Next year could mark the dawn of a new era of moviegoing.
For starters, there’s the merger of Disney with Fox. It’s great news for comic-book fans: Finally, the Avengers can meet the X-Men! For moviegoers at large, the benefits are less clear. The merger will mean one less major studio — there were only six to begin with — and the creation of one frighteningly large one. A Disney-Fox behemoth could eat up roughly 40 percent of the annual box office. Disney is already so big that it can negotiate higher-than-average revenue sharing with theaters, which may face even more pressure.
Then there’s MoviePass, the subscription service that seems designed to drive traffic to the theaters. For $9.95 per month, you can see almost as many movies as humanly possible (a maximum of one per day) at nearly any theater, big or small. Theoretically, you could afford to take a gamble on titles you would normally skip. In effect, it turns theatrical moviegoing into something like Netflix, and it’s no coincidence that founder Mitch Lowe was an executive there.
Speaking of Netflix, the streaming service will release 80 movies in 2018. That’s right, 80 movies. (By comparison, Warner Bros. tends to release fewer than 20 per year.) So far, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro have signed up for “The Irishman,” and with Netflix planning to spend $8 billion on original content over the coming year, other famous names will surely follow. In terms of quantity — we’ll see about the quality — Netflix will have a bigger release schedule than the three largest movie studios combined.
All told, then, will movies become more or less generic? Will ticket prices rise or fall? Will smaller films have a tougher or easier time finding an audience? Will we go to the movies more or less often? Some of those answers may become clear in 2018. For now, here are 10 movies to look forward to in what promises to be an interesting year.
15:17 TO PARIS Clint Eastwood never seemed like the kind of director who would cast nonprofessional actors in leading roles — isn’t that kind of arty? — yet his movie about the three Americans who helped thwart a terrorist attack on a passenger train will star Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos as themselves. (Feb. 9)
BLACK PANTHER The first major black superhero film will feature Chadwick Boseman in the title role, also known as T’Challa, king of the fictional nation of Wakanda. Marvel has been focusing on diversity of late — look at “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Thor: Ragnarok” — but there’s still a lot riding on this movie about a beloved (and unique) comic-book icon. Director Ryan Coogler (“Creed”) co-wrote the screenplay. (Feb. 16)
ISLE OF DOGS A stop-motion animated film influenced by Akira Kurosawa? Leave it to Wes Anderson (“The Fantastic Mr. Fox”), who has assembled an impossibly large and excellent voice cast, including Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johanssen, Bill Murray and about 10 others you’d recognize. (March 23)
READY PLAYER ONE Could this be the movie that “Tron” — both versions — was meant to be? Tye Sheridan, of “X-Men: Apocalypse,” plays a teenager whose online avatar finds himself drawn into a rebellion with real-world consequences. Early trailers for the movie suggest a return to action-adventure form for director Steven Spielberg, working from Ernest Cline’s debut novel. (March 30)
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY The name Alden Ehrenreich may be a mouthful, but we’ll be saying it a lot after we finally see him as a young Han Solo in this prequel. Jon Kasdan and his father, Lawrence (“The Empire Strikes Back”), wrote the screenplay; Ron Howard will direct. With Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson. (May 25)
DEADPOOL 2 The surprise R-rated Marvel hit — $783 million worldwide — returns, seemingly under the umbrella of a Disney-owned Fox. The early trailer promises more of the nihilistic violence and self-referential humor that made the original so popular. Josh Brolin will play the villain Cable. (June 1)
THE INCREDIBLES 2 Pixar’s 2004 film “The Incredibles” tends to show up in three separate top 10 lists: best animated film, best family film and even best superhero film. No wonder the trailer for the long-awaited sequel was the most-viewed of any animated movie. The film is said to pick up where the last one left off, with little Jack-Jack discovering his multifaceted powers and a new villain waiting in the wings. (June 15)
CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? When celebrity biographer Lee Israel died in 2014, she left behind hundreds of autographed letters she either forged or stole, plus an unapologetic memoir detailing her crimes. In an intriguing bit of casting, Melissa McCarthy will play her in this biopic. (Oct. 19)
FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDEWALD Despite some grumbling from “Harry Potter” fans, Johnny Depp will indeed return in this sequel. Still, we also get Jude Law as a young Dumbledore and a bit more of Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange. Director David Yates, who gave the original film such a gold glow, is back along with Eddie Redmayne and the original cast. (Nov. 16)
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY It’s a movie full of question marks: Can Rami Malek, who plays the soft-spoken hero of USA’s “Mr. Robot,” convincingly play flamboyant rocker Freddie Mercury of Queen? What kind of material did director Bryan Singer, who was fired after disappearing from the set for days, leave behind? Will his replacement, Dexter Fletcher (“Eddie the Eagle”), be the right man for the job? We’ll find out when — if? — it arrives in theaters Christmas Day 2018.