Since the pandemic shut down theaters last spring, almost every new movie has debuted in a hybrid release. A theater experience is an option, but new films are also available for rent at home.
Some movies have been released strictly in theaters, but none as advertised as "Free Guy." It's the story of a background character in an open-world video game that starts to become a coherent player. The game is on the verge of being shut down in the wake of a sequel, and he decides it's his turn to be the hero.
Ryan Reynolds plays Guy, the main character. It's a classic Reynolds comedy with familiar tropes, and it's an absolute blast. This movie is definitely tailored for a younger audience. There is a mountain of video game references, but it can still be a fun watch even for the non-gamer.
"Free Guy" is a movie that was made for theaters. There's a boatload of CGI and action scenes in a film where you're not supposed to think too deeply about the plot. It's a film where you can shut your brain off for a few hours and have a good time.
Fans of Netflix's hit show "Stranger Things" will recognize Joe Keery in a supporting role. Taika Waititi, one of my favorite filmmakers in Hollywood, starred as the antagonist in one of his rare acting roles. I think some parts of this movie miss the mark, but it's not meant to be taken seriously. It's a film for fun and that's where it excels. I gave "Free Guy" a 79/100.
What makes "Free Guy" such an important film to discuss is it could have implications on the immediate future of theater releases. Part of its marketing campaign was centered around it being a theater-only film with no second option for streaming on release.
"Free Guy" is one of this summer's blockbusters by default. I would think it might not get that same luxury in a typical year, but with so many big-budget films getting pushed to the fall, movies like "Free Guy" benefit.
When the pandemic started, I spoke with a front-office member at CEC Theatres about how COVID-19 will impact the movie industry. To no surprise, he expected it to hurt. But the theater business was different because so many big-money movies were delayed, the excitement of seeing them once theaters reopened would recoup the losses during the months they were closed.
Some studios are still delaying movies while others take advantage of the audience's urge to come back. I'm not sure what a film like "Free Guy" was expected to do at the box office when it was pitched to 21st Century Fox, but if it hits or surpasses its monetary goal, delays could be a thing of the past.
Another movie to keep an eye on is Marvel's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." Disney is advertising it as a theater-only release. The Asian market is one of Disney's most significant, and now Marvel has its first Asian hero film. This had the potential to be one of Marvel's highest-grossing origin stories before the pandemic.
If you're comfortable going to the theater, please go. Our theater in Alexandria is top-notch, and there's always something playing for you. It's important to see movies in theaters because we don't want to lose them.