Hollywood’s New Release Date Game

Movie release dates are already chess matches. Coronavirus brings it to a new level.

UPDATE: Sony has pushed Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Morbius from July 2020 to March 2021.

Not only has COVID-19 led to halts in productions, but due to absolutely no one wanting to be within 6 feet of each other, let alone crammed into a theater together, Hollywood has been forced to postpone their releases for the foreseeable future. While putting out a movie on a different date may seem easy enough, the fact of the matter is that timing is everything to a movie’s success. Major discussions are almost certainly happening behind the scenes and any decision having profound financial repercussions.

In this article, I will attempt to explain where each of the postponed or likely-postponed movies best option for a new release date, as well as an explanation as to why. We’ll assume that all March, April, and May films that have yet to be postponed will eventually move from their current scheduled release.

ALREADY RESCHEDULED

No Time to Die – New Date November 25, 2020

The first movie to metaphorically pull the trigger, Bond smartly saw the writing on the wall. Previously set for April, Daniel Craig’s final installment might actually work better for November. All of Craig’s previous 007 films were released in October or November. With the Bond franchise having such a distinct brand, a Fall release feels right for this last outing. In fact, before production issues, No Time To Die was set to be released in November 2019. Welcome home, Mr. Bond.

Wonder Woman 1984 – New Date August 14, 2020

If you don’t pay attention to movie release schedules, then you might not be aware that August is such a weird month for the film industry. Historically the dumping ground doomed projects, it has recently been able to launch several big budget movies studios see as wild cards. Guardians of the Galaxy, Suicide Squad, and The Meg all found great success here. But Wonder Woman would be the first established hit to debut in the month. It’s also a week later than usual, which goes to show the studio is hoping the Summer Movie Season is just being pushed back about a month. Notably, they swapped this movie with fellow WB film Malignant, as opposed to the studio’s newest team up with Christopher Nolan, Tenet. Set to debut on July 17, 2020, it will be interesting if it becomes the first movie to be flooded by the post-Coronavirus market. If so, WB could be looking at a one-two punch partnership with WW84.

F9 – New Date April 2, 2021

Am I the only one who just realized the name of this movie was simply F9? Anyway, Universal made a simple, but smart, move by pushing their latest Fast Saga movie back a full year, taking the place of F10, the supposed closing chapter of the franchise. With this date already staked out, judgement on the film’s surrounding competition has already been made. Still, it remains to be seen what movies might be pushed to 2021 alongside it.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway – New Date August 7, 2020

While this may not seem like a movie Sony was banking on to bring in revenue, 2018’s first story around the troublesome rabbit was a huge success, making over $350 million. As such, it was the first postponed movie to claim new ground. Releasing a week before Wonder Woman’s new date, it will be interesting to see how much they divide audiences. Back in 2017, Gal Gadot’s Diana came out triumphant against kid-friendly Captain Underpants, but Peter Rabbit could prove to have a loyal fanbase.

POSTPONED INDEFINITELY

PARAMOUNT

Postponed: A Quiet Place Part II – Originally Dated March 20, 2020

Likely Postponed: The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run – Originally Dated May 22, 2020

While No Time To Die was the first to cave, A Quiet Place Part II was what really opened the floodgates. When thinking of movies that provide a unique experience in watching in a theater, this film’s communal silence with fellow moviegoers certainly justifies a postponement. No new release date is set, but given that the marketing campaign for the film is over (press, talk show appearances, etc.) it’s likely to come out sooner, rather than later. August 7th looks like the best bet, as October and November are stuffed with horror already and it could work as counter-programming to Peter Rabbit. There is another horror movie, The Empty Man, already there, but it has yet to have a trailer and would likely move given the competition.

As for the third Spongebob theatrical film, it would certainly be wonderful if social distancing ended by May 22nd, but we are in such an uncertain time that I doubt the date will stick. August 28th might be a little too close to A Quiet Place, but they are different genres and its only same weekend opening competition would be The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, which certainly has a different audience.

DISNEY

Postponed: Mulan – Originally Dated March 28, 2020, The New Mutants – Originally Dated April 3, 2020, Antlers – Originally Dated April 17, 2020, Black Widow – Originally Dated May 1, 2020, The Personal History of David Copperfield – Originally Dated May 8, 2020, The Woman in the Window – Originally Dated May 15, 2020

Likely Postponed: Artemis Fowl – May 29, 2020

I suppose we’ve now learned that one problem that comes with buying up your competition is that, during a pandemic, your rescheduling becomes quite crowded. Let’s start with Mulan, which has also done the majority of its marketing, including having its US premiere. What’s tricky is that Disney will also want China to be in a good place, so that they can bring in big bucks there. The best move for this film would be to take Marvel’s Eternals spot on November 6th. This would allow plenty of time for China to recover and it would be in theaters for Thanksgiving in the US.

Though it was scheduled to come out later, I believe Black Widow would be best poised to take Jungle Cruise’s July 24th slot and move the fellow Disney flick to December 11th, where The Rock has found great success with his Jumanji films. Raya and the Last Dragon would then be moved up a week to November 20th to give both films a bit more room. It might sound simpler to have Black Widow take the Eternals spot instead of Mulan, but I disagree. Besides Mulan wanting China to be fully operational, the question remains whether two spy movies would capitalize each other so close to one another. What was originally a one month separation would now become three weeks. But if Disney feels Natasha Romanoff is more superhero than spy, November is on the table. Regardless, Marvel’s entire Phase 4 schedule will likely be pushed back.

As for Disney’s remaining Fox acquisitions, I would look for the other 20th Century movies that don’t yet have a trailer to be pushed back. I could see The New Mutants replacing The King’s Man on September 18th. Artemis Fowl taking Death of the Nile on October 9th, The Woman in the Window taking the more awards friendly spot of There’s Something About Jamie on October 23rd, and similarly The Personal History of David Copperfield replacing Deep Water on November 13th. This is assuming none of these Fox acquisitions go to Disney+ or Hulu, which is certainly a possibility. 

LIONSGATE

Postponed: Antebellum – Originally Dated April 24, 2020, Spiral: From The Book of Saw – Originally Dated May 15, 2020, Run – Originally Dated May 8, 2020

Lionsgate has potentially two solid horror movies that could really make a splash if given the right date. Antebellum feels like it could do solid business in our current prestige horror era. Still, horror is very spread out this year, with two established and generally well received franchises, The Conjuring and Halloween, staking out September and October, respectively. The studio likely has more faith in Spiral since it has Chris Rock starring and is a franchise reboot. September 25th has a lot of small films, so Spiral could arguably break out. There’s not really a good option for Antebellum, but it could take Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar on July 31st, and move that wonderfully weird comedy to October 23rd, Halloween weekend. As for Run, I see this thriller being pushed back to 2021, as this current year seems far too crowded for I film of its size to survive.

UNIVERSAL

Postponed: Minions: The Rise of Gru – Originally Dated July 3, 2020

After deciding to release Trolls World Tour digitally, the only film left that’s on Universal’s plate is the newest Despicable Me feature. Currently the only July flick to be taken off the map, not announcing another date likely means we’re looking at something at least into late August. I’d say September 4th is as good as any date, particularly since the only film releasing the following week is the next Conjuring film. 

WARNER BROS

Postponed: SCOOB! – May 15, 2020, In The Heights – June 26, 2020, Malignant – August 14, 2020

SCOOB! already lends itself to Halloween with costumes being so entrenched with the IP. Because of that, it would be perfect counter programming for Halloween Kills on October 16th. In The Heights does seem like a summer movie, but it could also work as an awards contender that families see over Thanksgiving. November 13th is fairly open, besides Clifford The Big Red Dog (and of course the newly placed The Personal History of David Copperfield). It also gives time before Spielberg’s West Side Story). Malignant…gets pushed to 2021.

And there you have it. Three months of movies successfully placed into respectable slots. Now, this leaves many films that will now need to be released in 2021, but given that filming has also been halt during this pandemic, next year will be about as crowded as it would be any other year.

  • Black Widow – July 24, 2020 (replaces Jungle Cruise)
  • Antebellum – July 31, 2020 (replaces Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar)
  • Peter Rabbit 2 – August 7, 2020
  • A Quiet Place Part II – August 7, 2020 (replaces The Empty Man)
  • Wonder Woman 1984 – August 14, 2020 (replaces Malignant)
  • The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run – August 28, 2020
  • The New Mutants – September 18, 2020 (replaces The King’s Man)
  • Minions: The Rise of Gru – September 4, 2020
  • Spiral – September 25, 2020
  • Artemis Fowl – October 9, 2020 (replaces Death on the Nile)
  • SCOOB! – October 16, 2020
  • The Woman in the Window – October 23, 2020 (replaces There’s Something About Jamie)
  • Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar – October 23, 2020
  • Mulan – November 6, 2020 (replaces The Eternals)
  • The Personal History of David Copperfield – November 13, 2020 (replaces Deep Water)
  • In The Heights – November 13, 2020
  • Raya and the Last Dragon – November 20th, 2020
  • No Time To Die – November 23, 2020
  • Jungle Cruise – December 11, 2020
  • F9 – April 2, 2021 (replaces F10)

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