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Cinema Chat: 'F9' Scores At The Box Office, Summer Classics At The Michigan Theater, And More

State Theatre
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We are officially into summer, and a wide range of movies are hitting the theaters! WEMU's David Fair checked in with Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins to get the lowdown on all you need to know for the Fourth of July weekend.


First things first. At $70 million for its first weekend, “F9” (Universal) showed a terrific start. Not only is it the best opening for any film in 18 months, it beat “A Quiet Place Part II” (Paramount) by almost 50 percent for the top gross since the pandemic. Though it did fall short of the previous two main series entries (“Furious 7” opened to $147 million, “The Fate of the Furious” more recently in 2017 over Easter was $99 million). However, even under normal conditions this might not have been seen as a horrific drop.

Last weekend’s total gross will come in just under $100 million. It will beat the previous post-closing best of $81 million (when “Quiet” opened) for the three days before Memorial Day. Better yet, since the same weekend in 2019 grossed only $152 million, this comes in at 65 percent of that total. Among other holdovers, “In the Heights” (Warner Bros.) is still doing very good business at the Michigan Theater, but not as well as hoped nationally – possibly because it also opened on HBO Max.

The pace of specialized/independent releases is increasing. This week saw Farmington Hills, Michigan native Heidi Ewing’s “I Carry You with Me,” which premiered at Sundance in 2020 open in four New York/Los Angeles theaters, similar to what a typical platform release would do. It will play the State Theater in mid-July.

“Le Cercle Rouge” (Rialto), a reissue of Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1970 crime film with Alain Delon, took in $9,000 at New York’s Film Forum. This venue has been open for over a month, and its progress (this is their best gross yet) shows that cinephile movie audiences are also growing. “Summer of Soul” (Searchlight) quietly opened in one theater each in Manhattan (the AMC Magic Johnson in Harlem) and Hollywood (the El Capitan). This much anticipated music film opens at the State Theatre this weekend.


"Summer of Soul (Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)" -- OPENS FRIDAY, JULY 2 AT THE STATE

In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture, and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just 100 miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was never seen and largely forgotten—until now. The film shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. The feature includes never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Staples Singers, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension, and more.


In Marvel Studios' action-packed spy thriller, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger. Also starring Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz.





 CINEMA CLASSICS – Sundays & Tuesdays


"In the Heights" 

This is an upcoming American musical drama film directed by Jon M. Chu from a screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes. It is based on the stage musical of Lin-Manuel Miranda. The film stars Anthony RamosCorey HawkinsLeslie GraceMelissa BarreraOlga MeredizDaphne Rubin-VegaGregory Diaz IV, and Jimmy Smits.

Lights up on Washington Heights... The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies this vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is the likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.

"The Truffle Hunters"

Deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, a handful of men, seventy or eighty years young, hunt for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle—which to date has resisted all of modern science's efforts at cultivation. They're guided by a secret culture and training passed down through generations, as well as by the noses of their cherished and expertly-trained dogs. They live a simpler, slower way of life, in harmony with their loyal animals and their picture-perfect land, seemingly straight out of a fairy tale. They're untethered to cell phone screens or the Internet, opting instead to make their food and drink by hand and prioritizing in-person connections and community.

The demand for white truffles increases year after year, even as the supply decreases. As a result of climate change, deforestation, and the lack of young people taking up the mantle, the truffle hunters' secrets are more coveted than ever. However, as it soon becomes clear, these aging men may just hold something much more valuable than even this prized delicacy: the secret to a rich and meaningful life.

"The Sparks Brothers"

This is a 2021 documentary film directed by Edgar Wright. The film is about Ron and Russell Mael, members of the pop and rock duo Sparks. The film had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Cast includes: Ron Mael & Russell Mael"Weird Al" YankovicBeckFleaJonathan RossPatton OswaltScott AukermanJason SchwartzmanTony ViscontiMike MyersGiorgio MoroderFred ArmisenNeil GaimanEarle MankeyHarvey FeinsteinTodd RundgrenBjörkSimon Pegg as the voice of John Lennon, Nick Frost as the voice of Ringo Starr. Additionally interviewed are many other collaborators and fans of the band; over 80 individuals are interviewed.

Principle photography began in May 2018, with Jake Polonsky as cinematographer, beginning with covering the band's concert at the O2 Forum Kentish Town. In April 2020, Wright announced that the film was "nearly finished."

"Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It"

It is a 2021 American documentary film, directed, produced, and edited by Mariem Pérez Riera. The film follows Rita Moreno, focusing on her early life and career. Norman Lear, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Michael Kantor serve as executive producers.

The film had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on January 29, 2021.

For over 70 years, Rita Moreno has inspired audiences with her performances, the film follows her journey from her childhood to stardom. In July 2019, it was announced PBS would produce and distribute a documentary film revolving around Rita Moreno with Norman Lear and Lin-Manuel Miranda set to executive produce.

"A Quiet Place Part II"

A 2020 American horror film and the sequel to the 2018 film, both of which follow a family that is forced to navigate and survive in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by blind monsters with an acute sense of hearing. The sequel was written and directed by John Krasinskiunder the studio Paramount Pictures. Emily BluntMillicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe reprise their roles from the first film, and Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou joined the cast. Krasinski also returns from the first film in a small role, seen in flashback sequences set before the first film.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

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