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The Way Back, the new movie where Ben Affleck plays an alcoholic basketball coach, is the latest recent film to break the theatrical window and head to digital early. With fears of the coronavirus causing theaters across the globe to shut down, several studios have taken the unprecedented steps to release their titles on digital early.
Warner Bros. released The Way Back into theaters March 3, and now it’s already headed to digital. The studio will make the Ben Affleck pic available to own in high definition and standard definition from select digital retailers, including Prime Video U.S. only, Apple TV, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, DirecTV, FandangoNOW, PlayStation, Vudu, Microsoft Store on Xbox and Windows, and others for the suggested retail price of $19.99, starting March 24.
It’s the latest title to join an ever-growing list of early releases – a list that includes Onward, The Invisible Man, Trolls: World Tour, The Hunt, Just Mercy, Bloodshot, The Gentleman, and Warners’ own Birds of Prey, which will be available the same day as The Way Back.
“With audiences largely unable to view films in theatrical release under current circumstances, we have decided to provide the alternative of early digital ownership of our currently released titles to people looking for great entertainment options,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “So, while we remain big fans of the theatrical experience and hope audiences are able to return to cinemas in the near future, we understand that these are challenging times and offering this option simply makes sense.”
I haven’t seen The Way Back yet, but I wanted to – so I’m pretty happy that I’ll now have the chance. Still, it’s become clear that the movie release landscape has drastically changed in the last week, and things will likely never be the same again.
In The Way Back, “Jack Cunningham Affleck once had a life filled with promise. In high school, he was a basketball phenom with a full university scholarship, when suddenly, for reasons unknown, he walked away from the game, forfeiting his future. Now years later, Jack is spiraling down, triggered by an unspeakable loss, and drowning in the alcoholism that cost him his marriage and any hope for a better life. When he is asked to coach the basketball team at his alma mater, which has fallen far since his glory days, he reluctantly accepts, surprising no one more than himself. As the boys start to come together as a team and win, Jack may have finally found a reason to confront the demons that have derailed him. But will it be enough to fill the void, heal the deep wounds of his past, and set him on the road to redemption?”
With theaters already starting to close-up shop around the country - and others reducing capacity by half - and moviegoers already wary of heading to theaters where social distancing is difficult, the weekend box office fell to a 22-year-low, earning about $54 million. Depending on how low that number is officially, it’s either the worst weekend in 11 years or since the weekend after 9/11 or even worse, a September weekend in 1998 in which Matt Damon’s Rounders topped the box office with $8 million. It’s going to get a lot worse in the coming weeks, too, as theaters continue to shutter and studios postpone release dates. America will survive the Coronavirus, but the theater industry has a very bumpy road ahead of it.
In any respect, Pixar’s Onward did top the box office again, although it suffered a significant 73 percent drop in its second weekend. It earned $10.5 million to bring its total to $60.3 million, and while that is hugely disappointing, there’s no sense in trying to compare it the performance of other films, because nothing like this has ever happened to the film industry.
Interestingly, however, there was one film that seemed to do OK despite Coronavirus concerns, and that was the faith-based I Still Believe with Britt Robertson, K.J. Apa, Melissa Roxburgh, and Gary Sinise, which earned $9.5 million. I Still Believe likely benefited from presales from church groups, and it also performed better in the Midwest and the South, where Coronavirus concerns may not yet be as high. It did receive an A Cinemascore - typical for Christian films - and a middling 40 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes but a 99 percent from audiences on RT.
Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot was probably hit the hardest by the. Coronavirus. It earned only $9.3 million, but the real hurt came overseas. Diesel is a big star in China and Europe, and Bloodshot won’t even get a chance there. It only earned. $13 million overseas. The $45 million film is going to be big loser for Sony, and it has little to do with the bad reviews 31 percent on RT or middling Cinemascore B.
Universal/Blumhouse’s Invisible Man is slowing down quicker than it should, earning $6 million to bring its total to $64 million. The film dropped 60 percent this weekend, but to the film’s credit, that was the small drop of the weekend. Another Universal/Blumhouse film, The Hunt came in fifth place with $5 million on a $14 million price tag. First, Donald Trump tried to kill the film, co-written by Damon Lindelof and directed by Craig Zobel, and then it was delayed because of a mass shooting, and when it’s finally released, The Hunt got clobbered by a pandemic. If Blumhouse were smart, he’d immediately make it available on streaming platforms, because while I wasn’t willing to brave the Coronavirus to see it in theaters, I’d definitely watch The Hunt at home....
Since directing Brie Larson to an Oscar win in 2015’s Room, Irish writer/director Lenny Abrahamson has been fairly quiet, directing only a couple episodes of a TV series called Chance and a single feature, the 2018 horror mystery The Little Stranger, which starred Domhnall Gleeson. Now Abrahamson has returned to his home country as one of the two directors of Normal People, a new Hulu co-production with the BBC which focuses on two young lovers from Ireland who find themselves on opposite sides of a class divide. Check out the trailer below.Normal People Trailer
Is it hot in here, or is it just me? Man, this show looks sexy. I know the whole “Romeo and Juliet” dynamic is a little played out, but author Sally Rooney’s best-selling novel, which serves as the basis for the show, was critically acclaimed, so I suspect there’s more going on here than what we see in this trailer. Normal People will reportedly consist of twelve half-hour episodes, with Abrahamson tackling the first six and Hettie Macdonald Doctor Who, Howards End directing the final six. Rooney is serving as a writer on the series, along with Alice Birch Lady Macbeth, Succession and Mark O’Rowe Boy A.
Daisy Edgar-Jones 2019’s War of the Worlds TV series stars as Marianne, and Paul Mescal Bump plays Connell, the two friends/lovers at the center of the story, and the production hired real students who were attending Dublin’s Trinity College to participate in the show. I visited Trinity College’s campus a couple of years ago to check out the world-famous Long Room in its Old Library; you can see it at the :54 mark in this video. It’s fitting that the world “normal” is in the title, because this looks like one of the most normal, traditional things Abrahamson has been involved with in years. And I wouldn’t exactly say that the guy who made Frank and Room is super concerned about directing traditional projects.
Here’s the show’s official synopsis:
Based on Sally Rooney’s best-selling novel, Normal People is an exquisite, modern love story about how one person can unexpectedly change another person’s life and about how complicated intimacy can be. It follows Marianne and Connell over several years, as they embark on an on-again/off-again romance that starts at school and continues through college, both testing their relationship as they explore different versions of themselves.
Normal People premieres on Hulu on April 29, 2020.