With theaters across most of the world closed indefinitely, the 2020 summer movie season is going to look much different than we all anticipated. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way the film industry distributes its movies, and it could very well be that the standard movie industry that we all had grown accustomed to may never return in its entirety.
This year’s biggest movie debuts have been pushed back to later dates, either in the fall or to the next year entirely. Films like “Black Widow,” “Wonder Woman 1984” and “A Quiet Place Part II” have all been postponed, leaving the summer movie season as barren as the theaters they were going to be shown in.
There are a few holdouts, with films like Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” maintaining their original release dates. However, the likelihood of these films actually keeping those dates has been thrown further and further into question as the pandemic rages on.
Even films that were scheduled for a fall 2020 release have been delayed, such as the “Venom” sequel starring Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson. The film was originally scheduled for October of this year, but will now be released in June of 2021, according to Deadline Hollywood.
Many of the industry’s biggest and most anticipated movies of the next few years have also been postponed, due to productions shutting down with the increased need for social distancing.
Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” a reboot of the popular superhero franchise, was forced to shut down its production in the United Kingdom. Fans later learned the film’s original release date, June 25, 2021, would not be met. Deadline Hollywood reports that the film is now expected to be released on Oct. 1 of the same year.
For film franchises such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this has thrown an even bigger complication into their lineup of movies. Because the Marvel Cinematic Universe is so heavily steeped in continuity and the films are all tied so closely together in terms of plot, the release order of the movies is critical because they all build off of each other.
With the “Black Widow” delay, The Wrap has reported that Marvel has been forced to delay all of its forthcoming projects to accommodate it. Movies like “The Eternals,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” have all shifted their release dates as a result. Some films have even been pushed back as far as 2022, such as Sam Raimi’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”
With theaters shut down and no new major films being released for the immediate future, many studios have turned to the streaming option as a way of distributing their movies.
Although they did have a theatrical run before the theater closures, films like “The Invisible Man” and “Bloodshot” became available for streaming within weeks of their release. This is much earlier than the traditional home media and digital release, which often occurs a few months after a film’s theatrical run. The release of “Trolls: World Tour” was also adjusted to accommodate for the theater shutdown, with the Verge reporting that the film has made nearly $100 million in streaming and digital sales.
If this strategy of releasing tentpole films digitally proves successful, studios may be incentivized to consider downplaying the theatrical release or skip it entirely.
This would be a major blow for the theater industry, and a massive shift in how the audience experiences these films.
Even the Academy Awards are being adjusted due to the theater shutdowns. According to the Hollywood Reporter, films will not have to be screened in theaters to qualify for competition this season.
The longer the COVID-19 pandemic lasts, the more of an effect on the film industry it will have.
Depending on how long projects are delayed and how long productions are shut down, we could be looking at a very different film industry when all this is over.
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