COVID-19: Annnnd, that’s a wrap for 2020 cinema experience?

'Top Gun 2', 'Quiet Place' gone and 'Tenet', 'Mulan' pulled. It's now growing ever more unlikely there'll be any major releases this year...

For most people, the idea of any true cinematic experience in the near future seems wishful thinking. The COVID-19 pandemic has made normal cinema-going and industry releases completely unviable. Though there are a few stragglers valiantly shuffling release dates in micro-increments, it is becoming far more likely through every passing day that every significant movie debut scheduled for 2020 is now in doubt and that a ripple effect is working its way up/down the schedule.

To add fuel to that position some of the last-remaining tent-poles are now officially gone from 2020. The much-anticipated Top Gun sequel Maverick will now not be released until 2nd July 2021 and A Quiet Place: Part Two, one of the very first films to be pulled from schedules way back in March where it had previously been expected to open to a $60+ box-office weekend, will also not attempt a release this year – moving to 23rd April 2021. Disney‘s Mulan, due for release at the end of August and one of the big films touted to relaunch cinemas is now gone with no new date allocated. As with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet it is an expensive film that the studio needs to debut on the big-screen to make sure makes its money back rather than going the VOD route… but also equally in doubt for a 2020 release if that’s the primary concern which is why there’s been no firm announcement on their new release dates.

“Over the last few months, it’s become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis, and today that means pausing our release plans for Mulan as we assess how we can most effectively bring this film to audiences around the world,” a statement from Disney read.

Industry site Deadline reports that James Cameron’s long-in-production Avatar sequels will also be affected, though we would have been waiting a while for those already.  Avatar 2 moves from 17th December 2021 to 16th December 2022.  Avatar 3 shifts from 22nd December 2023 to 20th December 2024. Avatar 4due on 19th December 2025 is now expected on 18th Decemeber 2026. The fifth film in the franchise which was due on 27th December 2027 is now set for 22nd December 2028.  Disney has also confirmed that a planned new Star Wars trilogy, overseen (if not actually directed) by Taika Waititi is unlikely to appear on screen before December 2023.

Of the movies that are hanging on to their announced releases – at least as things stand today  – include: New Mutants (28th August),  The Personal History of David Copperfield (now with a 28th August date). Matthew Vaughn’s The King’s Man (18th September), Death on the Nile (23rd October), Black Widow and Deep Water both set for early November, Pixar’s Soul (20th November) and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story (18th December)… but it would take a brave punter to put any money on those remaining ‘as is’.

No studio at this point appears to want to put all its releases in one, definitive basket – each waiting to see how other studios are reading the business tea-leaves and planning accordingly. If the likes of big players like Mulan and Tenet can’t find a firm-footing – and with spikes and shifting COVID numbers its currently impossible to know or reasonably predict the future of the industry – then it’s unlikely lesser titles will feel any more secure in the immediate future. Rumours continue to circulate of VOD and online/streaming releases, but while this possible (even likely) for some titles, it’s not financially possible for many – though eventually that may change as the lesser of two evils.