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Fall movie releases — unless they fall like dominoes, that is

Want to know what big movies are opening in cinemas this fall? Yeah, so would I.

With coronavirus cases on the rise in many countries including Canada and the United States, and the threat of renewed lockdowns looming, it’s anyone’s guess whether the big fall releases will follow the lead of Tenet and take their chances with mostly empty auditoriums, or go the way of West Side Story , which recently announced it would open not this Christmas, but next.

Barely a day goes by without news of some upcoming release pushing its opening date, often causing a domino chain of changes. When Disney delayed Black Widow – it had been moved from May 11 to Nov. 6, and is now opening May 7, 2021 – it pushed upcoming Marvel movies Shang-Chi, Eternals, Spider-Man 3 and others into new dates as well. (It also makes 2020 the first year since 2009 without a new Marvel release.) Similarly, two Halloween sequels have moved from October ’20 and ’21 to ’21 and ’22.

Tenet ’s release is a sobering case study in the financial risks of pandemic cinema. After several delays – July 17 became July 31, then Aug. 12 – the Christopher Nolan movie finally opened on Sept. 3 in the U.S. (a week earlier in Canada) and has since made about $41-million in North America. Compare that to the $47-million the same director’s Interstellar made in its 2014 opening weekend, amid similar positive-if-not-ecstatic reviews.

Meanwhile, a number of cinema releases have instead gone straight to video-on-demand, including kids’ films Scoob! and Trolls World Tour . Other have appeared on streaming services like Apple TV+ ( Greyhound ), Netflix ( Enola Holmes ) and Disney+ ( Artemis Fowl, Mulan, The One and Only Ivan ).

Where does this leave moviegoers? Well, the good news is that smaller titles continue to open in cinemas. Just last week saw the release of The Last Shift and Miranda July’s Kajillionaire (both starring Richard Jenkins!) and the Canadian drama Queen of the Morning Calm . The bad news? While James Bond will return, it’s an open question whether he’ll be back as promised on Nov. 25, or will go undercover until next year. The fall schedule, such as it is, may yet be further shaken, and stirred.

Here are some films that may be coming soon to a theatre near you. Or not. Dates are very much subject to change.

The War with Grandpa (Oct. 9) Fresh off success in The Irishman and Joker , acting legend Robert De Niro plays a grumpy grandfather in a screwball family comedy. All we can say is, if anyone can elevate this material, he can.

Percy (Oct. 9) Christopher Walken (also co-starring in The War with Grandpa ) plays a farmer taking on agri-business giant Monsanto in this true story.

Honest Thief (Oct. 9) Liam Neeson’s particular set of skills in this one include small-town bank robbery. But will he succeed in going straight?

Yellow Rose (Oct. 9) A Filipina teen (Eva Noblezada) pursues her dream of becoming a country music performer in Texas.

The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw (Oct. 9) Canadian writer/director Thomas Robert Lee delivers a horror tale about a mother and daughter suspected of witchcraft by their rural community.

I Am Greta (Oct. 16) Teenage Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg is the subject of this new documentary.

The Empty Man (Oct. 23) Based on a 2014 graphic novel, this is the story of an ex-cop who stumbles on a group trying to summon a demon.

My Salinger Year (Oct. 23) Quebec’s Philippe Falardeau adapts Joanna Smith Rakoff’s memoir about the time she worked for J.D. Salinger’s literary agency.

Come Play (Oct. 23) Director Jacob Chase adapts his 2017 horror short about a monster named Larry who can get you through your mobile device, which I guess means no one is safe.

Let Him Go (Nov. 6) Kevin Coster and Diane Lane – hey, it’s Superman’s parents! – are a grieving couple in search of their only grandson.

Soul (Nov. 20) Pixar’s newest is about a musician who has an out-of-body experience that reconnects him with his passions.

Ammonite (Nov. 20) Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in this based-in-truth story of 19th-century fossil hunter Mary Anning.

No Time to Die (Nov. 25) Perhaps you’ve heard of this one? James Bond returns. We hope.

The Climb (Nov. 27) Male friendship, infidelity and extreme cycling power this low-key comedy-drama that played the Toronto festival last year.

Voyagers (Nov. 27) Colin Farrell heads up the cast in this story of a deep-space crew overcome by madness.

Freaky (Dec. 4) This Freaky Friday remake has a comedy-horror vibe, as a high-school student (Kathryn Newton) swaps bodies with a serial killer (Vince Vaughn).

The Croods: A New Age (Dec. 4) The sequel to the 2013 animated comedy finds the prehistoric Crood family running into the Bettermans. Think Neanderthals meet Homo Sapiens, but less science-y.

Nomadland (Dec. 4) The Venice and Toronto festival prizewinner stars Frances McDormand as an itinerant worker in rural America.

Crock of Gold (Dec. 4) A documentary celebrates punk poet and Pogues front man Shane MacGowan.

The Last Vermeer (Dec. 4) Based on the non-fiction book The Man Who Made Vermeers , this drama about an art forger who sold paintings to the Nazis played the Toronto fest last year as Lyrebird .

Free Guy (Dec. 11) Ryan Reynolds stars as a character who gains sentience inside the open-world video game that is his home.

Coming 2 America (Dec. 18) Eddie Murphy returns 32 years after Coming to America , reprising his role as an African prince, this time looking for his long-lost heir.

Dune (Dec. 18) Will Denis Villeneuve’s take on Frank Herbert’s novel take away the bad taste of David Lynch’s problematic 1984 adaptation? Will it open at all? Wait and see.

Death on the Nile (Dec. 18) Kenneth Branagh contines to work through Agatha Christie, following 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express with another star-studded adaptation.

Wonder Woman 1984 (Dec. 25) It’s flashback time, so if Patty Jenkins’ sequel to the 2017 origin story gets delayed again, it’s just more flashback for your buck, right?

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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