'Nobody Does A Comeback Like The Movies': Beating Drums For The Blockbuster's Return As the number of vaccinated Americans rises and the number of cases of COVID declines, Hollywood has started the back-to-cinemas drumroll — with mask-wearing superheroes leading the way.
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'Nobody Does A Comeback Like The Movies': Beating Drums For The Blockbuster's Return

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'Nobody Does A Comeback Like The Movies': Beating Drums For The Blockbuster's Return

'Nobody Does A Comeback Like The Movies': Beating Drums For The Blockbuster's Return

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/996473419/996617606" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

After a long thaw, movie theaters are finally open in much of the country. Audiences are not exactly flocking to them yet, partly because there hasn't been a reason. But critic Bob Mondello says the film industry is hinting broadly that that's about to change.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Vin Diesel got there first, online just a few hours before the Oscars telecast.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VIN DIESEL: We've gone through a year that tested us.

MONDELLO: A lone car races down an empty road, Diesel talking about how the places where we used to gather went quiet, places we'd come together for 100 years to be entertained, to escape, to go someplace new.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DIESEL: The movies - there's nothing like that moment when the lights go down, the projector ignites and we believe.

MONDELLO: And this being an "F9" trailer, a Jeep explodes in flames, somersaulting over the car he's in as if to say, why would you ever see this on anything but the biggest possible screen? - a sales pitch not just for a movie but for the movies. And sorely needed - "Tenet" tried to jumpstart things back in September and fizzled when audiences weren't ready. "007's" been announcing and then canceling premieres. Wonder Woman stuck to her opening date but streamed the same day.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WONDER WOMAN 1984")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Well, that was new.

MONDELLO: And not a good idea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DIESEL: After staying apart for so long, it's time to come back together.

MONDELLO: While Hollywood studios do the emotional pump priming, theater operators are leaning hard on safety.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: We're back, movie lovers. There are a few things that are going to be a little different from the last time you enjoyed a movie on the big screen with us.

MONDELLO: From Landmark, social distancing protocols and new ventilation systems. Regal Cinemas has reassurance from an epidemiologist on its website. The world's biggest cinema chain, AMC, has what it calls a safe and clean initiative.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: For the most contactless experience, get tickets on our app or website.

MONDELLO: Perhaps even more attentive - art houses, which cater to older audiences. So they're especially conscious of risk and the need to make auditoriums safe, also that their patrons will be coming back for more specialized fare.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CINEMA PARADISO")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Avanti.

MONDELLO: Come on back, says Nashville's nonprofit The Belcourt, with plugs for "Cinema Paradiso" and "Hollywood Shuffle."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE")

ROBERT TOWNSEND: (As Speed) That was a good movie.

JIMMY WOODARD: (As Tyrone) I love this movie. It was genius.

MONDELLO: But nobody does a you-really-want-to-see-this sales pitch quite like Marvel. Theirs starts with the voice of Stan Lee over images of a crowded city street.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STAN LEE: I love being with people.

MONDELLO: Cut to Iron Man pulling Spider-Man in for a hug...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AVENGERS: ENDGAME")

TOM HOLLAND: (As Spider-Man) What are you doing? Oh, this is nice.

MONDELLO: ...Followed by more scenes of cinematic togetherness from a 23-film Infinity Saga...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHADWICK BOSEMAN: (As Black Panther) Wakanda forever.

MONDELLO: ...Building to a moment of shared movie excitement that was experienced by literally hundreds of millions of people worldwide - the climax of "Avengers: Endgame," when all appears hopeless. But the movie music swells, and at the last possible second, reinforcements arrive.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AVENGERS: ENDGAME")

ANTHONY MACKIE: (As Falcon) On your left.

MONDELLO: And the theater audience erupts. The image on screen is of multiplex patrons leaping to their feet at an "Endgame" screening, arguably the ideal argument for returning to cinemas. And that's not even the real grabber in this Marvel welcome back. The trailer reserves that for the thing besides audiences that Hollywood hasn't had for more than a year, the thing that is finally making it possible for cinemas to reopen - hard opening dates. They glisten and flare defiantly beneath titles - July 9 for the much-delayed "Black Widow," September 3 for "Shang-Chi," November 5 for "The Eternals," December 17 for "Spider-Man" and on and on through May of 2023.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ETERNALS")

GEMMA CHAN: (As Sersi) When you love something, you fight for it.

MONDELLO: You don't even have to like superhero movies to find the surety, the sheer we've-got-you bravado comforting.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ETERNALS")

CHAN: (As Sersi) We're the ones who changed everything.

MONDELLO: Yeah, well, different universe. The pandemic changed everything in ours. But superheroes are still decent role models for audiences heading back to cinemas. Long before the rest of us, remember, quite a few of them were perfectly comfortable wearing masks.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALAN SILVESTRI'S "A PROMISE")

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