It’s been another week where production and project greenlights seem to be picking up even while the country otherwise seems to be shutting down with new restrictions and policies put in place as COVID-19 cases continue to increase. As of now, there are only two major studio theatrical releases still on the schedule for 2020: Universal/DreamWorks Animation‘s Croods 2: A New Age for Thanksgiving weekend and Warner Bros‘ Wonder Woman 84 on Christmas Day, and there have been many rumors this week that Warners might give up the ghost on the latter plans.
In brighter news, production on the Reagan biopic resumed this past week in Oklahoma after being put on hold for two weeks on October 22 due to several positive COVID tests on the production. Also, American Pie‘s Mena Suvari has been cast to play the first wife of Dennis Quaid‘s Ronald Reagan. The production will continue to film in Oklahoma for the next few weeks before moving to California to cover Reagan’s years in Hollywood, including his run as head of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and eight years as the state’s Governor.
On the flipside, Deadline reports that Lionsgate has decided to pass on The Plane, the Gerard Butler action-thriler to be directed by Christin Gudegast, because the studio was unable to get COVID insurance in place for the production. The project will now seek out a studio and distributor that will be able to self-insure. (UPDATE: Solstice Studios has come on board to produce, finance and distribute The Plane.)
Speaking of Governors, another former California Governor, Arnold Schwazenegger, may be entering new territory soon, not only by teaming up with streamer Netflix but also headlining his very first scripted television series, according to Deadline. The action star will headline and executive produce an hour-long untitled spy series in development by Skydance Television along with Nick Santora (Most Dangerous Game, Scorpion), who has an overall deal with Skydance and will act as showrunner on its Jack Reacher series for Amazon. The global spy adventure will center on a father, played by Schwarzenegger, and his daughter.
Netflix also renewed its popular superhero series, Umbrella Academy, based on the comics by Gerard Way, for its third season, making it one of the few Netflix series that have actually been greenlit to continue vs. facing cancellation.
Also, the 13th season of the BBC‘s popular sci-fi show Doctor Who has begun filming in the UK with Jodie Whitaker reprising the title role. The next season will be shortened to eight episodes (vs. the normal 11) and all the required safety protocols and guidelines are in place.
In news that affects both theatrical and production, it looks like Warner Bros.’ long-anticipated Mortal Kombat remake has lost its planned January release date, as it now has to await its chance to do some reshoots. This news was relayed by producer Todd Garner, when he was asked on Twitter about when fans might see a trailer. Apparently, it has been waiting to get reshoots originally scheduled for this March, and as Garner noted, the cast had been posting shots from the set of said reshoots.
Just days after Johnny Depp departed the third Fantastic Beasts movie, there’s already been reports that Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) is in talks to replace him as the films’ primary villain, Gellert Grindelwald. There have been reports that Mikkelsen has already been seen on the UK set of the third film.
Although John Krasinski‘s A Quiet Place Part II was delayed for over a year due to the COVID pandemic, Paramount Pictures is clearly seeing a franchise future for the popular horror-thriller, announcing a spin-off film written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Loving) based on an idea by Krasinski.
Another interesting project announced this week was that Universal Pictures was teaming with the Russo Brothers (Avengers: Endgame) to remake the 2016 Vietnamese action-comedy Saigon Bodyguards with Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Wolf Warriors’ Wu Jing attached to play the title role of two professional bodyguards who lose their charge.
Another project greenlit to start development this week is MRC’s planned live-action Eloise movie, based on the books by Kay Thompson. Wolverton will work with Handmade Films, the Thompson estate and publisher Simon & Shuster to develop the screenplay.
Sadly, the state of theatrical releases has been decimating studio personnel as this past week saw another round of layoffs at Warner Media, as the media giant continues to shift more towards its HBO Max content. This follows similar layoffs at Disney a week earlier. The COVID pandemic has taken its toll on everyone but seeing two of the biggest studios being hit so hard is quite disheartening. This past week, Disney+ also announced that the WandaVision series, Marvel’s first show for the streamer, would not be released until January 15, 2021, which means that Marvel Studios, who scored the highest-grossing movie of all time with last year’s Avengers: Endgame, will not have a single new release in 2020.