There’s nothing quite like summer movie season. Maybe you’ve wandered into a theater to escape the sweltering August heat, the cool air making you shiver as the salty scent of popcorn sticks to your skin. Or you’ve spent the day at the beach, your hair still smelling of the waves and sunscreen as you settle in for a blockbuster. Perhaps it’s a rainy, muggy afternoon, and you leave the theater right as the sky clears, the warm breeze wrapping itself snugly around your shoulders as you decide to take a stroll or grab a drink on a rooftop.
In any case, the theater is a haven, an oasis of A/C, ice-cold fountain soda and buttery popcorn, and exhilarating entertainment that only enhances the feeling of freedom and possibility that the warm months usher in. But it’s also a place for community. My first experience ever living alone was when I moved to France for a summer internship. Whenever I felt lonely — and if you’ve ever been to Paris in August, you’ll know that I was one of roughly six people left in the city — I’d go to the movies. Far from my friends and my family, it was the one place I could connect with familiar faces — even if that meant sitting through The Amazing Spider-Man.
Obviously, the world has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has put the summer blockbuster season in jeopardy, as it has so many other aspects of daily life that we formerly took for granted (especially our health). Countless movie theaters have shut down indefinitely, while studios are pushing their release dates towards the fall. At this point, it all hinges on Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which is fighting to hold on to its July 17 release date.
Streaming services are stepping in to fill the emerging gap. Over the last few weeks, Netflix has unveiled a lineup of original films that feels designed to scratch that summer blockbuster itch. Among the titles on offer: an Issa Rae rom-com, Spike Lee’s latest war epic, an action thriller directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood starring Charlize Theron, and a Will Ferrell musical parody. All of them feel like movies you would have raced to see in theaters; now you can catch them from the safety of your home. It won’t be quite the same — but what really is these days?