With the United States undergoing a major political shift after the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and the swearing in of a brand new administration, the time was right for another kind of giant overhaul: On Thursday night, Universal, Sony, and Fox Searchlight once again shuffled the theatrical movie release calendar in reaction to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The 25th James Bond movie, No Time to Die, leaves behind the biggest crater of the spring 2021 season, bumping back five months to Oct. 8, 2021. Positioned as Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007, Universal and MGM first slated the film for an April 2020 release, before facing a series of delays due to coronavirus-related shutdowns. Universal also shifted the release for two smaller movies: The upcoming Tom Hanks-led sci-fi movie Bios, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones), which will now open on Aug. 13, 2021, and Edgar Wright’s psychological horror movie Last Night in Soho, which the studio delayed until Oct. 22, 2021.
Some news - my new film @lastnightinsoho will now be coming out later in the year. I know some of you may be disappointed, but my hope is more of you will be able to experience it as we intended; in the dark, on a big screen, with an audience. See you at the movies...10/22/21 pic.twitter.com/9DH4alnEyv— edgarwright (@edgarwright) January 22, 2021
After selling Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s upcoming animated comedy Connected (retitled The Mitchells vs. The Machines) to Netflix in order to expedite the release, Sony Pictures did its own calendar reorg. Jason Reitman’s direct sequel to the original Ghostbusters movie, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, will delay the debut of Muncher the goopy blue ghost from the summer to Nov. 11, 2021. The long, long, long, long-gestating live-action Uncharted movie starring Tom Holland also swings from the summer season, but all the way to Feb. 11, 2022. Sony also punted two films on the cusp of debuts: Peter Rabbit 2, which locks into a June 11, 2021, and Kay Cannon’s Cinderella, which moves from February to July 16, 2021.
Much to the chagrin of Spider-verse fans, Sony also bumped Morbius, starring Jared Leto as the vampiric Dr. Morbius, all the way to Jan. 21, 2022. Venom 2: Let There Be Carnage continues to hold strong on June 25, 2021 — for now.
Fox Searchlight also did the release day tango on Wednesday, locking down dates for a few key genre movies and Oscar hopefuls. The films include David Bruckner’s horror film The Night House (July 16, 2021), Michael Showalter and Jessica Chastain’s biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Scott Cooper’s creature feature Antlers (Oct. 29, 2021), and Guillermo del Toro’s star-studded Nightmare Alley (Dec. 3, 2021).
Despite intentions to ramp up vaccinations and codify plans for how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, President Biden warned again this week that the United States still faces a “dark winter” with regard to infection and death rates. The pandemic is not over, and in response, Hollywood is rethinking its release strategy to accommodate what should be at least another six months of abnormal life.
Unlike Warner Bros. Pictures, which will radically rethink distribution in 2021 with a simultaneous theatrical and HBO Max rollout of its entire film slate, many studios still hope to bring in the box office of a traditional rollout, prioritizing delays over straight-to-streaming dumps. As many insiders have signed, there are likely more delays on the horizon, though studios are likely waiting to see what Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios does with May’s Black Widow before enacting a true summer movie exodus. Disney has shifted a number of releases to Disney Plus “Premier Access”, but on an Investors’ Call in December, executives made clear their intentions to stick to theatrical for giant releases. Don’t worry: WB’s Godzilla vs. Kong is definitely coming out on March 26, so you can look forward to that.