The big conversation happening around all things screen culture right now is the re-opening of the US box office. The COVID-19 shutdown has meant that US cinemas haven't been open for the past year and a bit, which in turn slows down the release of big screen movie titles. These include expected blockbusters, along with smaller, specialty releases. The movies that have been released... some have been okay. Most have been films that would likely have only played for 1-2 weeks in a cinema before going straight to home video (that's being charitable - most would have just gone to home video).

With COVID rates declining in the US and cinemas set to re-open at full, or close-to-full capacity, proper release movies are on their way back. This has flow-on effects to streaming services, and to the general screen watching ecosystem.

But... what if audiences don't want to come back? Marvel's Black Widow will be the first real test case in July (with eyes nervously watching the A Quiet Place Pt 2 opening this weekend). And while studios are all readying the release of their films, there does seem to be some nervousness. They're taking the opportunity to shrink exclusivity windows for US cinemas, but there seems to be some hedging of bets going on as well. Warner Bros will continue releasing its big screen films day and date with streaming HBO Max. Disney+ will be selling Cruella (in cinemas this coming weekend) and Black Widow as a premium add-on for $29.99.

Now comes news that Universal is releasing its big release Boss Baby sequel in cinemas on the same day it is made available to paid-users of its Peacock streaming service.

While Universal rubbed exhibition the wrong way during the pandemic, specifically AMC, when it decided to release Trolls World Tour theatrical day-and-date and on PVOD (ultimately grossing $100M stateside at one point) when theaters were closed, this is the first time that Universal Filmed Entertainment Group is capitalizing on its frosh Peacock service with a theatrical-day-and-date release, even though other studios like Disney and WarnerMedia have already attempted this with their own respective streaming services.

The industry is telling cinema exhibitors and potential audiences that the big screen is back. But, frankly, it doesn't really seem like anyone believes that's true.

Must watch

Take five minutes out of your day to watch this Last Week Tonight clip. A story on the show explored the sponsored content ethics of US local television networks (spoiler alert: there aren't any). In typical Last Week Tonight fashion, they followed this up with a stunt showing how easy it was to get a fake product on the air and given considerable time to spout nonsense pseudo-science with zero questions about any of it.

Late night TV introduces in-person laugh track

US late night TV is doing something wild in June - it's going to start presenting its shows in front of... wait for it... studio audiences.

As per the NYT, on June 14, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert will return. For over a year it has been A Late Show, produced from Colbert's house, but in the past 6 months or so the show has been produced from a small studio set from an office somewhere above the Ed Sullivan Theatre.

About 400 audience members will be allowed in the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway in Manhattan, provided they can show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus, such as through the Excelsior Pass issued by New York State or an original physical vaccination card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There will be no capacity restrictions, and masks will be optional.
CBS said that staff and crew members will be tested for the virus before starting work and will be screened daily for symptoms, monitored by a Covid-19 compliance officer. The network said the plan comports with New York State guidelines.

Not wanting to be out-done, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon has also advised that it is working towards having a full studio audience in early-June. The Tonight Show was the first late night show to properly return to the studio, albeit with a limited number of audience members.

Jimmy Kimmel is also planning a studio audience return for his late night show:

“We are hopeful that we can let people who want to see the show into our building and rest of the staff,” he said. “June 15 is the date that the governor established as our get-back-to really-normal date, so we’re hoping that means we can get back to normal here but nobody really knows,” he said.
‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ Plans To Have Full, Vaccinated Crowd In Early June
Things are starting to return to normal, in late-night, it seems. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is the latest late-night show planning to bring in a full audience back to the studio. The NBC series is planning to have a full, vaccinated audience in 30 Rock early next month. It comes three m…

TeeVee Snacks

  • Dune star Timothée Chalamet will play Willy Wonka in the upcoming origin story Wonka. I'm much more interested in the Mike Teavee origin story, frankly. Where did his interest begin? Read: Deadline
  • The CW has announced a greenlight for new shows The 4400, Naomi, and All-American: Homecoming. Source: thefutoncritic
  • It is expected that Amazon will announce a $9 billion acquisition of MGM by the end of this week. Read: WSJ
  • Lindsay Lohan will star in an upcoming Netflix Christmas movie. Read: Collider
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt will star as Travis Kalanick, the first CEO of Uber in an upcoming anthology series Super Pumped. I'm super... enthused. Read: Variety

Trailer Park

Marvel's The Eternals is hitting cinema screens later this year.

Evil returns to TV at new home Paramount+ from June 20.

Money Heist returns to Netflix on September 3.

The Rational Life debuts on Netflix soon.

A career woman over the age of 30 stands up against unfair practices at the workplace. She is caught between two men - her trusted assistant and her boss who is an eligible bachelor. Always one to choose reason over emotion, will Shen Ruo Xin who is considered a 'leftover woman' be brave enough to pursue a romance with a younger man or will she marry the man that society dictates?

Ali & Ratu Ratu Queens debuts on Netflix on June 17.

After waiting for years, Ali decided to go to New York to find his mother, who left him when he was little. However, he soons find himself facing unexpected challenges, and through that journey, discovers that there are many different ways to finding the real meaning of family.

What's next? Tomorrow.