As expected, it was another busy and fairly crazy week, but when it comes to actual production, no news is probably good news. It means that no production has been shut down due to COVID despite the numbers and deaths continuing to skyrocket in the United States.
Unfortunately, the theatrical side of the movie business is not faring as well, since many completed movies have been delayed again with uncertainty about when movie theaters will be fully reopen to audiences. In “normal times,” there would be 4,500 movie theaters in North America, but now it’s less than 2,000 and most of them only will hold 25-30% capacity. Not that it matters, since there isn’t really much in terms of blockbusters or anticipated movies that might get people into theaters. With COVID numbers up, people are still nervous about sitting in a room with strangers for over 2 hours, too. Believe it or not, big studios not releasing any movies within a calendar year may pose a bigger problem, because they’re still producing movies and all the people working hard on them need to get paid.
That situation won’t be helped by a couple major release date changes made this week. Sony Pictures, who claimed the #1 movie of 2020 with Bad Boys for Life — being that it was released in January and was able to rack up many millions before COVID hit — was the primary player in this week’s film release shakeup… yet not the biggest one. That would be United Artists Releasing and MGM Pictures, who delayed No Time to Die, the next chapter in their venerable James Bond franchise until October 8. This is the third delay for the film which was initially to be released last April in the States but then was delayed until November and then to April 2021, and now finally until early October. In the past i.e. “the before time”, that wouldn’t be a prime release date but after the success of Venom and Joker in that October launch weekend, it seemed as good as any time.
Ironically, this is the first Bond installment in many years not distributed by Sony Pictures who made so many more moves this week, firstly by selling the Sony Pictures Animation animated movie Connected, produced by Oscar winners Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), off to Netflix for a reported $100 million. The movie will also be going back to its original title, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, as to not be confused with… that animated movie that few people knew about before it was delayed from last September.
Other release date changes for Sony included Jason Reitman‘s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, initially a summer movie that’s now been pushed back to November ll; the Kay (Pitch Perfect) Cannon musical Cinderella — originally due to be released in two weeks! — will now be released over the summer on July 16. That takes the place of the hotly-anticipated video game movie, Uncharted, starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, which will now come out Feb. 11, 2022, while the Morbius movie, a standalone film in Sony’s “Spiderverse,” starring Jared Leto, which will now be released in January 2022, pushed back from its October date, having just been moved there in recent months.
The last studio to jump on the “panic move” bandwagon was Universal Pictures and Amblin, who moved the Tom Hanks starrer Bios from April to October. This may be one of the odder moves since Universal is the studio that has released the most movies theatrically since last March, but that’s mainly since it had a VOD component in place after a movie played in theaters for 2 1/2 weeks. Maybe the most recent movies to take this path, Promising Young Woman (through Focus Features) and Paul Greengrass‘ News of the World (also starring Hanks), haven’t fared that well in theaters and maybe not much better on VOD. Presumably, Hanks has enough clout with the studio to suggest his next movie wait a few more months until theaters are ready to reopen.
We’ll see these movies eventually, but other than the sale of Connected to give Sony some “instant money,” it’s unclear why the studio would make such movies literally the same day that newly-inaugurated President Joseph Biden announced a vast COVID-19 protocol plan that could speed up vaccine delivery.
There’s no way that these impacts don’t have some sort of effect on production because with no money coming in from theatrical, how is Sony supposed to keep green-lighting expensive film production?
Meanwhile (and completely unconnected to the above news), Searchlight Pictures announced more theatrical release dates for the rest of the year, including a new date for Guillermo del Toro-produced horror film Antlers, and the long-awaited Nightmare Alley, del Toro’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning The Shape of Water. The former will now be released on October 29 (two days before Halloween!) while del Toro’s star-studded film will come out December 3, putting it firmly into Oscar season — presuming that ever returns to normal. Other movies dated include the Rebecca Hall horror vehicle, The Night House, directed by David Bruckner (The Ritual), set for July 16, and the biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye, directed by Michael Showalter (The Big Sick), which will come out on Sept. 24.
A couple of this week’s high-profile series renewals includes Netflix’s popular Bridgerton, exec. produced by Shonda Rhimes, which was renewed for a second season — not too big a surprise considering that the show was the talk of the month. Also, TNT has renewed its sci-fi action series, Snowpiercer, for a third season only a few weeks into the show’s second season airing on the cable channel.
In general, streaming is still going strong with CBS All Access making the announcement this week that it will be combining its Viacom forces into the new service Paramount Plus beginning on March 4.
HBO will be staying in the Game of Thrones business for a while longer with the Variety report that the oddly-titled prequel series, Tales of Dunk and Egg, based on a series of George RR Martin-penned novellas of the same name, is being developed. Fans of Martin’s books and the HBO series that ran for seven seasons have been hoping for an adaptation of the story that takes place 90 years before Game of Thrones, although Martin had said that Dunk and Egg wasn’t part of HBO’s plans. Turns out that they changed their minds… again. The three individual novellas that will be the basis for Dunk and Egg were collected into A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms in 2015. If this second prequel series goes ahead, it will join House of the Dragons, a prequel series set for 2022 that takes place 300 years in the past, focusing on the Targaryens. A third prequel series starring Naomi Watts and written by Jane Goldman (Kickass) was scrapped.
Jumping back over to movies, a director was announced for Warner Bros‘ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory prequel, Wonka, which will reunite Paddington director Paul King with that film’s producer David Heyman, who produced the entire Harry Potter franchise and its Fantastic Beasts spin-off films. Warners has already dated this film for March 17, 2023, so preproduction should start sometime this year as the filmmakers look for the proper young actor to play the Roald Dahl-created candymaker, previously played in the movies by Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp.
Also, actor Josh Duhamel replaced Armie Hammer in the Jennifer Lopez romantic-comedy Shotgun Wedding, after Hammer left the project last week over a social media controversy.
Since much of this (or last) year’s Oscar fare has already been released, today’s trailer will be a rare action movie, the sci-fi tinged Boss Level, directed by Joe Carnahan (The Grey, Narc) and starring Mel Gibson and Frank Grillo. It’s probably the 6th or 7th movie that has used the Groundhog Day premise of every day being the same that has been used so effectively in films like Edge of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day.