, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger in his most iconic role and Edward Furlong, the OG John Connor.
Harriet (Nov. 1). Cynthia Erivo has the title role as Underground Railroad hero Harriet Tubman. With Janelle Monáe, directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou).
Marriage Story (Nov. 6). Noah Baumbach’s drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) going through a divorce. Nov. 6.
Doctor Sleep (Nov. 8). Ewan McGregor plays Danny Torrance, the kid from The Shining, now grown and still contending with his special powers. From the story by Stephen King.
Ford v Ferrari (Nov. 15). Ford hires car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and a driver (Christian Bale) to take on unbeatable Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone).
Charlie’s Angels (Nov. 15). Elizabeth Banks directs Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska in this new take on the lady buttkickers.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Nov. 22). Tom Hanks as beloved public TV children’s show host Fred Rogers.