Most of the big June, July and August releases have yet to move, partially out of hopes that they won’t have to.
We got word yesterday that Warner Bros. was delaying nearly its entire summer movie slate. While Scoob (originally slated for May 15), In the Heights (June 26) and Malignant (August 14) will open theatrically at a time-to-be-determined, Wonder Woman 1984 has been officially delayed from June 5 to August 14. Oddly enough, Chris Nolan’s $200 million sci-fi actioner Tenet, starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, has thus far maintained its intended July 17 opening weekend. It is one of a handful of potentially “big” movies that has yet to vacate its planned theatrical release date, arguably because it’s hoping that it won’t have to.
While most of the (presumably) biggest summer 2020 offerings are no longer slated to open as intended, although Wonder Woman 1984’s new release date still qualifies it as a summer movie, there are a few holdouts that are still technically scheduled to open in May, June and July. Along with DC Films’ Wonder Woman sequel, Marvel’s Black Widow is no longer opening on May 1, Spiral: From the Book of Saw is no longer opening on May 15, F9: The Fast Saga is no longer opening on May 22 and Illumination’s Minions 2: The Rise of Gru is no longer slated for July 3. So, what’s left among the potential summer biggies?
Paramount’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is still slated for May 22, Memorial Day weekend, while Kenneth Branagh’s Artemis Fowl (which Disney was supposed to open last August) is still scheduled for May 29. Beyond a few examples of studios getting way ahead of the curve, most of the June and July calendar is currently intact. June still technically features Tom Hanks’ Greyhound (June 12), Candyman (June 12), Pixar’s Soul (June 19) and Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick (June 26). July is still home to Free Guy (July 3), The Next Purge (July 10), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (July 10), Tenet (July 17), Jungle Cruise (July 24) and Morbius (July 31).
The August slate is relatively untouched, save for Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (August 7) and Wonder Woman 1984 (August 14), both of which moved TO August from earlier release dates. Sony’s Peter Rabbit sequel was supposed to open a week from Friday alongside the eternally cursed New Mutants. With the presumption that theaters could/may be re-opened by August, I’d argue the biggest threats to the current August movies (Bill and Ted Face the Music on August 21 and The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard on August 28) are movies initially scheduled for Spring or early summer that end up getting rescheduled in August.
Offhand, I’d wager that Wonder Woman 1984’s mid-August release date was both A) convenient since they could just move their own movie, James Wan’s Malignant off that slot and B) a way to signal to the likes of Black Widow and Mulan (which was supposed to open tomorrow night) to give it some breathing room. Sure, Disney could be schmucks and toss The One and Only Ivan out of August 14 and schedule either of those female-led action spectaculars against Wonder Woman 1984, but that’s about as likely as John Wick: Chapter 4 and The Matrix 4 both opening on May 21, 2021.
In terms of big movies that have already ditched their intended release date, it’s either a case of “the theaters are absolutely going to be closed at this point in time,” the movie in question being unable to finish due to coronavirus-related production shutdowns (this is what felled Minions 2: The Rise of Gru) or studios planning well in advance. Universal and MGM moved No Time to Die from April 10 to November 25 at least partially because the seven of the last eight 007 movies (save for Tomorrow Never Dies, which debuted in December of 1997) all opened in November anyway.
Ditto Universal moving F9 to the 2021 slot already occupied by Fast & Furious 10. This assured that F9 would open in a healthier new release date, one with (I presume) already guaranteed access to IMAX and related “premium large auditoriums,” while making sure that Justin Lin’s F10 (or whatever the series finale is titled) has ample time to actually get made. The “make sure we have IMAX screens” variable probably also factored into Wonder Woman 1984 going in mid-August. This will also factor into when the likes of A Quiet Place part II, Mulan and Black Widow get rescheduled.
I’m curious as to if No Time to Die (which has scenes shot in IMAX) will now share the biggest of big screens with Godzilla Vs. Kong (which opens on November 20 after being delayed, way back in December, from its initial March 13 date) or if the WB/Legendary monster sequel still stays in 2020, but we can expect a smooth transfer of power from Chris Nolan’s Tenet on July 17 to Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 (both of which, like Top Gun: Maverick, contain scenes shot with IMAX cameras) if all goes according to plan. Speaking of “according to plan,” there is at least some hope in Hollywood that the late June/mid-July releases may go out as planned.
Moreover, small horror movies like Candyman and The Next Purge have had next-to-no advertising up to this point (Candyman had a single trailer attached to Invisible Man). Chris Nolan’s Tenet has had the usual “extended prologue shown only in IMAX” gimmick alongside a conventional trailer which both debuted back in December. Jungle Cruise has had two trailers, as have Soul, while the marketing spends for Top Gun: Maverick (one SDCC preview and one theatrical trailer) and Ghostbusters: Afterlife (one online tease and one theatrical teaser) weren’t really going to ramp up until May or June anyway. Point being studios can wait and see.
There is great value in being the first big movie(s) to open in theaters after an extended blackout period. Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick would hugely benefit from being an unofficial summer kick-off movie heading into the July 4th/Independence Day holiday weekend, especially with Minions 2 no longer around. However, if summer “starts” with Tenet on July 17 or with Wonder Woman 1984 on August 14, then Warner Bros. wins either way. I’d argue, at least at the moment, that’s why potential heavy-hitters like Top Gun: Maverick, Soul, Tenet and Jungle Cruise had yet to vacate their planned June or July release dates.