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End of Week Production Notes: Black Widow Delayed, Other Productions Resume, and Tom Cruise’s Date with Space


What a crazy week we’ve been having.

From earlier in the week when the industry unions signed an agreement with the AMPTP for COVID-19 return-to-work protocols on Monday to the announcement on Wednesday that Penske Media, the parent company of Variety, was forming a merger with MRC, the company holding The Hollywood Reporter, effectively (or presumably) ending an 8-decade rivalry between the two trade titans. (Below the Line publisher Patrick Graham shared his own thoughts on the merger.)

Black Widow
Black Widow (photo: Marvel Studios)

Some of the news from around the industry this week includes the shocking news that Marvel Studios was going to forego the theatrical experience altogether in 2020, moving Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow, previously set for release this past May before being delayed until November, all the way back to May 2021. Walt Disney Pictures clearly doesn’t think movie theaters will be reopened in some markets (like New York City) in five weeks and decided not to chance it, pushing Black Widow all the way back to NEXT May. All the other Marvel movies, including Chloe Zhao’s The Eternals followed suit, with that one moving back to next November. Marvel’s Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which will introduce their martial arts master was moved back a few months to July 9, 2021, presumably to compensate for production delays.

Who knows how many of these moves were done to give the movies more time for post — Black Widow had to be very close to done since it would have been released in six weeks post-shutdown — but maybe Disney just didn’t want to be part of the theatrical guinea pig process that’s already hurt movies like The New Mutants and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet? The only other big movies that are holding steady for November, MGM’s James Bond film No Time to Die, and Disney-Pixar’s Soul are two of the potential blockbusters that haven’t vacated that month so far. is one of the last potential blockbusters to not scramble for another date, possibly even in 2021, and that and Disney’s Soul are still set for November after being shifted back months ago.

Less surprising was Disney’s decision to move Kenneth Branagh‘s ensemble thriller Murder on the Nile, part of the 20th Century Studios productions picked up in Disney’s 2019 purchase of Fox, from its mid-October release until December.

NBC’s popular Emmy-winning drama series, This is Us, resumed production on Thursday for its fifth season with creator Dan Fogelman and many of its stars taking to social media to share the happy news with the fans.

Many Greg Berlanti Productions, including The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and All American have set start dates, according to Deadline, most of them filming in Vancouver where Batwoman and Riverdale have already been testing out the waters. Supergirl will begin filming its sixth and final season starting next Monday, September 28, although a deal still has to be made between SAG-AFTRA and local unions there. Berlanti’s other two DC Comics-based series will begin shooting in early September while All American will begin filming its third season starting Monday in L.A Superman & Lois, Titans and Stargirl are all set to restart sometime in mid-to-late October as well as Berlanti’s new Kung Fu series. The third season of Doom Patrol, which has become even more successful since moving to HBO Max, is looking to start filming in the new year.

Ryan Murphy Productions is also ready to resume production on some of its shows, including 9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star, both for Fox, as well as the FX shows Pose, Impeachment and the latest in its American Crime Story anthology. Unfortunately, that Deadline didn’t have.

A rather unpopular decision made by Netflix this week was the cancellation of the prequel series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, after just one season, and this was mere days after the show won an Emmy for Children’s Programming last weekend. The movie helps set-up the world for the late Jim Henson’s popular 1982 movie, The Dark Crystal, using a similar method of puppet characters on soundstages but mixed with modern CG visual FX than what Henson had available to him, and it was quite a popular series for fans of the movie.

Doug Liman Tom Cruise
Doug Liman (L) and Tom Crusie (Photo: Shutterstock)

Tom Cruise and Doug Liman have just over a year before they’re ready to blast off into space for their outer space adventure movie, as revealed by SpaceX and the “Space Shuttle Almanac” which listed Cruise and Liman as “tourists” on a shuttle launch set for October 2021. Not a lot is known about the $200 million NASA narrative film, funded by Space X with Universal Pictures, but there seems to be one seat open on that flight but no mention of any actual film crew, so this could just be a “location scout” to get the lay of the so-called land before blasting an entire crew into space to make the movie.

Even with the new COVID-19 protocols in place, there have been a couple “behind the scenes” pieces on production posted over the past week or so. This one from Variety was actually posted a couple weeks back, following two independent film producers visiting a movie set to check out their COVID protocols in action. This slightly snarkier piece from Vulture is from the points of view of a number of (anonymous) COVID Compliance Officers from different backgrounds on a number of sets. The Hollywood Reporter’s own COVID on-set piece seems more fair and balanced, mixing horror stories with facts and some of the problems that have arisen.

Unfortunately, all three of these pieces were probably written before the aforementioned new COVID agreement that may address some of the issues, concerns and other factors addressed in these pieces, so we’ll have to see if in a month or more once more shows are rolling camera whether or not the AMPTP deal is being enforced.

Productions may be restarting and protocols may be in place, but it’s a little disconcerting that even Canada seems to be struggling with maintaining its COVID-19 numbers. In the graph below you can see the number of COVID cases going back to March 11. The country peaked in early May with 2,760 new cases on one date, and the last few days, the country has been at roughly half that amount. Quebec seems to be having the biggest day-to-day spike, also having the most actual COVID deaths with 5,810. British Columbia, where so much production is resuming, is quite a bit behind with only 228 deaths and a far smaller number of new cases per-day. Like the United States, Canada is made up of different provinces and territories which may all be handling the pandemic differently.

Canada COVID-19 Cases
Canada COVID-19 Cases

I always love to leave things with a trailer — named such because they used to follow the movies — but also because it gives us a little hope for an upcoming release. This week, I’m going with Amazon Prime‘s Sound of Metal, starring Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler) and Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and directed by Darius Marder. It premiered at Sundance and will get a theatrical release on November 20 before streaming on Amazon starting December 4.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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