What movies will we be celebrating at year's end if things continue like they've been going?


And the Oscar goes to... "Sonic the Hedgehog?"

We're one-third of the way through this cruel, cruel year, and the Hollywood outlook is as bleak as that of the rest of the world. 

You'd be a fool to be thinking about the Academy Awards at a time like this, when there are much bigger things in the world to be worrying about. But that hasn't stopped the NFL from holding a draft and releasing a full season schedule, so we might as well pull out our crystal ball and start looking down the line at what awards season might look like. 

The biggest problem facing a traditional Oscar season right now isn't so much a lack of quality movies but a lack of movies, period. It's hard to celebrate the best and brightest of Hollywood when the best and brightest of Hollywood is tucked away, waiting to come out of hiding. But it's going to be a while before this fog lifts, and it's time for the movie industry to be proactive rather than reactive. It needs to create its own new normal.

Roughly two months into this COVID-19 crisis, only one marquee movie that was due to open in theaters has stuck to its timetable, forgone a theatrical release and gone straight to home viewing platforms, and that was "Trolls World Tour." It's far from a glowing cinematic achievement, but it did feature animated trolls dancing to Daft Punk's "One More Time," and there's something to be said for that.

"Trolls World Tour" hasn't released its grosses in the traditional sense, but the studio behind it says it has pulled in roughly $100 million off of $20 home viewings, which equates to about 5 million rentals.

That's a good sign for the viability of home VOD releases, but "Trolls World Tour" is a special case: It's a sequel to a hit film, it has big stars attached (Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick top the voice cast), it was heavily advertised in a pre-coronavirus world, and again, it's got trolls dancing to Daft Punk. Not every film has that kind of pedigree.  

It was also the first big movie to hit an at-home audience starved for a big movie, and it was a family title, factors that need to be worked into its success. Would it have done as well if it wasn't a kids movie, or if it was one of four big movies hitting rental services that same weekend? We'll never know. 

The next big movie heading to on demand services is "Scoob," an animated Scooby Doo adventure which arrives Friday, and after that eyes turn toward June 12, when Judd Apatow's Pete Davidson-starring "The King of Staten Island" hits VOD.

It's the same day Spike Lee's "Da 5 Bloods" arrives on Netflix, which operates on a different business model, but has a better blueprint forward than the traditional movie studios, which are still wary of bringing first run features directly into viewers' living rooms. 

Until those studios catch up, we wait.

The rest of the year's calendar is in a state of suspended animation. Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" is, for the time being, hanging on to its July 17 release date, but that seems like wishful thinking hoping for a Hollywood ending to this pandemic. Since Warner Bros., the studio behind "Tenet," is unlikely to gamble a potential huge money-maker in the still-untested waters of on demand releasing, a delay seems inevitable. 

(This is the part where it's worth mentioning that Marvel would make an absolute killing — and provide the world with some much needed hope — by releasing a sure-thing such as "Black Widow" on home viewing platforms over Memorial Day weekend.) 

Meanwhile, the big fall movie festivals that act as the unofficial launch to Oscar season seem, currently, doubtful to happen, and we're back to the problem we had in the beginning: we're looking at the potential of an Oscar season without Oscar movies, or at least much to choose from. 

The Academy recently loosened its rules to allow streaming films to be eligible for Oscar consideration, which reads like a consolation that we're not in for any sort of traditional awards season. 

Of course, Hollywood could cancel the Oscars altogether, since at this point it the idea of red carpets, an audience full of stars and a big glitzy production seem like a relic of another time.

But Hollywood's not going to cancel the Oscars. It will be a Zoom broadcast if it has to be, and Ryan Seacrest will still find a way to ask people who they're wearing. 

The show must go on, as they say, even if we have no idea what that show is going to look like, how it will go on or who will be on it. Don't count Sonic out just yet.   



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