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End of Week Production Notes 3/26/21: Another Look at Kristen Stewart as Princess Di, Disney Release Shake-Up and More News


Oddly, there hasn’t been a ton of industry or production news this week, maybe because a lot of the below-the-line related news involves the upcoming awards ceremonies for guilds and societies, as well as the Oscars.

Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart in Spencer

Pablo (Jackie) Larraín‘s Princess Diana movie Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart, has moved production to the UK for its final stretch of filming, and a new photo of Stewart as Diana has been released. The cast also includes Timothy Spall  (Mr. Turner), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible – Fallout), and Jack Farthing as Prince Charles. Mr. Larraín’s creative team includes Director of Photography Claire Mathon (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Oscar-winning Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran (Little Women, Anna Karenina), Make Up and Hair Designer Wakana Yoshihara (Murder On The Orient Express, High Rise), and Oscar nominee Guy Hendrix Dyas (Passengers, Inception) as the Production Designer. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood (You Were Never Really Here, Phantom Thread), an Academy Award, BAFTA and Grammy Award nominee, is composing the original score.

The tagline for the film is this:

December, 1991: The Prince and Princess of Wales’ marriage has long since grown cold. Though rumours of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at Sandringham Estate. There’s eating and drinking, shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game. This year, things will be a whole lot different.

Black Widow
Black Widow (photo: Marvel Studios)

The other major news of the week was that Walt Disney Studios decided to shake-up its release schedule one again, delaying some of its biggest upcoming releases, delaying almost all its 20th Century Studios releases — many that were already in pre-production before Disney even bought Fox — and moving its next Pixar Animation Studios production, Luca, onto the Disney+ streaming platform. Originally planned for a theatrical release, Luca will now hit Disney+ worldwide on June 18, similar to the Christmas Day streaming release of the Oscar-nominated Soul last year.

The biggest delay at first glance is Marvel Studios‘ Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson, which was meant to kick off the summer movie season on May 7 after being delayed a full year from its original May 7, 2020 release. It will now be released on July 9, but not just in theaters, as it will be available for a $30 premium for Premier Access users on Disney+ as well. Cruella, starring Oscar-winner Emma Stone, will still be released theatrically in most markets on May 28, but it too will now be available via Premiere Access on the streamer. Oddly, the Black Widow move puts it squarely on the same date of the fifth episode of the Marvel/Disney+ series Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston, too.

The next planned Marvel feature, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which was on July 9, has now been pushed back to Labor Day weekend, debuting in theaters on September 3. Chloe Zhao‘s The Eternals is sticking to its November 5 release date… for now.

Things weren’t looking so bright for those 20th Century Studios movies as all of them were delayed, two of them all the way to early 2022. Ryan Reynolds‘ Free Guy, another 2020 summer release, was pushed back to August 13 from its plum pre-Memorial Day date. Matthew Vaughn‘s The King’s Man, a prequel to his two hit Kingsman movies will be released just before Christmas Day on December 22, 2021. Kenneth Branagh‘s Murder on the Orient Express sequelDeath on the Nile, won’t be released until February 11, 2022, which is now the fourth or fifth move for the ensemble thriller, though this one doesn’t seem to be due to COVID. The film Deep Water was also delayed until January 14, 2022 after Free Guy took its August 13 release, but that’s also fairly daunting for a movie that never even got a trailer release.

I know what you’re wondering and want to ask: “Ed, what does this have to do with me, the hard-working crew and crafts people reading this?”

Well, first of all, if you worked on any of these delayed movies, you’ll have to wait a little longer to see your work on the big screen, as will the audiences who have been anticipating their release. If you work at Pixar, I might start questioning Disney’s commitment when your last two feature films meant for theaters are being straight to the streamer, giving no options for audiences to see them in theaters, and Luca won’t even make Disney extra money through that $30 “rental fee.”

If you’re a Pixar employee who worked on Soul or Luca and you’re due for expected royalties from a percentage of the box office, I hate to tell you this, but there is no box office, so you better have something in your contract that accounts for streaming royalties. (Who knows how that works? I certainly don’t.)

These unexpected moves also makes one question Disney’s loyalty to 20th Century Studios, having bought the major film and television studio, strip-mined it of its most profitable assets — such as getting back the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four for Marvel Studios’ use — and then just leaving the other productions hanging in the wind. None of the Searchlight Studios movies have been delayed so far, and maybe Disney sees the value in Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland winning a number of Oscars next month, which gives the corporation more prestige with its share owners.

It’s not all doom and gloom, as we’ve gotten used to movies being shifted around the release schedule, and these movies will be released and be seen in some format, but it’s a little disheartening how quickly Disney has given up on theatrical even as things seem to be improving in terms of COVID-19, the vaccine, etc.

While Disney wasn’t exactly making friends with movie theater owners, one of the country’s bigger chains, Regal, is looking to start reopening its theaters (slowly) on April 2, and they made a deal with Warner Bros. that all movies they show starting in 2022 will have a theatrical window of 45 days before hitting HBO Max, getting a jump on preventing Warner Bros. from doing a hybrid theatrical-streaming release as it’s done with all of its 2021 releases. (The next one is Godzilla vs. Kong on March 31.)

A new production venture is alive, as Allyance Media Group and Madica Productions are uniting so that AMG’s Diga Studios, led by former MTV president Tony DiSanto, will collaborate with Madica to develop and produce TV, film, digital and podcasting projects. Additionally, each company will be taking an equity stake in the other to solidify the strategic relationship.

Madica co-founders Jeff Tahler and Shawn Sachs said, “This deal gives us a key strategic partnership with Tony DiSanto, Shawn Strickland and the entire Allyance Media team which will enable us to continue to grow across all aspects of our business. With several projects already in development, the partnership was a natural next step in our relationship.”

The partnership will also let Diga tap into Madica’s relationships through its sister company, global PR and communications firm Sunshine Sachs, and it will provide Madica with access to the creative and production capabilities of Diga and the rest of the AMG family. As part of the deal, Madica will be bringing on several new hires at senior executive positions who will report directly to Tahler.

Strickland added, “From the start of our working relationship, it was clear that Jeff and Shawn value creative collaboration – particularly with talented individuals both in front of and behind the camera – as much as we do. We’re thrilled to have Madica join the Allyance family.”

Bob Odenkirk in Nobody (Picture: Universal)

It is Friday, which means it’s new movie day, and if you’re one of the Americans in an area where movie theaters have reopened — most everywhere now?–there are two new options, the most prevalent one being Universal Pictures’ revenge thriller Nobody, starring Better Call Saul‘s Bob Odenkirk as a family man who goes after a drug lord after a home invasion. Directed by Russian filmmaker Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) and produced by John Wick‘s David Leitch, it will open in around 2,460 movie theaters nationwide and should be good for a #1 opening of $6 million or more.

If a violent action movie is too much for you, there’s also Andy Goddard‘s WWII drama, Six Minutes to Midnight, starring James D’arcyDame Judi Dench and Eddie Izzard, being released into less than 200 movie theaters by IFC Films today.

(Note: The trailer below is for mature audiences only.)

Oh, wait. You didn’t think that was it, did you?

Ghost of Tsushima
Ghost Of Tsushima (Photo: Sony)

Since we mentioned one of John Wick‘s co-directors, we might as well mention the other, since Director Chad Stahelski (who co-directed the first movie and directed the three sequels, including next year’s John Wick Chapter 4) has been tapped by Sony to adapt its hit Playstation game Ghost of Tsushima, released last summer, into a movie.

Nate Fox, who co-directed the original game for Sucker Punch Productions, said in a statement, “The idea of translating our game into a new medium is exciting, and we’re intrigued by the possibilities. We’ve all been brought to tears in a movie theater surrounded by strangers. (Thanks a lot, E.T.) We’ve all gone to a movie on opening night when the crowd is so excited that they cheer as the lights go down. It’s a group experience that isn’t replicated anywhere else. To think that we could sit in the theater someday watching Jin Sakai up on the big screen is amazing. We’d all relive his tense transformation into the Ghost from a whole new vantage point.”

That’s it for this weekend. We might be skipping an “Over the Weekend” on Monday, but if so, check back next week for a recap of the week’s news.

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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