Hollywood’s spring and summer theatrical release calendar has been decimated due to quarantine rules and complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once cinemas can resume business, they’ll need big films to lure movie watchers back.
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
When the theatrical release of the new James Bond action thriller “No Time to Die” was pushed from April to Nov. 25 in the United States, few likely realized what was coming in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it would soon cripple the country’s movie industry for months to come.
United Artists’ and Universal’s decision to postpone the release of the 25th James Bond film, which was announced on March 12, was the first big blow to Hollywood and its cinema partners as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon after Daniel Craig’s fifth and final Bond film was delayed theatrically, Universal announced it was moving the premiere of “Fast & Furious 9” to the spring of 2021, then Disney shuffled its release calendar, moving its live-action remake of “Mulan” to July 24 and delaying Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow” to Nov. 6.
As studios began postponing more and more film premieres, theaters across the country started closing in rapid succession to comply with local and state rules that determine social distancing guidelines and mandatory quarantine periods.
Now virtually all theaters, including AMC Theatres, the largest cinema chain in the United States, and indie darlings such as Landmark and Alamo Drafthouse, are closed indefinitely. AMC’s credit rating was recently downgraded from B to CCC- by S&P Global Ratings, and there are reports that the company faces imminent bankruptcy if business can’t resume by midsummer.
With no theaters open to exhibit new films, studios are searching for ways to protect themselves from crushing losses.
Some smaller-budget films are being released digitally on the date they were initially meant to hit cinemas. Meanwhile, some larger releases that saw limited time in cinemas, such as Pixar’s “Onward,” have already made their way to streaming platforms. The vast majority of tentpole films, however, are slated to be screened no earlier than the back half of 2020.
Assuming theaters do open again at some point late this spring or early in the summer, two major studio releases and a sequel nearly 30 years in the making that are listed below should help fill auditoriums in a hurry, perhaps saving some cinemas from closing their doors permanently.
The picks are presented in order of their current release date.
WONDER WOMAN 1984
If superhero fatigue is a real thing it hasn’t shown up yet in box office receipts.
Now dated for an August release instead of June 5, the Warner Bros. sequel to 2017’s “Wonder Woman” should be a huge draw for theaters. Gal Gadot returns as Diana, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, the Amazonian princess and member of the Justice League. This will be Gadot’s second solo film in the role and her fourth picture overall (Gadot’s Wonder Woman was also featured in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” in 2016 and in “Justice League” from 2017). Gadot is again joined by Patty Jenkins, who returns as director. Chris Pine is also back as Steve Trevor, and Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal co-star.
When the release of the new Wonder Woman film was delayed in late March, Warners’ studio boss Toby Emmerich released a statement reading: “When we greenlit 'Wonder Woman 1984' it was with every intention to be viewed on the big screen and we are excited to announce that Warner Bros. Pictures will be bringing the film to theatres on Aug. 14.” If nothing else, Warner Bros. deserves a nod for being optimistic in keeping the film set with a summer release.
With over $820 million in sales at the global box office three years ago, Jenkins’ first Wonder Woman film became the highest-grossing superhero origin film of all time.
BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC
Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan haven’t been on any excellent adventures together in a long time — a very long time. But now, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are finally back as Bill and Ted, respectively, after a hiatus of nearly 30 years.
The two were last together on camera, hanging out with Death of all dudes, in 1991. Without the late George Carlin, who played their mentor Rufus, there’s much to be sad about but at least the duo is set to hit the silver screen once more with their time-traveling phone booth on Aug. 21.
With United Artists releasing, this sci-fi comedy won’t command the same kind of box office numbers as “Wonder Woman 1984” but it should provide a not-so-bogus journey for enthusiasts of the two previous Bill & Ted films while also delivering a positive message. Bill and Ted saved the world once before, so now they can perhaps help save movie theaters.
William Sadler reprises his role as the Grim Reaper while Dean Parisot of “Galaxy Quest” fame directs.
The Marvel Studios machine keeps chugging along, churning out billion-dollar film after billion-dollar film. If one of Marvel’s mightiest Avengers can’t knock out COVID-19 with a swift kick or punch it’s difficult to think anything else might work.
The studio’s next release, “Black Widow,” will be the 24th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yep, the world that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby co-created together has seen its movie team make its own features pretty much nonstop going back to the 2008 releases of “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk.”
Scarlett Johansson is Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow, for what’s likely to be the final time, and despite this being Johansson’s ninth time portraying Romanoff, this will be the Russian super spy’s first solo adventure.
With a standout cast of supporting characters, which includes Florence Pugh from “Midsommar,” David Harbour from “Stranger Things” and Rachel Weisz, Disney should have little trouble kickstarting the winter season with a winner. Produced by Kevin Feige, Cate Shortland directs this prequel that takes place between the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”