The major studios are once again moving their big 2020 releases out of the spring months.
Starting late Thursday night, Sony and Universal began announcing major shifts in their release strategies for 2021. As before, the James Bond film No Time To Die led the pack; decamping from April to October 8th in a move which echoes the change it made last year as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take its toll. Soon after, Sony announced further changes like Ghostbusters: Afterlife moving to November 11th and, most drastically, Morbius from October to January 21st, 2022. Additionally, the Tom Holland starring Uncharted is also moving to next year.
These latter switches left many fans of superhero films wondering if it will have an impact on the delayed Phase 4 films from Marvel Studios. As of this writing, Black Widow is holding the line with a May release, but it did the same thing last year until the realities of the pandemic forced it to August, then November, and then a full year from its originally planned release date. And while the Marvel dates are still in place, Disney is moving a number of early 2021 films out to later in the year with The King’s Man moving from March to August 20th and the Bob’s Burgers movie losing its release date entirely.
And as these release dates change, confidence in a 2021 summer season begins to wane. With vaccination distribution only starting to go online, it is hard to believe theaters will be back to any sort of profitable capacity by May. That means the cascading scheduling changes will continue through the first half of the year. Which, even at this point, still feels like the sensible choice even if it means an unusual delay in market pushes for films like Black Widow, Jungle Cruise and Eternals.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. Pictures is holding firm with its release schedule thanks to the hybrid model it unveiled late last year. With this, Godzilla vs. King Kong and The Suicide Squad, among other films, are locked for muted theatrical releases and simultaneous availability on HBO Max in the spring and summer. It is still a controversial plan, of course, with reports indicating director Christopher Nolan will break away from Warners over the strategy. At the same time, we wonder if certain films like Dune and the fourth Matrix film will slide out of their dates as the former’s hybrid release is still being negotiated and the latter still lacks for a proper name.
Uncertainty is the key word everyone has been living with since COVID-19 went worldwide and the changes to the release pattern reflect how far we still have to go before any sort of certainty is attainable.