Sony Pictures announced a massive shakeup of its theatrical release slate on Monday afternoon, with several tentpoles films including “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway,” “Morbius” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” getting moved off their release dates as the studio navigates a movie landscape turned upside-down by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Peter Rabbit 2,” which was first moved from April to August 2020 after theaters worldwide closed in response to the pandemic, has been moved again, this time to Jan. 15, 2021. The studio’s summer tentpoles, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and the Marvel film “Morbius,” have been moved from this July to March 2021, with “Ghostbusters” set for March 5 and “Morbius” set for March 19. In addition, Sony’s adaptation of the Playstation series “Uncharted” starring Tom Holland and Antonio Banderas has been moved from March 2021 to Oct. 8, 2021.
In addition, two projects have been removed from Sony’s slate: the Tom Hanks World War II film “Greyhound,” which was previously scheduled for release in June, and an untitled Marvel film which held the October 2021 release slot now being used for “Uncharted.”
Other Hollywood studios are likely to make similar, sweeping changes to their tentpole release strategies in the coming weeks and months as the film industry adjusts to the indefinite closure of movie theaters worldwide to prevent the spread of coronavirus. As the virus spread across the globe, major films set for release in April and May were pulled left and right, including “F9,” “Black Widow” and “No Time to Die.” Once the wave of theater lockdowns hit the U.S., June blockbusters like “Wonder Woman 1984” soon followed.
Now, films planned for release in the latter half of the usually lucrative summer season are being pushed back to next year, as “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “Morbius” join Universal’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” among the July releases that have been postponed. Even if a doomsday scenario for movie theaters is avoided and they are able to reopen by July, Sony’s plan to move their biggest films of the year from the summer shows how studios may be hesitant to get right back to sending big-budget blockbusters into theaters.
Not only will studios want to have an assurance that they will be able to hold a full marketing campaign, but some analysts and executives tell TheWrap that there is the possibility that moviegoers may be reluctant to immediately return to public gatherings unless it is clear that the virus is no longer a threat to public health. Five hundred theaters in China briefly reopened a week ago with limited capacity to encourage social distancing, but reports say that turnout was low at those theaters before they were closed by the government again last weekend.
Studios may also follow Sony’s move of taking summer 2020 films and moving them to release slots already carved out for upcoming films that were either in pre-production or filming when the pandemic forced projects to be halted. With movie production not expected to resume for many months, it was unlikely that “Uncharted” would be ready for a spring 2021 release, so film shoot rescheduling will likely streamline decision-making for distribution executives.
Films still currently scheduled for release this July and August include Warner Bros.’ latest film from Christopher Nolan, “Tenet,” Disney/20th Century’s “Bob’s Burgers: The Movie” and United Artists’ “Bill & Ted Face the Music.”