‘F9’ opens at $70 million, Cinema Week offers freebies. Is movie-going back in full swing?

Cast members Jordana Brewster and Sung Kang pose with director Justin Lin as they attend the world premiere of the movie "F9: The Fast Saga" at TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 18, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

As the U.S. full reopens, movie theaters are making a comeback. Throngs of people went to theaters over the weekend to catch the ninth “Fast & Furious” movie. Making $70 million, “F9” had the biggest opening weekend since the release of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” a year and a half ago. 

Theater owners have been desperate to get people into the cineplex, and they’ve introduced Cinema Week, a six-day event supported by nearly 30,000 theaters across North America and offers incentives like free popcorn, private screenings, and even a year’s worth of free tickets. 

“[F9] is just kind of adding fuel to the fire of people saying ‘momentum is building,’ and people are starting to get more comfortable actually going out and buying popcorn, sitting next to each other in a theater,” says Ryan Faughnder, who covers the film business for the LA Times.

But one movie’s success doesn’t indicate a full recovery, and the July 4 holiday weekend will be another test for theaters, he notes.

Many venues are still hurting and waiting for millions of dollars in government grants, Faughnder says. “Companies have been really desperately waiting for those funds so they can make much-needed repairs and renovations. And also just so they can hire people to open up again.”

Looking forward, Faughnder says he will be following the release of Disney/Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow.” The film’s release was pushed due to the pandemic, and Disney+ subscribers can pay an extra $30 to stream it at home.