When will we all feel safe enough to watch films in a movie theater? Or at least safe enough for Hollywood to feel secure in making money off of traditional theatrical releases again? Well, that’s the question the entire industry is trying to figure out, and two separate moves by the two biggest studios suggest the answer is “not anytime soon, but maybe in 2022.”
Walt Disney is apparently banking on the idea that some folks may be ready for theaters this summer, but the corporation realizes not everyone is ready to munch popcorn indoors with strangers. Black Widow, the long-anticipated feature film set to kick off the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s fourth phase had been scheduled for release in early May. Today, the House of Mouse announced it will instead premiere on July 9 with one major caveat: MCU fans will also be able to watch the film on Disney+ for an extra fee (likely around $30, if their past experiments with this model hold). Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, another Marvel flick, was originally pegged to that July 9 release date, but will now move to September. The Angelina Jolie-starring Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home are still pegged to November and December release dates, respectively.
Cruella, the origin story of the arch-nemesis to Dalmatians everywhere, set in her young girl boss days and starring Emma Stone, will stick to its May 28 release too. Though, now you’ll also be able to watch that at home for a fee as well.
It’s unclear what happens beyond summer, but Disney also pushed back the release dates for Death on the Nile, Deep Water, The King’s Man, and Free Guy by several months as well. Some of those films have now been moved to 2022.
Across town, Warner Brothers had already decided that for the rest of 2021 they will release all of their new films in whatever theaters happen to be open while also streaming them on HBO Max the same day. They pegged 2023 as a return to normal, but left their plans for 2022 vague.
And in a deal with Regal Cinemas’ parent company, Warner Brothers announced today that all of its films in 2022 will come with a 45-day exclusivity for theaters, which means it will be a month and a half before they wind up on streaming or VoD. That is notable because that exclusivity window used to be 90 days, but WB was also eager to secure a deal that brings its upcoming films, including Godzilla vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat, to any operating Regal screens as soon as possible.
All in all, the picture for Hollywood’s immediate future remains more smudged than Emma Stone’s makeup in the photo above, but clearly, the big studios are hoping things will be much clearer by the end of the year—if not back to mostly normal by 2022.