As we look ahead to the fall movie season, we’re in an entirely new predicament from when it came to the summer blockbusters. Blockbusters needed theaters to be reopened, that wasn’t going to happen with COVID running rampant, and so studios decided to simply delay those blockbusters and allowed their smaller features to hit VOD. But the business model is different for awards contenders, which tend to play at major festivals to build up buzz before opening in limited release and expanding. What happens to those movies in the age of COVID?
For Fox Searchlight, they’re going to forge ahead with their regular gameplan when it comes to Nomadland, the new movie from The Rider and Eternals director Chloé Zhao. Per the press release, “The film follows Fern (Frances McDormand), a woman who, after the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. The film features real nomads Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.”
The film will play simultaneously at screenings at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival as well as a special “Telluride from Los Angeles” drive-in later in the evening since the actual Telluride Film Festival was canceled due to the pandemic. The movie will them go on to play at the New York Film Festival before having a domestic theatrical release this fall.
On the one hand, Zhao absolutely deserves this kind of rollout for her latest feature, and in normal times, we’d be discussing whether or not it’s a likely Oscar contender based on the subject matter of and the pedigree of the players involved. But we’re not in normal times, and I can’t help but wonder if Nomadland will be dwarfed by current events. I’m also of the belief that nothing in November will be significantly different in America than what we’re facing right now. We’ve had an abdication of leadership so that while we could solve this problem (basically a huge stimulus package coupled with a lockdown that pays people to stay home for two months), we’re not going to, so I’m not sure what kind of theatrical release Fox Searchlight is hoping for here.
We’ll see how awards season continues to shape up as Venice and TIFF are likely to announce their lineups later this week.