Audiences are taking notice, too. Dark Waters, an overlooked 2019 legal thriller, is currently ranked second on the US iTunes rental charts, ahead of franchise films like Birds of Prey and Bad Boys for Life. The British dramedy Emma remains the 13th highest-grossing film of the year around the world, after debuting in theaters in February, shortly before they shut down. And Judd Apatow’s original comedy The King of Staten Island topped the charts over the weekend on a variety of on-demand platforms, including Amazon, Google Play, Apple TV, and Comcast Xfinity.

Mixed in with the usual suspects of franchise films on Google Play’s most popular movies are films like the legal drama Just Mercy and horror flick The Lodge. The indie films Judy and The Assistant are both among the 20 best-selling movies of the year on iTunes, according to rental tracker Pop Vortex. Others, like Shirley, are generating a torrent of think-pieces by writers discovering they have the bandwidth to cover it now that their editors can’t demand coverage of Fast & Furious 9 and Top Gun: Maverick, which have both been delayed from their early summer release dates.

Apparently not content with these films, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences extended the eligibility window for next year’s Oscars by two months (and moved the ceremony itself from February to April), in order to give the bigger, traditional “Oscar bait” movies more time to qualify after the pandemic forced their delays. But that won’t change the fact that this summer, for the first and maybe only time ever, the little movies stole the show.

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