June 21 was a Friday last year. Most movies open on a Friday. Looking back at what was playing in theaters then — both movies that opened on that date and that had opened earlier and were still playing — is a reminder of movies we’re not able to watch now. Or not watching in theaters: In a couple of instances, movies playing on the big screen then connect in some way to movies playing, or about to play, on the small screen now. In another couple of instances, these movies from a year ago look ahead to some now set to open — maybe — later this year or in 2021. In this land of movie maybes in which we’ve been living, here are some definites.
The biggest movie to open on that date would prove to be the biggest movie of the summer. That’s not surprising, since it was “Toy Story 4.” It showed that Pixar was back to very nearly top form. Enough so to make it easy now to overlook “Onward,” from last March, and look ahead to “Soul.” The latter was supposed to come out this month. Now it’s scheduled for November. What makes it especially promising is that Pete Docter, whose resume includes “Monsters, Inc.,” “Up,” and “Inside Out,” is co-writer and co-director. (“Toy Story 4” is available on Amazon, Disney+, Google Player, Vudu, YouTube.)
The biggest movie of 2019 was “Avengers: Endgame,” which had opened at the end of April and was still around. It had an epic length (182 minutes), if nowhere near as epic as its box office ($2.8 billion worldwide). A new Marvel cycle was set to kick off with “Black Widow” on May 1 of this year. That Scarlett Johansson vehicle is now scheduled to open Nov. 6, five weeks after “Wonder Woman 1984,” also bumped back from this summer. It’s going to be a big year for women of the superheroic sort. (“Avengers: Endgame” is available on Amazon, Disney+, Google Player, Vudu, YouTube.)
Disney began remaking its animated hits as live-action movies with “Cinderella” (2015). Last year, it released two of them. “Aladdin” had opened in May and was still doing well in theaters. “The Lion King” came out in July. This year’s remake, “Mulan,” remains the first big studio offering set for post-pandemic theatrical release, on July 24. Or will it join the list of postponements? (“Aladdin” is available on Amazon, Disney+, Google Player, Vudu, YouTube.)
“Booksmart” opened the same date as “Aladdin.” Not exactly a hit of the same proportions, but imagine what a mind-bending genie Beanie Feldstein would have been. She currently stars in “How to Build a Girl,” which went straight to streaming last month. (“Booksmart” is available on Amazon, Google Player, Hulu, Vudu, YouTube. “How to Build a Girl” is available on Amazon, Google Player, YouTube.)
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” had opened at the end of May 2019. It did well enough that “Godzilla vs. Kong” was supposed to open this November. Now that’s been postponed, too, to next May. Some series didn’t do well enough last year to merit continuation. That would be the case with “Men in Black: International,” which opened June 14. Maybe if it had been viewers’ memories that got erased instead of characters'? (“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is available on Amazon, Google Player, HBO Max, Hulu, Vudu, YouTube. “Men in Black: International” is available on Amazon, Google Player, Hulu, Vudu, YouTube, Sling TV.)
A far better movie than the “MiB” installment also opened that June 14, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.” Its blend of the political and personal, realism and fantasy, made for one of the most distinctive movies of 2019. The best thing in it was Jonathan Majors’s performance. As it happens, Majors plays Delroy Lindo’s son in “Da 5 Bloods,” which started streaming on Netflix last week. (“The Last Man in San Francisco” is available on Amazon, Google Player, Vudu, YouTube.)
“Echo in the Canyon,” a documentary about the mid-‘60s LA music scene, opened June 21 of last year. It starts with that wondrous chiming guitar intro to the Byrds version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” As soon as you hear that sound, you know this is a film that appreciates its subject. Serving as onscreen host is Jakob Dylan. Here the new work in question is musical, not cinematic. Jakob’s father, Bob, has a new album out, “Rough and Rowdy Ways.” (“Echo in the Canyon” is available on Amazon, Google Play, Netflix, Vudu YouTube.)
A week after “Echo,” another notable documentary opened, “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.” The film took on a new significance five weeks later, when the Nobel laureate died. PBS’s “American Masters” series is broadcasting Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s film on June 23. (“Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” is also available on Amazon, Google Play, Hulu, Vudu, YouTube.)
Mark Feeney can be reached at email@example.com.