Going to the movies during the holidays has been a long-standing tradition for American households. In fact, as of 2019, the eight days between December 24th and 31st accounted for as much as 5% of the year’s total box office receipts. But it goes without saying that the last two years have taken its toll. For one, since the pandemic, there are numerically fewer films in theaters. And quite a few, which audiences would have willingly left the house for in the past, are now not given their chance, as title after title is sent straight to streaming.
But not all hope is lost. For one thing, it’s not the first time movie theaters have been met with dire straits. Attendance diminished significantly in the 50s with the introduction of TV, and took a blow again in later decades as VCRs, DVDs, and bigger home screens came along. Yet through it all, theaters managed to keep going, because everyone knows the experience of seeing a film in a movie theater with a live audience – not to mention the popcorn – is second to none.
Having said that, there’s no arguing that these days, it does take the right movie to get us there (apparently, for every person on earth this year, that movie was Top Gun). So as some of us simply refuse to let certain holiday traditions die, we’ve compiled a short list of current films worthy of getting your ass off the couch and into a theater.
Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, with its giant stars – Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Tobey Maguire, and rising star Diego Calva, and giant take on Hollywood’s most debaucherous era feels like it needs to be seen on an equally giant screen with an equally giant tub of popcorn.
Spielberg’s most intimate and personal film is moving in the most nuanced of ways and feels both completely new and unique, while still feeling like a throwback to his early films. Watching a movie about how one of the greatest filmmakers the world will ever know got to be, feels like it can only be taken in the old-fashioned way.
How refreshing to see a movie that isn’t a sequel, a remake, or an adaptation. Thrillers are always more exciting when ensconced in a dark theater, and The Menu makes for a great outing – it’s fun and riveting, and the cast – Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor Joy, Nicholas Hoult to name a few – is hard to beat.
BONES AND ALL
Any Luca Guadagnino film ought to be a theater must. The Italian director has consistently delivered cinematic art house films, and the movie’s two stars, Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russel, along with a supporting cast that includes the always great Mark Rylance and Chloe Sevigny, are definitely worth the price of admission.
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER
It goes without saying that James Cameron’s sequel to his 2009 eco epic, with its par for the course groundbreaking technology and all its I-MAX 3D grandeur, simply was not designed to be seen at home. The definition of a popcorn movie.
PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH
What’s more classic than taking the kids to an animated movie over the holidays, especially one that many adults may feel nostalgic about? Bringing some weight to the fun are the movie’s cast: Antonio Banderas, of course, Salma Hayek, Olivia Coleman, Florence Pugh, Ray Winstone, and John Mulaney. Though worth noting for parents, this long-awaited Dreamworks sequel includes some darker moments, including a surprisingly scary Big Bad Wolf, that may not go over with younger kids.
MATILDA THE MUSICAL
Yes, it’s also playing on Netflix, which can be a real theater killer. But after a successful run on Broadway in the US, and an 11-year phenomenon-level West End run in the UK (where it’s still going strong), director Matthew Warchus’ musical rendition of Roald Dahl’s classic, Matilda, is dazzling and truly delightful for both adults and children, and deserves to be seen on a big screen. And it doesn’t hurt one bit that Emma Thompson is nothing short of triumphant as the antagonist.