Movie theaters were almost entirely closed for the better part of a year, and while they occasionally reopened in a few places, people in major parts of the country, like New York and Los Angeles, had no option to visit theaters even if they wanted to do so. Even now, many theaters are still closed. However, it does appear that, however slowly, things are beginning to finally reopen in a way that might be permanent. It's still going to be months, if not another year, before things are back to normal, but being able, and willing, to go to the movies again finally seems like a real possibility.
For the most part, we're now looking at a 2021 release calendar that looks an awful lot like the 2020 release calendar. Most studios held off on releasing their big tentpole movies until such time as they might be able to actually bring in significant box office dollars again. However, a handful of movies, both big and small, did come out in 2020, either during a time when no theaters were open or theaters were unavailable to many parts of the nation. Now that this is finally starting to change, here are the movies that could really use a theatrical release since they never really got one the first time around.
While it was not necessarily that shocking to see a number of planned 2020 releases make the jump to streaming platforms and VOD, one movie that nobody was expecting to see on Disney+ in 2020 was Hamilton. The filmed production of the stage musical had been set for a theatrical release in 2021, and while we were seeing the theatrical release calendar get a significant shakeup that included 2021 and beyond, nobody was expecting to see a movie planned that far out come that soon. Although it's great that we got to see it last summer, it would still be nice to see it in theaters. Not everybody watches movies at home with a great sound system, and being able to experience Hamilton with theater quality audio would make it worth spending the money for a movie ticket.
Several of Disney's planned 2020 releases ended up on Disney+, but perhaps the biggest of them all was Pixar's Soul. It was, without question, the most popular of this group with both fans and critics. And while Soul doesn't have a plot or a story that screams "big screen," Pixar animation is always a visual feast and best when seen in a theater. For many, Soul was a movie that brought them optimism and hope during a year where there was little of that going around. Being able to return to theaters by seeing Soul the way it was meant to be seen feels fitting. Hearing that impressive jazz soundtrack and Oscar nominated score on a theater sound system would give many fans an experience they simply could not have with the movie at home.
Bill and Ted Face the Music
Bill and Ted Face the Music was never going to be a box office heavyweight; that's just not the sort of franchise this is. But the first two Bill and Ted movies got theatrical releases, so it's only fair that the end of the trilogy gets the same treatment. Technically Bill and Ted Face the Music was released in theaters, but not really. It came out at a time that your best chance of seeing it was at the drive-in, assuming you have one of those in your neighborhood. For those of us that saw Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey in theaters, we were looking forward to completing the trilogy the same way, and without that experience, it feels like something is missing.
When theaters shut down a year ago, Mulan was one of those movies that we thought would be among the first big blockbusters available to watch when they returned. However, while some studios continued to push back films, Disney eventually relented and released the live-action version of Mulan as the first Premium Access title for Disney+, but at a premium price. Mulan, to be blunt, isn't the best movie. It has issues from a story perspective that keep it from really being something special. However, the movie is visually stunning, and as such, it could really use theatrical exhibition to show off the gorgeous cinematography on hand. Even watching Mulan in 4K on Disney+, it feels small. The movie was clearly shot with theatrical exhibition in mind, and it would be nice to see it that way given the chance.
The other big movie besides Mulan that would hold out in an attempt to be the film marking a triumphant return to theaters was Christopher Nolan's Tenet. The movie would technically get a theatrical release, just like the director wanted, but it was during a time when movie theaters were still largely unavailable to most, and many of those who might have capable of visiting theaters were less sure about doing so. Christopher Nolan is a supporter of theatrical exhibition and there's no reason that his movie shouldn't get the release he wanted to see it get. There absolutely is value in that experience, and it would be nice for those who wanted to see Tenet in theaters, but never really had the chance, to finally be able to do so.
To be sure, getting theatrical releases now are unlikely to turn any of these movies into massive blockbusters. With all of them already available at home, many people that might have bought tickets before won't do so now. But for those who really appreciate theaters and everything they represent, and everything they're capable of providing that can't be replicated at home, the chance to see these movies, and others, on the big screen would be appreciated and enjoyed by a lot of fans. Hopefully, at some point, we can see some of these movies impacted by the pandemic given special theatrical engagements for those that would absolutely go back to the theater to experience them in a brand-new way.