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Summer Movies 2021: Here’s What’s Coming to the Big (and Small) Screen



Summer Movies 2021: Here’s What’s Coming to the Big (and Small) Screen

Here is a list of noteworthy films scheduled this summer. Release dates and platform are subject to change and reflect the latest information as of deadline.

CHANGING THE GAME (on Hulu) This documentary profiles three transgender athletes and their high school sports careers, with a particular focus on Mack Beggs, a transgender man who as a teenager wanted to compete in boys’ wrestling but, because of a rule in Texas, could only wrestle against girls.

ALL LIGHT, EVERYWHERE (in theaters) The biases of surveillance — by the eye, by police body cameras and in the composite photography of the eugenics proponent Francis Galton, for example — are the subject of this haunting, wide-ranging essay film from the Baltimore experimental director Theo Anthony (“Rat Film”). It won a special jury prize at Sundance.

THE ANCIENT WOODS (in theaters) The biologist and filmmaker Mindaugas Survila investigates the floral and faunal mysteries of a mostly untouched forest in Lithuania. Film Forum says the movie, poised between nature documentary and folklore, is suitable for children “whose attention spans have not been destroyed by technology.”

BAD TALES (in virtual cinemas) This Italian feature, winner of best screenplay at the Berlin International Film Festival last year, pulls back the facade of family life in a seemingly idyllic Rome suburb.

THE CARNIVORES (in theaters and on demand) The illness of a dog triggers the unraveling of a couple (Lindsay Burdge and Tallie Medel). The trailer promises ample servings of the dark and the grotesque.

CITY OF ALI (in virtual cinemas) Other documentaries have captured the highlights of Muhammad Ali’s career, but “City of Ali” deals specifically with his life in Louisville, Ky., where he was born and raised.

THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT (in theaters and on HBO Max) Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) return for what’s either the third or the eighth “Conjuring” movie. (Spinoffs like “Annabelle” and “The Nun” only sort of count.) This one involves the case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), who was convicted of manslaughter but who some believe was possessed. Michael Chaves (who directed another spinoff, “The Curse of La Llorona”) assumes the helm from the “Conjuring” director James Wan.

THE REAL THING (in virtual cinemas) Koji Fukada (the Cannes prizewinner “Harmonium”) directed this four-hour feature, based on a manga and condensed from a 10-episode series, about a toy seller who rescues a woman from being hit by a train and gets a whirlwind of adventure as his reward.

SLOW MACHINE (in virtual cinemas) In a fractured narrative, Stephanie Hayes plays an actress who has a series of bizarre encounters with a man who identifies himself as a New York City police intelligence specialist. The movie was shown in an experimental section of last year’s New York Film Festival.

SPIRIT UNTAMED (in theaters) The daughter (voiced by Isabela Merced) of a legendary horse rider (voiced by Eiza González) hops into her mother’s saddle in this computer-animated feature. Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal and Andre Braugher round out the vocal cast.

UNDINE (in theaters and on demand) Interweaving mythology and the history of modern Berlin, the German director Christian Petzold reunites the stars of his acclaimed “Transit” for a love story of sorts between a recently spurned tour guide (Paula Beer) and a diver (Franz Rogowski) who repairs bridges. What the film means is as slippery as the protagonists, who get soaked when a fish tank explodes during their meet-cute and are continually drawn to water.

THE AMUSEMENT PARK (on Shudder) In one of the stranger collaborations in cinema history, George A. Romero, just a few years removed from “Night of the Living Dead,” accepted an assignment from the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania to make a film about the mistreatment of the elderly. True to form, he turned it into a horror movie. Made in the early 1970s and rarely shown until the recent arrival of a restored version in 2020, it will be widely available for the first time.

AWAKE (on Netflix) A cataclysm knocks out Earth’s power grids and gives the world’s population insomnia; the collective exhaustion leads to “Purge”-like conditions. Gina Rodriguez plays a former soldier whose daughter is somehow immune to the sleeplessness, but harnessing the cure isn’t as simple as giving everyone valerian tea. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Frances Fisher co-star.

TRAGIC JUNGLE (on Netflix) Yulene Olaizola directed this 1920s-set magical-realist feature, shown at the Venice and New York film festivals last year. It centers on a fleeing woman (Indira Andrewin) who finds herself in the company of gum workers in the Mayan rainforest.

THE WOMAN WHO RAN (in theaters) In the latest film from the prolific South Korean director Hong Sang-soo, a character played by Hong’s frequent star Kim Min-hee visits with three friends. There is also an argument with a neighbor about whether it’s all right to feed stray cats.

ASIA (in theaters) Shira Haas of “Unorthodox” plays a Russian immigrant in Israel who faces challenges both with her health and her mother (Alena Yiv). Ruthy Pribar directed, and it won the top prize from the body that gives out Israel’s equivalent of the Academy Awards.

CENSOR (in theaters) Shown at Sundance, this stylized British horror film is set in the 1980s, when what became known as “video nasties” — violent, cheaply made movies available on cassette — were all the rage. Niamh Algar plays a censor who does her utmost to protect the public (but maybe wasn’t so great at protecting her sister years earlier). Prano Bailey-Bond directed.

DOMINO: BATTLE OF THE BONES (in theaters) No, it’s not a sequel to Tony Scott’s 2005 movie “Domino,” in which Keira Knightley played a bounty hunter, or one to Brian De Palma’s recent film of the same title. Rather, it’s the story of how a man and his stepgrandson compete in a domino tournament. Baron Davis, the former N.B.A. star, directed and co-wrote.

HOLLER (in theaters and on demand) Jessica Barden plays a promising Ohio student who begins working in scrap-metal yards to keep her family together. Nicole Riegel directed; Pamela Adlon and Gus Halper co-star.

IN THE HEIGHTS (in theaters and on HBO Max) Expected to have been a huge hit in the summer of 2020, now destined to be a return-to-the-movies toe-tapper in 2021, this film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s best-musical Tony winner — the one before “Hamilton,” that is — stars Anthony Ramos (a.k.a. Philip Hamilton) as Usnavi, the bodega owner Miranda played on Broadway. Stephanie Beatriz (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) and Miranda also appear. Jon M. Chu, who showed his skill with screen musicals in two of the better “Step Up” movies, directed from a screenplay by the musical’s book writer, Quiara Alegría Hudes.

THE MISFITS (in theaters) Pierce Brosnan, two decades from his turn in the “Thomas Crown Affair” remake, plays another thief who joins forces with a group to steal gold bars that a businessman (Tim Roth) uses to finance terrorists. Renny Harlin directed.

PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY (in theaters) James Corden returns as the voice of Beatrix Potter’s famous hare, although Glenn Kenny of The Times wrote that the first film, from 2018, dispensed “with the sweetness and light and lyricism of the books.” Here, Peter ventures out of the garden to make trouble.

SKATER GIRL (on Netflix) Rachel Saanchita Gupta plays a teenager in northwestern India who discovers skateboarding and begins to dream of competing at a championship level.

SUBLET (in theaters) John Benjamin Hickey plays a grieving travel journalist (for GFN, no less) who rediscovers his zest for life in Tel Aviv. Eytan Fox directed.

WISH DRAGON (on Netflix) Jimmy Wong provides the voice of a college student and John Cho the voice of a wish-granting dragon in this animated feature, which is set in Shanghai and counts Jackie Chan among its producers.

REVOLUTION RENT (on HBO Max) How does “La Bohème” transplanted to Alphabet City play when it’s transplanted to Cuba? This documentary follows Andy Señor Jr., the son of Cuban exiles, as he works to put on an American-produced staging of “Rent” in that country. Señor directed with Victor Patrick Alvarez.

AN UNKNOWN COMPELLING FORCE (on demand) This documentary delves into the murky matter of what killed nine hikers in the Ural Mountains in 1959. (A study published earlier this year said it was quite possibly an avalanche.)

THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD (in theaters) “Samuel L. Jackson is the hit man. Ryan Reynolds is the bodyguard. What more do you want me to say?” A.O. Scott wrote of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” in 2017. Well, Salma Hayek played the hit man’s wife in that movie, too, and now they’re all back for a sequel. Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman also star.

A CRIME ON THE BAYOU (in theaters) Nancy Buirski (“The Rape of Recy Taylor”) directs this documentary about Gary Duncan, who was convicted of simple battery in Louisiana after trying to stop a skirmish near an integrated school. The Supreme Court ultimately found that he had a right to a jury trial.

FATHERHOOD (on Netflix) Kevin Hart plays a widower adjusting to life as a single father in this drama directed by Paul Weitz. It’s adapted from a book by Matthew Logelin.

LUCA (on Disney+) In Pixar’s latest, two sea monsters disguise themselves as boys to experience the wonders of the Italian Riviera on land. Jacob Tremblay and Jack Dylan Grazer voice the two main characters; Enrico Casarosa (the Pixar short “La Luna”) directed.

RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER (on National Geographic and Hulu) This documentary from Dawn Porter (“John Lewis: Good Trouble”) looks at the 1921 massacre in Tulsa when white residents destroyed what was known as “Black Wall Street.”

RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT (in theaters) The EGOT-winning actress revisits her career, recounting her experiences with discrimination in Hollywood, her breakthrough role in “West Side Story” and more. Mariem Pérez Riera directed.

SIBERIA (in theaters and on demand) The idea of Abel Ferrara directing Willem Dafoe as a bartender in Siberia will be irresistible to fans of a certain brand of uncompromising cinema. In an interview, Ferrara described it as “an odyssey movie.”

THE SPARKS BROTHERS (in theaters) Edgar Wright directed what feels like the definitive portrait of the band Sparks, a.k.a. the brothers Ron and Russell Mael, who straddle an almost imperceptibly thin line between the comic and the earnest and whose most consistent trait over 50 years has been their interest in reinventing their sound. Their first movie musical, “Annette” (Aug. 6), also comes out this summer.

SUMMER OF 85 (in theaters) François Ozon directed this tale of young summer romance, which was selected for the canceled Cannes Film Festival last year. A boy (Félix Lefebvre) is saved from a boating accident and then taught worldly ways by his rescuer (Benjamin Voisin).

SWEAT (in theaters) Another selection from the Cannes-that-wasn’t, this Polish feature from Magnus von Horn stars Magdalena Kolesnik as a “fitness influencer” who faces the burdens of being extremely online.

SWEET THING (in theaters) Alexandre Rockwell, a mainstay of American independent filmmaking in the 1990s with films like “In the Soup,” directs his children in a coming-of-age film about a long and fantastical day.

TRUMAN & TENNESSEE: AN INTIMATE CONVERSATION (in theaters and virtual cinemas) The documentarian Lisa Immordino Vreeland puts Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams in an artistic dialogue with each other. Jim Parsons reads Capote’s words in voice-over and Zachary Quinto reads Williams’s.

12 MIGHTY ORPHANS (in theaters) Luke Wilson, Vinessa Shaw and Martin Sheen star in this true story of a how an orphanage’s football team went to compete for championships in Texas during the Great Depression.

SISTERS ON TRACK (on Netflix) Three sisters — Tai, Rainn and Brooke Sheppard — raised in tough circumstances in Brooklyn won medals in the Junior Olympics and were declared “SportsKids of the Year” for 2016 by the children’s edition of Sports Illustrated. This documentary tells their story, on the track and off.

AGAINST THE CURRENT (in theaters) No, it’s not a “Great Gatsby” spinoff. It’s a documentary about Veiga Gretarsdottir, a transgender kayaker who sets out to circumnavigate Iceland in the more difficult counterclockwise direction.

F9 (in theaters) Just when Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) thought they had settled into a quiet family life, Dom’s brother (John Cena) — who is every bit the driver Dom is, and also an assassin — turns up to settle scores. Justin Lin directed.

FALSE POSITIVE (on Hulu) Ilana Glazer and Justin Theroux play a couple trying to get pregnant who discover that their doctor (Pierce Brosnan) has a dark side.

I CARRY YOU WITH ME (in theaters) The documentarian Heidi Ewing (“Detropia”) turns to dramatized filmmaking, though not entirely (to say more would be a spoiler), with this story of the love between two Mexican men (Armando Espitia and Christian Vázquez) and how their bond endures after one, with his eye on working as a chef, crosses into the United States.

THE ICE ROAD (on Netflix) Liam Neeson plays a badass big-rig driver trying to rescue entombed miners in the frozen reaches of Canada.

KENNY SCHARF: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (in theaters and on demand) Malia Scharf, with Max Basch, directed this look at her father, who emerged from the East Village art world of the 1980s.

WEREWOLVES WITHIN (in theaters) Holed up in a snowstorm, the residents of a small town must contend with lycanthropy. Josh Ruben directed; Milana Vayntrub and Sam Richardson star.

WOLFGANG (on Disney+) Not Amadeus Mozart, but Puck. David Gelb (“Jiro Dreams of Sushi”) directed this portrait of the celebrity chef’s career.

AMERICA: THE MOTION PICTURE (on Netflix) With the voice of Channing Tatum as a “chainsaw-wielding” George Washington, this irreverent animated feature makes a travesty of key figures of the American Revolution. Jason Mantzoukas and Olivia Munn also supply voices. Matt Thompson directed.

LYDIA LUNCH — THE WAR IS NEVER OVER (in theaters and virtual cinemas) The New York underground filmmaker Beth B directed this portrait of another figure from the scene, the No Wave singer Lydia Lunch.

ZOLA (in theaters) A tale originally told in a viral 148-tweet thread (and then in a GFN article about the thread) is now a major motion picture, directed by Janicza Bravo (“Lemon”) and written by Bravo and the playwright Jeremy O. Harris (“Slave Play”). Taylour Paige stars as a waitress and occasional stripper who is taken on a wild trip to Florida by another stripper (Riley Keough). Colman Domingo also stars.

NO SUDDEN MOVE (on HBO Max) The pandemic hasn’t slowed down Steven Soderbergh. His latest feature is a crime thriller starring Don Cheadle as an ex-con who plots a convoluted scheme that goes awry. Benicio Del Toro, Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm and Amy Seimetz are among the many familiar faces populating Detroit in 1954, when the film is set.

BEING A HUMAN PERSON (in theaters) The Swedish commercial director turned deadpan filmmaker Roy Andersson is the subject of this documentary, which follows the making of his latest movie, “About Endlessness,” which opened in April.

FEAR STREET (on Netflix) R.L. Stine’s “Fear Street” books have become three feature films — set in 1994, 1978 and 1666, respectively — that will be released on a weekly basis starting July 2. Stine has said that the content won’t be toned down for children. Leigh Janiak directed all three movies, and cast members recur throughout.

FIRST DATE (in theaters and on demand) Tyson Brown plays a teenager who takes his dream girl (Shelby Duclos) on a misadventure-filled outing in a dilapidated Chrysler.

THE FOREVER PURGE (in theaters) In the “Purge” franchise, murder is made legal for one day a year. This fifth film in the series dares to ask, what if it were more than one day? Judging from the trailer, you should also count on commentary on United States-Mexico border politics.

SUMMER OF SOUL (… OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) (in theaters and on Hulu) In his first feature documentary as director, Questlove assembles joyous archival footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of concerts that developed a reputation as the Black Woodstock. The film features electrifying performances from Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Ray Barretto and more.

TILL DEATH (in theaters and on demand) The “Jennifer’s Body” star Megan Fox plays a woman who wakes up handcuffed to her husband’s corpse in this thriller.

THE TOMORROW WAR (on Amazon). Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski and J.K. Simmons are all tapped for a war effort against aliens that won’t happen until 30 years in the future. Time travel makes this possible.

BLACK WIDOW (in theaters and on Disney+) The Marvel universe continues to swallow promising actors by casting “Midsommar” and “Little Women” standout Florence Pugh as Yelena, who is brought together as a family with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. The Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland (“Berlin Syndrome”) directed.

SUMMERTIME (in theaters) Carlos López Estrada (“Blindspotting”) directed this vibrant panorama of life in Los Angeles. It’s like a musical, but instead of bursting into song, the characters share their emotions in poetry, written by the cast members, who are poets.

THE WITCHES OF THE ORIENT (in theaters) Julien Faraut, an archivist whose documentary “John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection” posed intriguing parallels between tennis and cinema, recounts how textile workers in Japan became an internationally celebrated volleyball team.

CAN YOU BRING IT: BILL T. JONES AND D-MAN IN THE WATERS (in theaters and virtual cinemas) The dancer Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz direct a portrait of the choreographer as LeBlanc oversees a production of his 1989 work “D-Man in the Waters,” which addressed the AIDS epidemic in dance.

ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS (in theaters) Taylor Russell and Logan Miller, who played escapees in the first “Escape Room” (2019), find themselves ensnared again.

ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN (in theaters) Morgan Neville (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor”) directed this portrait of the “Kitchen Confidential” chef, who died in 2018.

SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY (in theaters and on HBO Max) In 1996, Michael Jordan joined the Looney Tunes on the basketball court. This time it’s LeBron James who assembles Bugs and the gang for a hybrid live-action/animated round of hoops, with a lot of other Warner Bros. intellectual property filling out the sidelines. Malcolm D. Lee directed.

AILEY (in theaters and on demand) Using archival footage and its subject’s words, the director Jamila Wignot’s documentary recounts the career of the dancer-choreographer Alvin Ailey (1931-89).

EYIMOFE (THIS IS MY DESIRE) (in theaters) The siblings Arie and Chuko Esiri directed this film set in Lagos, Nigeria, about two people separately trying to leave for Europe.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA (in theaters) The transformation in this fourth feature of the animated franchise happens when a “monsterfication ray” turns humans into monsters and monsters into humans. But there’s a behind-the-scenes transformation, too: Dracula’s vocal cords aren’t supplied by Adam Sandler this time, but by Brian Hull.

THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER (on Netflix). In this summer’s addition to the tear-jerker sweepstakes, Felicity Jones plays a journalist who uncovers an affair from the 1960s between another journalist (Callum Turner) and a married woman (Shailene Woodley).

MANDIBLES (in theaters and on demand) The French absurdist and electronic musician Quentin Dupieux (“Deerskin”) serves up another deadpan oddity, about two friends trying to train a giant fly.

OLD (in theaters) It wouldn’t be an M. Night Shyamalan film if the premise weren’t shrouded in mystery, but judging from the Super Bowl trailer, it stars Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps (“Phantom Thread”) as parents vacationing with their family on a beach that magically turns their children … old.

SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS (in theaters) Based on the line of action figures, this franchise adds to its collection by giving an origin story to Snake Eyes, played by Ray Park in earlier movies and now embodied — during his ninja-training phase — by Henry Golding.

RESORT TO LOVE (on Netflix). Christina Milian plays a singer who aspires to superstardom but is reduced to performing at her ex’s wedding.

ENEMIES OF THE STATE (in theaters and on demand) Executive produced by Errol Morris, this documentary, directed by Sonia Kennebeck, unravels the case of Matt DeHart, a hacktivist who sought refuge in Canada and claimed the F.B.I. had tortured him.

THE GREEN KNIGHT (in theaters) Dev Patel has a seat at the round table as Gawain, the nephew of King Arthur, in the director David Lowery’s quest to revive the Arthurian legend onscreen. Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton and Sarita Choudhury also star.

JUNGLE CRUISE (in theaters and on Disney+) In 1916, a British researcher (Emily Blunt) travels to South America and hires a roguish, Bogartian skipper (Dwayne Johnson) as her guide through the Amazon. It’s based on a ride at Disneyland, and indirectly on a long lineage of Hollywood adventure films. Edgar Ramírez, Jesse Plemons and Paul Giamatti co-star. Jaume Collet-Serra directed.

THE LAST MERCENARY (on Netflix) French authorities falsely allege that a young man has been trafficking arms and drugs. Unfortunately for them, his father is played by Jean-Claude Van Damme.

NINE DAYS (in theaters) Winston Duke plays an interrogator at a way station of sorts, where he interviews people — actually unborn souls — some of whom will earn the right to be born as humans. Zazie Beetz plays an interviewee who confounds him. Edson Oda wrote and directed.

SABAYA (in theaters and on demand) This documentary trails intrepid volunteer workers in Syria who extract women and girls held captive as sex slaves by the Islamic State.

STILLWATER Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”) directed Matt Damon as an American oil-rig worker whose daughter (Abigail Breslin) is imprisoned for murder in Marseille, France. She says she is innocent; he scrambles to help her.

ANNETTE (in theaters) While Edgar Wright’s documentary about the band Sparks (June 18) covers the cinephile musicians’ history of movie projects that never came to fruition, this feature film gives them their chance: They wrote the screenplay, the songs and the score for this love story, and Leos Carax (“Holy Motors”) directed. Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard star.

EMA (in theaters) The Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín directs this story of a dancer (Mariana Di Girolamo) and a choreographer (Gael García Bernal) whose lives are thrown out of whack after they return the boy they adopted.

JOHN AND THE HOLE (in theaters and on demand) At the age of 13, John (Charlie Shotwell) gains a measure of adult independence by drugging his immediate family (Jennifer Ehle, Michael C. Hall and Taissa Farmiga) and imprisoning them in a bunker. Pascual Sisto directed this detached, chilly open-ended allegory.

THE MACALUSO SISTERS (in theaters) The Italian playwright and theater director Emma Dante directed this story of five orphan sisters in living in Palermo. She adapted it from her play.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (in theaters and on HBO Max) If it doesn’t work the first time, add a definite article. Poised somewhere between a reboot of and a sequel to “Suicide Squad” (2016), the movie sets several DC characters, including Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, loose on a jungle island. James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) wrote and directed. With Idris Elba, John Cena, Sylvester Stallone and Viola Davis.

THE KISSING BOOTH 3 (on Netflix) This entry in the series finds Elle (Joey King) getting ready for college.

CODA (in theaters and on Apple TV+) A crowd-pleaser (and awards-grabber, with four prizes) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the movie tells the story of a child of deaf adults (Emilia Jones) in a working-class Massachusetts fishing family. She wants to sing, a passion that is alien to her non-hearing parents (Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur) and brother (Daniel Durant). Sian Heder directed this remake of a French film.

DAYS (in theaters) A highlight of last year’s New York Film Festival, the director Tsai Ming-liang’s feature follows two men — one in Taipei, then Hong Kong (the Tsai regular Lee Kang-sheng); the other in Bangkok (Anong Houngheuangsy) — who in the second half meet, and for a little while are not alone.

DON’T BREATHE 2 (in theaters) In the first “Don’t Breathe” (2016), Stephen Lang played a blind veteran whose dark secrets were among that home-invasion tale’s surprises. There’s more on those in this sequel. Rodo Sayagues directed, co-writing with Fede Alvarez, who directed the original.

FREE GUY (in theaters) Ryan Reynolds plays a bank teller who finds out, “Truman Show”-like, that he is actually a background character in a video game. Shawn Levy directed. Jodie Comer and Lil Rel Howery also star.

THE MEANING OF HITLER (in theaters and on demand) The documentarians Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker examine the rise of Nazi Germany and draw parallels with the rumblings of authoritarianism across the globe today.

THE LOST LEONARDO (in theaters) Andreas Koefoed’s documentary investigates the dealings that surround “Salvator Mundi,” the most expensive painting ever sold at auction, when in 2017 it was billed as a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees.

RESPECT (in theaters) Find out what it means to her: Jennifer Hudson plays Aretha Franklin in this biopic of the Queen of Soul, directed by the theater vet Liesl Tommy. With Mary J. Blige as Dinah Washington, Audra McDonald as Franklin’s mother and Forest Whitaker as Franklin’s father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin.

CRYPTOZOO (in theaters and on demand) It’s really more of a cryptid zoo, a cryptid being an animal that is the subject of lore but does not actually exist, like the dream-eating creature that everyone is after in this movie. It’s an animated film, from the graphic novelist Dash Shaw. Lake Bell, Michael Cera, Louisa Krause and Thomas Jay Ryan provided some of the voices.

THE NIGHT HOUSE (in theaters) Rebecca Hall plays a widow who discovers that her husband had a … thing for women who looked quite a bit like her, one of whom is played by Stacy Martin. What was he up to? David Bruckner directed, with an appetite for jump scares.

PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE (in theaters) The techno-fitted animated canines of the children’s TV series make the leap to the big screen.

THE PROTÉGÉ (in theaters) This is the second movie of the summer in which Samuel L. Jackson plays a hit man (after “The Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife”) — except that this one concerns the hit man’s daughter (Maggie Q), or at least the woman he raised like a daughter, a hit woman herself, who seeks revenge after he is murdered. Michael Keaton co-stars, also playing a killer. Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”) directed.

REMINISCENCE (in theaters and on HBO Max) Lisa Joy, a creator of “Westworld,” wrote and directed this thriller, which casts Hugh Jackman as a sleuth who digs up lost memories. Rebecca Ferguson plays his latest customer.

WILDLAND (in theaters) This dark Danish feature concerns a teenager (Sandra Guldberg Kampp) who, after her mother’s death, goes to live with an aunt (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and an extended clan filled with criminality and addiction.

THE BEATLES: GET BACK (in theaters) Peter Jackson, who used archival footage to bring World War I back to life in “They Shall Not Grow Old,” uses tens of hours of restored footage and audio — billed as previously unseen and unheard — to showcase the Beatles as they were in 1969.

CANDYMAN (in theaters) Even without anyone saying Candyman’s name to a mirror, a haunting teaser trailer with only shadow puppets, from last year, set the bar high for this remake, directed by Nia DaCosta (“Little Woods”) and co-written by, among others, Jordan Peele. Interestingly, it appears to retain the milieu of Chicago’s mostly defunct Cabrini-Green housing project, where much of the 1992 original took place. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris star. Colman Domingo also appears.

HE’S ALL THAT (on Netflix) Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”) directed this gender-swapped remake of “She’s All That.” Addison Rae plays an influencer who gives a dork (Tanner Buchanan) an image makeover.

VACATION FRIENDS (on Hulu) A couple (Yvonne Orji and Lil Rel Howery) is mortified when some casual friends from a vacation (Meredith Hagner and John Cena) crash their wedding.

THE BIG SCARY “S” WORD (in theaters) Spoiler alert: The word is “socialism,” and Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are among the interviewees in this documentary about its history in the United States.

FAYA DAYI (in theaters) When the director Jessica Beshir’s experimental documentary, shot in Harar, Ethiopia, played at New Directors/New Films in the spring, Beatrice Loayza, writing in The Times, called it “dreamy and visually dazzling.” The film, she wrote, considers the toll that the economics of khat — a plant that is used as a drug — takes “on a rural community across generations.”

MOGUL MOWGLI (in theaters) Riz Ahmed plays a rapper whose body begins to fail him, but it’s not “Sound of Metal” redux. Rather, it’s a story of British-Pakistani identity, and the character’s denial of his heritage may even be responsible for his autoimmune condition. Bassam Tariq (the well-regarded documentary “These Birds Walk”) directed.

Listings compiled with the assistance of Gabe Cohn.


Adrienne Shelly’s widower confronts her killer in new film



Adrienne Shelly's widower confronts her killer in new film

Andy Ostroy treasures the photographs he’s taken over the years of his daughter, Sophie. They capture the milestones in her life: first days at school, triumphs in soccer and even her attempts to ride a bicycle without training wheels.

In a heartbreaking scene from “Adrienne,” the documentarypremiering Wednesday on HBO — Ostroy directed about his late wife, actress Adrienne Shelly, he shows some of those pictures to the man who killed Sophie’s mother when the girl was just two.

“Adrienne missed a lot,” Ostroy tells Diego Pillco during an emotionally charged visit to the killer’s prison in upstate New York.

Dropping Sophie’s images onto a table in turn, he describes each one in detail. “This is her first birthday after her mom left her,” Ostroy notes.

The shocking death of rising star Adrienne Shelly was reported on the front page on November 3, 2006.
The shocking death of rising star Adrienne Shelly was reported on the front page of The Post on Nov. 3, 2006.

The next photo he puts in front of the inmate shows Sophie as a teenager, laughing as she eats a slice of cake. “Her most recent birthday — still no mom.”

It’s impossible to tell whether or not Pillco is moved by Ostroy’s commentary since the 34-year-old former construction worker is impassive throughout. Finally, while being led back to his cell, he mumbles the words “I’m sorry” in Spanish.

As Ostroy later admits in the movie: “My life will always be about grief. That will always be the ghost in the room. That love that I had at that time didn’t go anywhere. It froze. It’s like she is frozen in time.”

The documentary finds that Shelly’s personal life and career could not have been happier, busier or more promising when she was killed, at age 40, on Nov. 1, 2006.

The Queens-born actress, writer and director, who married Ostroy 12 years earlier, had starred in more than 20 films. They ranged from indie productions such as 1989’s “The Unbelievable Truth” to more mainstream movies like 2005’s “Factotum” with Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei.

Sadly, Shelly didn’t live to see the runaway success of her passion project, “Waitress” — the quirky drama that she wrote, directed and co-starred in alongside Keri Russell. The movie was released to critical acclaim a year after her murder and has since been adapted as a hit Broadway musical.

Shelly, who lived with Ostroy and Sophie in the West Village, did most of her writing away from the family home, in a nearby Abingdon Square apartment that she rented.

Pillco, then a 19-year-old illegal immigrant from Ecuador, was helping renovate another apartment in the building in November 2006.

Shelly with daughter Sophie, who was just a toddler when the actress was killed.

In the documentary, he tells Ostroy through a translator that he “needed money” and had been roaming the property looking for cash and other things to steal. He snuck into Shelly’s office and rifled through her purse, only to be caught red-handed by the five-foot-two-inch mom.

“The lady came out and she ran after me,” Pillco recalls on camera, sparing none of the gruesome details as Shelly’s widower listens in horror. “And when she started yelling at me, the only word that I heard her say was ‘police.’”

As Shelly went to seize her phone, he says, he grabbed her from behind, covered her mouth and told her not to call the cops.

Shelly in Abingdon Square in the West Village.
Shelly in Abingdon Square in the West Village. She was killed in the nearby apartment she used for an office.
The New York Post

“I lost it and I was choking her with my hand,” continues the killer, who pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 25 years for his crimes. “At the same time, I was covering her mouth so that she wouldn’t make noise. I took my hand off and I let her go.”

Both Ostroy and the translator look repulsed as Pillco goes on to reveal how he knew the actress was dead: “I saw that her lips were blue so I thought: ‘Oh, I killed her.’”

Pillco explains how he dragged Shelly to the bathroom and fashioned a noose from a bedsheet — then hung her from the shower curtain rail so to make it look “like she had committed suicide.”

After a long pause, Ostroy leans forward and asks: “Did you think you’d gotten away with it?”

“Yes,” Pillco replies.

But he hadn’t. Detectives first claimed that Shelly had taken her own life but that was immediately challenged by Ostroy and other family members who refused to believe it.

Shelly was born on June 24, 1996, in Queens, and raised with two brothers. Her father, Sheldon Levine, died suddenly when she was 12. A gifted singer and dancer, she began performing around the age of 10 — and later dropped out of Boston University to pursue acting in Manhattan. Shelly’s breakthrough role came in 1989 in independent filmmaker Hal Hartley’s “The Unbelievable Truth,” which led to other ingenue roles in indie movies.

Elaine Langbaum, Shelly’s mom, remembers in the documentary not being being able to accept that her daughter had committed suicide.

Shelly's passion project was writing, directing and starring in "Waitress."
Shelly’s passion project was writing, directing and starring in “Waitress.”
Fox Searchlight

“This was the time of her life,” Langbaum says, referring to Shelly’s devotion to Sophie, whom she’d given birth to at age 38. “This was it — the time she’d wanted her whole life. And she wanted to kill herself?”

But Pillco was quickly fingered for the murder. Detectives found a shoe print in Shelly’s bathtub that was identical to one discovered in the dust of the downstairs apartment being renovated — and the tread matched Pillco’s sneakers. After being arrested, and he was arrested, he confessed within hours.

Retired NYPD homicide detective Irma Rivera-Duffy, who became a friend of Shelly’s family and appears in the documentary, reveals that Pillco admitted his guilt after she told him the victim’s toddler was the same age as his own niece.

“After I got the confession, driving in my car, I got a nice cold chill in the back of my neck and the hairs stood up,” Rivera-Duffy tells Ostroy in the documentary. “I felt it was your wife thanking me for having had this guy confess so that your daughter didn’t have to go through life thinking it was a suicide.”

Ostroy, a producer and director who previously owned a marketing company for 20 years, recalls in the film how he “lost control of my body and dropped to the floor and started crying” when the lead detective told him of Pillco’s confession.

“It was everything I wanted to hear,” he says. “There was no way Adrienne killed herself. Suicide simply wasn’t possible. She was the happiest that I’d ever seen her.”

Diego Pillco admitted to killing Adrienne Shelly after she threatened to call police after catching him going through her belongings.
Diego Pillco pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the death of Adrienne Shelly and is now serving 25 years in prison.

The documentary opens with a home video recorded at a low-key Halloween party with friends on Oct. 31, 2006. It shows two-year-old Sophie in a princess dress and Shelly noting that the toddler’s favorite song is “Twist And Shout.”

“Every horrible day in history has a much happier day before,” Ostroy theorizes in the film. “This [Halloween] was ours. I went to bed that night the luckiest guy alive. By the next night, I was living the worst nightmare imaginable.”

Now 62, he has instant recall of both the dramatic and seemingly trivial details of Nov. 1, 2006. He was grateful that he left home later than usual for the office and got to spend a little more time with his family. Then he dropped off Shelly at Abingdon Square before driving to his own place of work.

“I just watched her walk away into the building and that was the last time I saw her,” he says in the movie.

Widowed husband XXXX and daughter XXX look through a high school yearbook with Shelly.
Widower Andy Ostroy and daughter Sophie look through Shelly’s high school yearbook.

Ostroy had a busy day at work but says there was unusual “radio silence” from his wife, whom he couldn’t reach on email, cell or landline. Their nanny hadn’t heard from her either. “It was incredibly atypical,” he recalls. “[I had] this intuition that something really awful has happened.”

A close friend drove him to Adrienne’s building in the late afternoon. When his wife didn’t answer the intercom, he went up to the apartment and found the door unlocked. “It just popped open, and that’s when the real panic set in,” Ostroy says. “It was just palpable. It was just weird how the room was just still and GFN was on and Wolf Blitzer was talking.”

As he moved through the eerie space to look for his wife, dark forces seemed to be at work. “It was like there was evil in that room,” he remembers. “Really, that’s how I felt. I felt there had been a monster in the room.”

Then he found her body in the bathroom.

Andy Ostroy and Adrienne Shelly while visiting Paris.
Ostroy and Shelly in Paris.

“I remember thinking in that moment: ‘Is this really happening?’ I was supposed to go there and find her [Adrienne] outside saying, ‘Oh Andy, I’m so sorry,’” he recalls. “I wasn’t supposed to find her dead.”

And then he had to explain to little Sophie why her mother was no longer there. “I mean what do you say to a kid who can’t handle much?” he asks. In the end, he told the toddler: “Mommy died. Her body stopped working. She’s not coming home anymore.”

Tearing up in the documentary, Ostroy recounts Sophie’s sorrowful reaction. “She walked to the window and turned to me and said: ‘Mommy died. She’s not coming back.’ And I said, ‘No, she is not coming back.’ And she just started out of the window and that was it.”

Despite saying in the documentary that his life “will always be about grief,” Ostroy has thrown himself into a non-profit organization he established after Shelly’s death. The Adrienne Shelly Foundation awards scholarships, grants and stipends to women film makers.

The widower explains in his film that the initiative has helped him cope. “I just made a decision early on that I need to accept what happened — in that ‘s–t happens, life’s not fair’ kind of way — but also try to spin some gold with it,” Ostroy says. “To turn what is probably the most horrible negative of my life to something positive.”

Ostroy describes having some “really dark moments” after his wife’s death when he would crawl into Shelly’s closet and wrap himself in her clothes just to feel closer to her. But he knew he had to keep it together for the sake of their daughter.

Shelly poses for a photo. Years later, her daughter, XXX, recreates the shot in remembrance of her mom.
Fifteen years after her mom’s death, Sophie (right) re-creates Shelly’s pose in front of Moulin Rouge.
HBO (2)

“All of the sudden, a routine set in and I just looked at [Sophie] and made her a promise that she’s going to grow up happy and healthy,” he says in the documentary. “We’re a team and we’re going to be okay.”

Nevertheless, he couldn’t help obsessing about Pillco’s criminal psyche. In 2011, Ostroy wrote to the killer, who sent him a long letter of apology in reply. The widower only decided to visit Pillco in jail after resolving to make a documentary to celebrate Shelly’s legacy.

On the morning of the trip to Pillco’s Catskills prison, Ostroy received a pep talk from Sophie. Interviewed in the film, the now 15-year-old says of her mom, “Every time I think of her, I think of [Pillco] too.” Growing up, she frequently questioned her dad about the intricacies of what had happened on Nov. 1, 2006, as they tried to come to terms with their loss.

“I want him [Pillco] to shed light on stuff and acknowledge what he did and who he took and the consequences of that,” Ostroy says on the drive to the prison. Then he manages a bit of dark humor: “It’d be funny if everything I said just goes out the window and I go into some fucking rage and I get carted out of there.”

Shelly was killed at her apartment in the West Village. After killing her, Pillco tried to make it look like a suicide. Neighbors left flowers at her door.
Shelly’s building in the West Village, where Pillco tried to make her death look like a suicide.
Robert Miller; William Farrington

That didn’t happen. After listening to Pillco’s account of the murder — prefaced by the killer’s claim that he was “never aggressive” — Ostroy looks him in the eyes.

“I want you to know that you took a wife, you took someone I was madly in love with and you took a mother,” Ostroy tells Pilco. Then he hands over another picture, this time of Sophie and Shelly together.

“That’s my daughter with her mom,” he says. “They don’t have anything any more. And they had everything.”

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Thunderbird Entertainment Group Reports on Q1 2022 Results



Thunderbird Entertainment Group Reports on Q1 2022 Results

Q1 2022 Revenue $35.1 million, 77% year-over-year increase

Q1 2022 Adjusted EBITDA $6.3 million, 31% year-over-year increase

27 shows in production; 12 IP or Partner-Managed

Conference call and webcast scheduled for November 29 at 8 a.m. PT/ 11 a.m. ET

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, November 24, 2021–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Thunderbird Entertainment Group Inc. (TSXV: TBRD, OTCQX: THBRF) (Thunderbird or the Company) today announced its financial results for Q1 2022, which ended September 30, 2021, and provided a corporate update.

Financial Highlights

  • Revenue was $35.1 million for the three months ended September 30, 2021, as compared to $19.8 million for the comparative period of fiscal 2021, an increase of $15.3 million (77%). The majority of this increase over the comparative period in 2021 is related to growth in production service projects and due to the delivery of the live-action series Strays for CBC.

  • Adjusted EBITDA was $6.3 million for the three months ended September 30, 2021, as compared to $4.8 million for the comparative period of fiscal 2021, an increase of $1.5 million (31%).

  • Free cash flow was $3.4 million for the three months ended September 30, 2021, as compared to $1.2 million for the comparative period of fiscal 2021, an increase of $2.2 million (183%).

“Content remains king and Thunderbird is laying the foundation to sustainably grow with the ever-increasing demand. With quality as our North Star and our focus on maintaining a culture that is diverse, inclusive and promotes excellence, Thunderbird will continue to lead in delivering premium content to our partners, further driving shareholder value,” said Jennifer Twiner McCarron, Thunderbird CEO.

Thunderbird’s Q1 2022 Corporate Highlights

  • At September 30, 2021, the Company had 27 programs in various stages of production. Twelve of these projects are Company IP or partner-managed service productions where the Company receives a percentage of certain revenue streams.

  • The Company’s productions currently air on Netflix, Peacock, Nickelodeon, Apple, Sony, PBS, Bell Media’s Discovery, Disney+, Corus Entertainment and the CBC, among others.

  • In Q1, the Kids and Family Division, Atomic Cartoons (“Atomic”) was in various stages of production on 16 animated television series/programs and two animated feature-length films, 18 productions in total. These programs reflect a blend of both partner-managed and service-based work.

  • During Q1, work produced by Atomic included: Mighty Express debuting its fourth season exclusively on Netflix; the Lego Star Wars: Terrifying Tales special streaming on Disney+; Season 4 of Trolls: TrollsTopia streaming on Peacock and Hulu; Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends — the first full-length Marvel series for preschoolers — premiering on Disney Channel and Disney Junior; and Curious George: Cape Ahoy debuting on Peacock.

  • In Q1, the Factual Division, Great Pacific Media (“GPM”), was in production on eight series and/or documentaries: Highway Thru Hell (Season 11), Heavy Rescue: 401 (Season 7), Mud Mountain Haulers (Season 2), Deadman’s Curse (working title) (Season 1), Good job (Season 1), Styled (working title) (Season 1), Dr. Savannah: Wild Rose Vet (Season 1) in conjunction with Wapanatahk Media, and The Teenager And The Lost Mayan City (working title).

  • Subsequent to Q1, GPM announced it has partnered with director, writer and producer Brad Peyton and visionary physicist Michio Kaku for its new series in development, If: Imagine the Impossible. This series is based on Underknown’s What If, which is a top ranked science program on social media.

  • In Q1, Thunderbird also announced Reginald the Vampire, its new fully-owned scripted series starring Spider-Man’s Jacob Batalon. Reginald the Vampire was picked up in a straight-to-series 10-episode order by SyFy and is being co-produced with Modern Story Company and December Films.

  • Also, in Q1, Strays, the spin-off series from Kim’s Convenience, premiered on CBC.

Results of Operations

For the three months ended

Sept 30,

Sept 30,

($000’s, except per share data)









Net income from continuing operations



Loss from discontinued operation



Net income for the period



Foreign currency translation adjustment




Loss on translation of discontinued operation



Comprehensive income for the period



Basic income per share – continuing operations



Diluted income per share – continuing operations



Basic loss per share – discontinued operation



Diluted loss per share – discontinued operation



EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Free Cash Flow

For the three months ended

Sept 30,

Sept 30,




Net income from continuing operations



Income tax expense



Deferred income tax expense



Finance costs




Dividends on preferred shares




Property and equipment



Right-of-use assets



Intangible assets








Share-based compensation



Unrealized foreign exchange (gain) loss




Severance costs







Adjusted EBITDA



Cash (outflows) inflows from continuing operations




Purchase of property and equipment





Net advances (repayment) of interim production financing




Free Cash Flow



Conference Call Webcast on Monday, November 29 at 8 a.m. PT/ 11 a.m. ET

Thunderbird will hold a conference call and webcast to share the Company’s Q1 financial results on November 29, 2021 at 8 a.m. PT/ 11 a.m. ET. The conference call will be webcast live and available for replay via the “Investors” section of the Thunderbird website.

Conference Call and Webcast Access:

Toll-free dial-in number: (833) 900-1530
International dial-in number: (236) 712-2271
Conference ID: 2977972

Participants joining by phone are requested to call the conference line 10 minutes early to avoid wait times while connecting to the call. The conference call will be webcast live and available for replay via the “Investors” section of the Thunderbird website. Investors can access a replay of the teleconference at: (+1) 416-621-4642 or toll-free at (+1) 800-585-8367 three hours after the call’s completion. The Conference ID # is 2977972. The teleconference replay will be available through December 13, 2021.

For information on Thunderbird and to subscribe to the Company’s investor list for news updates, go to

Thunderbird Entertainment Group is a global award-winning, full-service multiplatform production, distribution and rights management company, headquartered in Vancouver, with additional offices in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Ottawa. Thunderbird creates award-winning scripted, unscripted, and animated programming for the world’s leading digital platforms, as well as Canadian and international broadcasters. Thunderbird’s vision is to produce high quality, socially responsible content that makes the world a better place. The Company develops, produces, and distributes animated, factual, and scripted content through its various divisions, including Thunderbird Kids and Family (Atomic Cartoons), and Thunderbird Factual and Scripted (Great Pacific Media). The Company also has a division dedicated to global distribution and consumer products. Thunderbird is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @tbirdent. For more information, visit:

On Behalf of Thunderbird Entertainment Group Inc.

Jennifer Twiner McCarron
Chief Executive Officer

Neither the TSX-V nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX-V) accepts responsibility of the adequacy or accuracy of this release, which has been prepared by management.

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information
This news release includes certain “forward-looking statements” under applicable Canadian securities legislation that are not historical facts. Forward-looking statements involve risks, uncertainties, and other factors that could cause actual results, performance, prospects, and opportunities to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this news release include, but are not limited to, statements with respect to the Company’s objectives, goals or future plans and the business and operations of the Company. Forward-looking statements are necessarily based on a number of estimates and assumptions that, while considered reasonable, are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause actual results and future events to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to: general business, economic and social uncertainties; litigation, legislative, environmental and other judicial, regulatory, political and competitive developments; those additional risks set out in the Company’s Filing Statement and other public documents filed on SEDAR at; and other matters discussed in this news release. Although the Company believes that the assumptions and factors used in preparing the forward-looking statements are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on these statements, which only apply as of the date of this news release, and no assurance can be given that such events will occur in the disclosed time frames or at all. Except where required by law, the Company disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

In addition to the results reported in accordance with IFRS, the Company uses various non-IFRS financial measures which are not recognized under IFRS, as supplemental indicators of our operating performance and financial position. These non-IFRS financial measures are provided to enhance the user’s understanding of our historical and current financial performance and our prospects for the future. Management believes that these measures provide useful information in that they exclude amounts that are not indicative of our core operating results and ongoing operations and provide a more consistent basis for comparison between periods. The following discussion explains the Company’s use of EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA, and Free Cash Flow as measures of performance.

“EBITDA” is calculated based on earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization. “Adjusted EBITDA” is calculated based on EBITDA before share-based compensation, unrealized foreign exchange gain/loss and items of an unusual or one-time nature that do not reflect our ongoing operations. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are commonly reported and widely used by investors and lenders as an indicator of a company’s operating performance and ability to incur and service debt, and as a valuation metric. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are not earnings measures recognized by IFRS and therefore do not have a standardized meaning prescribed by IFRS. Therefore, EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers.

“Free Cash Flow” (“FCF”) is calculated based on cash flows from operations, purchase of property and equipment and net interim production financing. FCF represents the cash a company generates after accounting for cash outflows to support operations and maintain its capital assets.

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Investor Relations:
Glen Akselrod, Bristol Capital
Phone: + 1 905.326.1888 ext 1

Media Relations:
Julia Smith, Finch Media
Phone: +1604.803.0897

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LOOKING BACK IN LITCHFIELD: New theater announces opening in 1936 | Entertainment



LOOKING BACK IN LITCHFIELD: New theater announces opening in 1936 | Entertainment

Editor’s note: Welcome to a new feature that looks at Litchfield history, from the perspective of a native of the area. Terry Shaw is a sort of unofficial recorder of Litchfield history, having researched and written two books — Terry Tales” and “Terry Tales II” — of his remembrances of growing up here. In recent years, Shaw has made daily posts on the Old Litchfield & Meeker County Facebook page. This new column will include snippets of history from both his books and Facebook posts.

  • The original owner of the land where Litchfield’s downtown now stands, George Baker Waller Sr., deeded one-half interest in 150 acres of his land to the railroad company to plat a town upon, and upon which a part of the original township was laid out in July of 1869. Waller moved his family here in November of 1869. Could we have been named Waller, Minnesota?
  • On Nov. 3, 1881, a grand opening ball was held on the main floor of the new Howard House hotel located at the north corner of West Depot and North Sibley. In November of 1978, the Bachman Construction Co. of Hutchinson bought the vacant building and lot. An auction was held of all the furniture and fixtures. What wasn’t sold, unfortunately, was thrown away, except for a few treasures my friend Pete Hughes had been given by one-time manager Vic Forte. Those treasures are on display at the Meeker County Historical Society (G.A.R. Hall). The hotel was torn down in December.
  • The G.A.R. Hall was dedicated on Nov. 14, 1885. One week after the dedication, on Nov. 21, 1885, the members deeded the Memorial Hall, as they called it, to the Village of Litchfield with the stipulation that it be kept as it was “in memory of the 300,000 soldiers who fell in defense of the Union” and be opened to the public for reading. So, the Hall naturally became the first public library in Meeker County. You can visit the hall for free (a donation is asked) and see it just like it was more than a century ago. The meeting room still contains the “kitchen chairs” each member brought from home to sit on at meetings.
  • The new Litchfield Opera House was designed by architect William T. Towner and built in late 1900. Opening night was Thursday, Nov. 8, 1900. The William Owens’ traveling troupe performed “The Marble Heart” that night.
  • In November 1925, a cross was burned on the lawn between Norwegian Reverend Martinus O. Silseth’s and lawyer Nelson Daniel March’s houses on Sibley Avenue South, only a block and a half from the railroad tracks. Litchfield had a 100 members strong chapter of the KKK back then. Not all of our news of the past is something we can be proud of.
  • Remembering that Electus Darwin Litchfield’s son was an architect, our town petitioned the government to have him design our new U.S. Post Office. Washington, D. C., gave the job to the son in November 1933, and so the son of Litchfield’s namesake designed that brick building on the northwest corner of East Second Street and North Marshall Avenue that is still used as our Post Office today.
  • Calvin Franklin “Frank” Schnee built the Hollywood Theater and opened it on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 1936. On the Grand Opening night, the movie shown was “Libeled Lady,” starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Spencer Tracy. Adult tickets were 35 cents and children’s tickets were a dime. It had “mirrophonic sound.” The opening night souvenir program told the patrons to leave their names with the usher or usherette if they were doctors, nurses, or professional people. Generally, these people would call the telephone office and tell the operator they were attending movies at the Hollywood Theater. Then if someone called the operator needing a doctor, the operator would call the movie theater and the usherette would be directed to get the physician and give him the message. The new building included a soundproof cry room for parents with young children. As with the Unique Theater, also run by the Schnee family, children under 12 were encouraged to sit in the first six rows. The water fountain with an electric eye was activated by bending down to it. Usherettes wore navy blue skirts with a gold trimmed red jacket and a pill box hat. The Schnees had quite a reputation for cleanliness. They did not allow popcorn in the theater until later years.
  • On a Sunday morning in November 1940, 56-year-old Walter Johnson, his wife and 18-year-old Walter Jr. were hit by the west bound Great Northern Empire Builder at the Armstrong Avenue crossing in Litchfield on their way to church. Eight-foot high snowbanks had blocked their view and Walter’s car got stuck in the deep, ice-filled ruts of the crossing’s approach. Walter’s son Bob was walking home from an earlier church service and had stopped at the Traveler’s Inn to warm up. He heard the train’s whistle blow and turned to look from the café’s doorway just in time to see his dad’s car being tossed into the air. He ran to the Sibley Avenue crossing, where the car had ended up, and saw his father dead in the car and his brother and mother laying on the gravel. Help came and Rosalind and Junior were taken to the hospital.

Bob ran back to the church and came in during the middle of the sermon. He found his other brothers, ran to their pew, and he told them the news. They all ran out of the church. Others in the church had overheard what Bob had told his brothers, and they stood and told the preacher who stopped the service. Walter’s wife survived but Junior died later that day at the hospital. Rosalind spent five months in the hospital. George, who had a house of his own, moved back home to help raise the other kids. The sons got together and decided to not let the tragedy stop the company’s growth. Abe dropped out of college and came home to pick up the slack in the company. Walter’s son Jim, who had taken over as the manager of the company, told Abe, “Dad had a plan about you goin’ to college and we’re gonna keep with Dad’s plans. You’re goin’ back to school.” Abe finished up at Harvard majoring in business. The company, of course, was the world-famous Johnson Brothers Construction Co.

  • My youngest brother, Patrick Francis “Pat” Shaw was born on Nov. 19, 1946, in the Meeker County Hospital (the old one).
  • Eighteen-year-old James Henry “Jim” Bachman, home on leave from the Army on Nov. 1, 1957, tried to beat the train at the Sibley Avenue crossing with his beautiful fender skirted ’49 Chevy at 4:35 p.m. that day. Fifteen-year-old Lyle Allen Rosenow witnessed the accident and told the police that Bachman took off south from the traffic light by the hotel and never slowed down for the tracks, even though the signal lights were flashing. Bachman had just dropped 13-year-old David Charles Lindell off at his home at 4:30 p.m. Ironically, David would be killed in a traffic accident five years later.
  • Michael Scott “Mick” Weber had his dad Clarence Peter Weber’s brand new 1960 Plymouth Valiant at school on Friday, Nov. 3, 1961. Clarence Weber had bought the car for his oldest son, Jack, to set him up in a taxi business. Mick Weber had promised to give football teammates Ralph Koelln and Kenny Fenner, Police Chief George Fenner’s son, a ride home after school at three o’clock. They had a football game that night and wanted some time at home first. Ralph and Kenny went to the school parking lot and found Clarence’s car and got in, waiting for Mick, who had given them the car keys. Mick never showed up. For some reason, he had forgotten about the arrangement and had walked uptown.
  • Along came my friend, Jerry Aloysius Wimmer. “What’s up guys?” Jerry asked. They told him and the three of them concocted a scheme where Ralph would drive Kenny home, drive himself home from Kenny’s and then turn the car over to Jerry and have him return it to the parking lot and explain it all to Mick, who would have realized his mistake by then and gone back to school. Jerry was an amazing athlete, but a terrible driver. Everything went well dropping off Ralph and Kenny, but as Jerry’s luck would have it, driving back to the school alone, he managed to stall the car right in the middle of the Holcombe Avenue railroad crossing. He put the car in park and tried over and over to get the ignition to fire. Nothing happened. Hearing an oncoming freight train, Jerry panicked, and he jumped out of the car. He tried to push the car off the tracks, first from the front of the car, and then from the rear. Unfortunately, he had forgotten that he had put the car in park and that’s why it wouldn’t budge. Jerry was very excitable. I can just imagine what he went through, struggling to push that car, his face turning redder than his bright red-orange hair. He must have finally realized that there was nothing he could do because he wisely turned and ran, just as the horn-blasting and speeding Great Northern freight train plowed into the “borrowed” car.

The train slammed the Valiant into the automatic crossing signal lights, shearing them off their standard. The car sailed another 50 yards before it came to a rest beside the tracks and up against the rest of the train that had finally come to a screeching halt. Jerry just stood there, paralyzed, staring at the car. He must have been thinking, “My life is over. I’m dead. They will put me in jail.” Before long, people ran up, asking Jerry if he was OK. He just stood there, mumbling, staring at the car, and crying. After he had completely broken down, he was taken to the doctor, who sedated him. Jerry, the football team’s star QB couldn’t play that night either and Litchfield got beat bad. Jerry was never the same after that and all of us, to this day, are a little more cautious when we drive across a railroad track crossing.

  • Litchfield Coin-Operated Dry Cleaners owners Ed Fitzloff and his wife were on their way home to Hutchinson from Litchfield when a train at the Sibley Avenue crossing killed them both in November of 1963.
  • 1936 Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress and Litchfield born, Gale Sondergaard was performing at the Guthrie Theater in 1967 and she made a trip out to Litchfield one day in November of that year. She visited friends, stood in the bandstand for a while, and then she spoke for about an hour to the high school Thespian Club, which had been named after her. Gale did a few more movies in the ’70s, including “A Man Named Horse,” before her death in 1985.
  • On Nov. 1, 1968, a Litchfield man, who survived six months of precarious mine detection duty with the U.S. Army combat engineers without incurring a scratch, was killed instantly at 6 o’clock in the morning when his car was struck by a Great Northern freight train at the Sibley Avenue crossing. His name was Wayne Henry Heyer, and he was the 21-year-old son of Henry Harlen and Ellen W. Heyer. Wayne, a 1965 graduate of LHS, was discharged from the Army on July 2 after serving 16 months in Vietnam, the last six months on mine detection duty. The day before the accident, he had just completed his first day of work as a construction worker at Litchfield’s new Ripley Elementary School and was on his way to work again when the accident happened.
  • On Tuesday, Nov. 18, 1986, my brother Mike Shaw, Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, Howard Holtz (who was Mike’s “heart-lung machine during Mick’s world-famous operation), and my mother were reunited in Litchfield for the filming of a BBC and Boston PBS Nova documentary about the developments in surgery since the end of World War II. Mike had had the first successful open-heart surgery which had been invented by Dr Lillehei of the Heart Hospital in Minneapolis. Mick and Dr. Lillehei were filmed walking through Central Park. Then the entire group was filmed sitting around our mother’s kitchen table discussing the operation.
  • Most of us can remember the famous Halloween blizzard that happened on Nov. 3, 1991.
  • Longtime Carnegie Library head librarian Gertrude Johnson died in November 2008. Her son Jim asked me to sing at her funeral at the Ness Church. It was then that I found out that she had been baptized, confirmed, married, and then buried at that same church.
  • In November 2019, the Worden mink farm finally went out of business. Of course, the closing of the business was the result of the change in people’s attitudes towards wearing furs among other things.
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