On Luca, Tenet, The Invisible Man and Other Films from the Early Pandemic Era that Deserve More Big-Screen Time | MZS

And what about the horror thriller “The Invisible Man,” one of the most mercilessly tense films I’ve seen in the past decade? It got released right before lockdown and made $144 million globally, a staggering haul for a medium-budgeted genre picture whose biggest star was Elisabeth Moss. Who knows what it would’ve made if it had been released six months earlier or two years later? I do know that if they brought it back to theaters, I’d see it again and bring friends.

Among films that never or barely got theatrical releases, Spike Lee’s Vietnam epic “Da 5 Bloods,” about old war buddies going back to the jungle in search of buried treasure, felt huge even on a laptop screen with earbuds providing sound. I’d imagine it would feel absolutely gigantic in a decent-sized theater (it didn’t get to play very many, except as a part of Netflix’s bid for awards that the movie unfortunately didn’t get). Max Barbakow’s “Palm Springs,” a Groundhog Day”-like comedy parable starring Andy Samberg, is another one that looks and moves like a real movie and would play great in a proper setting. “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is another one I’d like to see return to theaters. Netflix gave it a customary perfunctory release and then pulled it. I saw it at a local multiplex and thought it played great in a large format. It did so well in a brief window that I believe the streamer left money on the table by not allowing for a longer stay.  

Box-office wise, two epic musicals from that period, John M. Chu’s adaptation “In the Heights” and Steven Spielberg’s version of “West Side Story,” were essentially trying to win a footrace with their ankles tied together. Musicals are a tough sell even without a plague. These films’ exhibition footprints were drastically reduced by Covid-19 fears, which dampened overall attendance and didn’t produce a bona fide smash until the release of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in December 2021 compelled viewers to return to theaters again to feel like they were part of another live-action MCU event (arguably the last really big one post-“Endgame”). I masked up and went to see both films in (sparsely attended) screenings and loved them both—especially “West Side Story,” one of Spielberg’s best-directed movies, which is really saying something. 

There are so many films from the early pandemic period that could and possibly should return to theaters. I’ve listed a few here. What are yours?