I’ve written an essay for Saturday’s Wall Street Journal about the history of summer movies in America. Here’s an excerpt.
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Summer is here—but there are no movies to mark its coming. With Hollywood in deep-seated disarray and America’s movie theaters still trying to figure out whether they can reopen safely, it’ll likely be at least another year before the next summer movie comes along. But how will we know it when we see it? Exactly what is a summer movie? Can it be something other than a romcom? Must it take place on or near a beach? These questions are harder to answer than you might suppose.
The composer and critic Virgil Thomson once wrote something that came to mind when I first started thinking about summer movies: “The way to write American music is simple. All you have to do is to be an American and then write any kind of music you wish.” That’s a great definition, one that emphasizes the proliferating eclecticism of American classical music. Is it possible, then, to take a similar tack in defining summer movies? Not unless you believe that “Die Hard,” “Ghostbusters” and “Speed” qualify simply because they all came out in June. No matter when it’s released, a film must be unequivocally summer-themed to qualify as a summer movie—and even that alone isn’t enough. Does Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” make the cut solely because it takes place during a big-city heat wave? Not really.
It’s more obviously tempting to say that summer movies are always comedies of one kind or another. This comes closer to the truth, though there is no shortage of exceptions….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
The original theatrical trailer for Steven Spielberg’s Jaws: