The film had been sitting on a shelf, waiting to meet its public for a whole year (its initial release date had been December 18, 2020), and the original show’s lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, had died three days before. As Spielberg took the Rose Theater stage at Lincoln Center to pay tribute to his legendary friend and colleague and introduce his film, he prefaced his remarks by thanking Bob Iger, the former CEO of Disney (the parent company of 20th Century Studios), for deciding not to release the film on Disney+ and to wait until it could safely open in theaters.
This was far from the most notable moment of his speech; most outlets that covered his remarks didn’t even mention it. Maybe that’s what was so notable about it. Yes, there was a new variant on the horizon. Yes, the audience that night had been both vaccinated and tested. And yes, the domestic box office was still a shadow of its former self. But a big New York movie was playing on a big New York screen to a big New York audience, and, at least for a moment, it all made perfect sense. A city and its movies were roaring back to life.
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