A summer without movies: Reflections on a cancelled summer blockbuster season

Normally at this time of the year, I’d be sitting down to write a summer movie recap, reflecting on the hits (and misses), what were the biggest surprises and disappointments, and so on. By this point in 2020, I planned to have seen “Wonder Woman 1984,” Christopher Nolan’s espionage thriller “Tenet,” and “Black Widow.”

Looking back, I realize I didn’t ever write a “most anticipated movies of the year” blog post for 2020 back at the beginning of the year, as I typically do. That omission turned out to be a little prophetic, because for much of this year there simply haven’t been ANY movies in theaters.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives across the globe, and there is no specific end date in sight. Not being able to see movies in theaters feels like such a small-scale disappointment, compared to everything else going on. Yet as someone who deeply loves the theatrical experience and whose favorite hobbies are watching movies and blogging and podcasting about them, this year I’ve felt strangely adrift.

I do find myself fearing for the future of the entertainment industry. My local theater is an AMC, and I have no idea when/if it will reopen. Will the lack of movie revenue this summer make it harder for blockbusters like Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe to get made? What will happen when we run out of new streaming content, because COVID shut down filming on a lot of projects this year?

However, despite all that, this actually isn’t intended to be a depressing blog post. Because even though this spring my fears and anxieties about the future made it hard to think creatively and find a topic I felt passionate enough to write about, I’ve ended up going on a surprisingly interesting journey this year. I may not have been to see a new movie in the theater, like I’m accustomed to during the summer, but I’ve still broadened my cinematic horizons.

Without new movies in the theater (plus the need to spend more time at home), I’ve gone back and watched a number of miscellaneous films and TV shows that had been on my “to be watched” list for a long time that I’d just never gotten around to viewing.

I love getting hyped about new movies, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But because I’m often looking forward, I sometimes miss out on good stuff that came out in the past. Despite the fact that I’m more obsessed with Daniel Craig and Adam Driver than I probably should be, I had never seen their heist thriller “Logan Lucky.” I watched that for the first time this summer and had a great time.

I watched two TV miniseries that had previously been released — “John Adams” and “The Night Manager” — and they were both amazing. I’m grateful for the extra time I had this summer to enjoy them.

I also watched Netflix’s stranger-than-life reality series “Tiger King”; I don’t even know how to define that experience, just that only in the year 2020 would a show that crazy feel somehow normal. Even better was Netflix’s “Umbrella Academy” season 2; it’s one of my all-time favorite series, and I’m so grateful they were able to film it before the COVID shutdown. It was just the mental boost I needed.

Disney+ ended the animated “Clone Wars” series with a powerful, emotional finale. “The Clone Wars” is actually one of my favorite parts of the Star Wars franchise, and I loved getting to visit this show one last time.

I’m also fairly certain that I probably never would have watched “Schitt’s Creek” if it hadn’t been a pandemic. I’m typically really hesitant to commit to new TV shows, just because of the time involved. However, I loved this show so, so much, and it got me through some of the darkest and most challenging parts of this year. It made me laugh AND cry, and I ended every episode with a smile. I even bought the final season on Amazon because I just couldn’t wait for it to show up on Netflix.

Having no new movies has also sparked some interesting discussions over on the ESO Podcast. My favorite episode to record each year is the summer movie preview…which, as you already know, had to be cancelled because there weren’t any summer movies to preview. Instead, we’ve gotten to watch some classic movies. I saw “Cool Hand Luke” and “Strangers on a Train” for the first time, and I can’t wait to discuss some of the other movies we have coming up on the schedule. We’ve had some neat discussions about films I might never have watched otherwise.

So in short, I guess what I’m trying to say is, there’s nothing positive about a global pandemic. However, for the rest of this year I’ve made it my mission to try to find positivity despite my concerns for the future.

There is a certain sadness as I look back on the summer blockbuster season that could have been. I have no idea what the summer of 2021 will be like, and I’m at the point where I don’t want to speculate. But even though the TV in my basement is no substitute for that full-blown theater experience, I’m still thankful for the great entertainment I’ve watched this summer.

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