DIFF Weekly Bulletin – The Week of 4/5/2021

A brief recap of the biggest news of the film industry in the week of April 5, 2021. 

BY: The DIFF Editorial Team

Godzilla vs. Kong Scores Best Domestic Box Office Haul of the Pandemic

As of April 10, 2021, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla vs. Kong has topped $60 million at the domestic box office, making it the most commercially successful theatrical film during the COVID-19 pandemic. These numbers are impressive, considering that the film had a same-day release in theaters and HBO Max. Such strong returns provide hope that audiences are still eager to watch movies on the big screen, encouraging the theater industry, which has undergone severe profit loss during the pandemic. As the country slowly begins opening up, the industry sees the light at the end of the tunnel. For example, Black Widow’s North American box office projection has increased from $45 million to $170 million. Jeff Block, Exhibitor Relations’ Senior Box Office Analyst, expresses optimism for blockbusters. “As the science of things points to the film industry getting more resilient across the board. That’s excellent news for blockbusters, considering budgets usually balloon upwards of $200M these days.” —Harry

Netflix Spends $450 Million on Knives Out Sequels

Netflix is set to spend an enormous $450 million for the rights to Knives Out 2 and Knives Out 3.  Rian Johnson will be directing again, with Daniel Craig once again starring as Benoit Blanc. When put into context with recent news about streaming services, the move raises many questions. Will the Knives Out sequels be exclusive to the streaming service, or will they have a theatrical release as well? With the HBO Max deal that took place earlier this year, that scheduled movies like Dune to be both theatrically released and released on streaming, the Knives Out sequels could go either way, but then it begs the question, why would Netflix spend so much if they weren’t hoping to keep the films exclusive? As for why Rian Johnson chose Netflix as a way to finance his films, the answer most likely lies in the tremendous amount of freedom Netflix offers its content creators, as well as the generous $300 million which will allegedly be split evenly among Rian Johnson, his producing partner Ram Bergman, and Daniel Craig. —Gabe

Steven Yeun Cast in Jordan Peele’s Next Film

Reports have announced that Steven Yeun is set to star in filmmaker Jordan Peele’s upcoming project. The film is currently projected to be released on July 2, 2022.

Yeun first came to prominence as a regular on ABC’s The Walking Dead, and has since taken on a number of distinctive projects, one being director Lee Isaac Chung’s academy award nominated film Minari. For his role in said film, Yeun is also up for an academy award in the category of best lead actor in the upcoming Academy Awards. 

Jordan Peele followed up the success of his sketch comedy show Key & Peele by stepping into the horror genre. Peele won the academy award for best original screenplay with Get Out in 2017 and has since earned other accolades with his 2019 horror film Us. Though no title or plot details have been released for this upcoming film, anticipation is certainly brewing for this duo’s collaboration. —Olivia

Shang-Chi Plot and Character Details Revealed in New Toy Leaks

Although Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will release this year, Disney and Marvel Studios have yet to give us an official look at the film, leaving many fans speculating about its plot and characters. More evidence emerged this week as a few leaks of Shang-Chi action figures from Hasbro’s Marvel Legends series began spreading on social media. We now have official looks and descriptions of the four main characters: Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), Wenwu (Tony Leung), Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), and Death Dealer. Some new information includes Shang-Chi as a former Ten Rings member, Wenwu as Shang-Chi’s father, Xialing as Shang-Chi’s sister, and Death Dealer as “one of the most formidable opponents Shang-Chi has ever faced.” Interestingly, the Mandarin, portrayed by Leung, a legendary Chinese actor, underwent the most dramatic changes. Not only did he adopt the new name Wenwu, but his design resembles more of the actor’s appearance rather than the long hair/beard look that Mandarin had in the comics. Such changes are likely responses to the criticism of the character’s racist origins and stereotypical connotations. Some audiences, however, remain skeptical of a Hollywood company’s ability to portray Chinese culture and characters accurately. Director Destin Daniel Cretton responds to such concerns by promising a bias-free interpretation of the source material. “We are not looking to contribute anymore to the Asian stereotypes that we have seen both in cinema and pop culture. We’re hoping to just show some different sides to both Asian-Americans and Chinese-Americans and Mainland Chinese characters.” —Harry

Laika’s New Live Action Movie?

Laika, the acclaimed animation studio, is set out to make their first live-action movie. The studio is behind various critically acclaimed stop-motion animated films like  ParanormanKubo and the Two Strings, and The Boxtrolls. “Its first feature film Caroline is perceived as Laika’s most celebrated film and even received a nomination for the best-animated picture in the 2010 Academy awards. Even though their films have received massive critical appraise and award show recognition, their films haven’t been large hits at the box office. This can be seen with their newest film Missing Link, which only made $26 million at the box office despite its massive $100 million budget. Even Caroline, its most successful film, only made $75.3 million at the US box office in 2009 and is the only Laika film to this day that exceeded its domestic budget. Will this change in medium possibly help them out in the box office? 

The studio is planning to adapt the thriller novel Seventeen for its first live-action film. No major plot elements have been released from this upcoming first novel by John Brownlow. All we know so far is that it’s an action-packed and exciting new thriller. Travis Knight, the CEO of Laika, is eager about this upcoming project. He stated that Seventeen would take Laika in an exciting new direction.

I’m excited to see how Laika tackles the world of live-action movies. Can’t wait to see what this innovative studio will do with this project! —Sofia

Marvel Studios Unveils First Look At Loki:

This summer, Tom Hiddleston will return as the beloved God of Mischief in Marvel’s new Disney + series. The studio has given audiences a glimpse into what became of one of their most talked about villains after the events of Avengers Endgame. Hiddleston is joined by a stellar cast including Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Richard E. Grant. Loki is set for a June 11th release and will mark Marvel’s first narrative without a traditional hero filling the role of the protagonist. Personally, I can’t wait to see what new and creative ideas this fantastical show has in store. —Olivia

Nomadland Director Chloé Zhao wins top DGA Award

In the 73rd annual Directors Guild of America Awards, Chinese director Chloé Zhao won the top award for her feature film Nomadland, which has already won best drama and best director at the Golden Globes. Zhao is the second woman and the first woman of color to receive the award. Nomadland also received nominations for many Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress. Zhao has proven herself to be a rising superstar in Hollywood, as her upcoming projects include Marvel Studios’ highly anticipated The Eternals and a new Dracula project from Universal. —Harry

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