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Can We Please Give the ‘Knives Out’ Sequel a Wide Theatrical Release?

Can We Please Give the ‘Knives Out’ Sequel a Wide Theatrical Release?

On Monday, Netflix released its first images of Glass Onion, the follow-up to Rian Johnson’s pleasingly middlebrow Knives Out mystery. The movie performed vastly beyond expectations in 2019, making over $310 million on a modest budget. A sequel was inevitable, but nothing was inevitable about the distribution. Netflix secured the right for a massive $450 million, and the streaming company will release the movie on December 23 — just in time for you to catch it with your family over the holidays. There will apparently be a limited theatrical release — probably to lift the movie into Oscar consideration — and that all sounds very well and good. But it’s not enough. Can we please get this movie into theaters everywhere?

We live in a fragmented society in which our cultural moments are divvied up and parsed out according to cold algorithmic wizardry that sorts us into content buckets based on our income, our politics, our shopping habits, our age, our ethnicity and even our faith. There is no obvious reason that Succession and Yellowstone should be split along cultural lines, but it’s a safe bet most Americans are either one or the other. It’s a small thing, but it’s one less shared cultural experience that instead becomes a means of splitting us further apart.

In this blistering fragmentation, every shared moment is a small act of revolution against these divisive forces. We may not all enjoy Spider-Man: No Way Home, Top Gun: Maverick, Nope and Everything Everywhere All at Once to the same degree, but the fact that these movies have become broad hits with wide and diverse audiences is meaningful. We can discuss them, debate them, dissect them and, yes, give them our money. And all of these things help give us a shared vocabulary — a common language made up of stories, characters and experiences — that can be one of many strands of societal fabric pulling us all together.

This movie has every chance of being just that. A rockstar cast (Daniel Craig, Ethan Hawke, Jennifer Henwick, Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Madelyn Clyne and Janelle Monae) with a dependably terrific director (Johnson) and a dreamy setting (Greece) all adds up to a very safe bet. It’ll probably be fun to watch it. It’d be more fun in a theater.

Nicole Kidman is onto something with her completely unhinged monologue. We do come to this place for magic. And Knives Out was one of the last pre-pandemic experiences that really felt like a shared, monocultural moment. The thrill of seeing Marta (Ana de Armas) race to stay ahead of Benoit Blanc (Craig) and his mystifying accent felt like such a strong bond it was practically an escape room. These things do matter. Not a lot. There are other, better ways to forge bonds with the people in our community. But movie theaters act as equalizers, bringing us together with people we’d never otherwise interact with to enjoy (well, hopefully enjoy) the same experience.

Not everything has to be in a theater. I like having a streaming option as much as anyone, and there’s no denying the financial perks to watching a movie at home versus going out. And of course we’ll all be able to talk about it together later with our friends, our co-workers, people at church. That’s all true.

But for something that so clearly has the potential to be a fun, shared experience for hundreds of people who may otherwise never encounter each other, it’s a shame that this one will be at home. We’ll watch it with our families. That will certainly be a lot of fun. But we are quickly running out of reasons to ever extend beyond our own pre-existing social circles and enjoy something intended for all of us. It’s a shame that Glass Onion won’t have the chance to try.

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