“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” which is the next movie on Paramount’s calendar, may not actually hit theaters on August 7 as is currently planned, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said Thursday.
“It’s too far out to call if that’s definitely going to be released or it’s definitely not going to be released,” Bakish said on an investors call following the company’s first-quarter earnings report. “We hope it will release, but we will continue to look at and make the right decision in terms of the return on those assets because we’ve got great films.”
Bakish also addressed the decision to postpone the theatrical release of Paramount’s movies given the uncertainty around the coronavirus and whether people will have the appetite to return to movie theaters once they do reopen. “With respect to movies, yeah, we moved them later. We thought that was the right thing to do to preserve asset value,” Bakish said. “We obviously look at the market and look at what it will be at a point in time. And we’ll make a decision if there is a sufficient critical mass of screen, if you will, and theaters to warrant opening a film.”
Bakish made similar points about some of Paramount’s other upcoming tentpole releases that were likewise moved on the release calendar, including “A Quiet Place Part II,” which was meant to open in mid-March just when theaters everywhere shutting down and is now slated to open Sept. 4, and Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun: Maverick,” a summer 2020 release that is now scheduled for December 23.
“I mean, whether it’s ‘A Quiet Place Part II,’ which we premiered in New York two weeks before the crisis and pulled at the last minute, thank God we did, because the film is incredible. And we didn’t waste it, we saved it,” Bakish added. “Likewise, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is off the charts. But we’re gonna open them when it makes sense to open them.”
“Sponge on the Run” is not even the first major studio film scheduled to kickstart late summer 2020. Warner Bros. plans to release Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” on July 17, which many theater chains have cited as a film that could help goose attendance to theaters again as they target reopening. However, questions remain about how theaters can operate with reduced capacity and new safety protocols — and whether people will be willing to return to crowded spaces.
Paramount already released one blockbuster from earlier this year, “Sonic the Hedgehog,” on digital after its theatrical release, including a planned opening in China, was cut short due to the coronavirus. What’s more, Paramount’s comedy “The Lovebirds” that was meant to premiere at SXSW and then open in the spring, was also acquired by Netflix in lieu of a theatrical release.
The animated “Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run” is based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon and is directed by Tim Hill and also features Keanu Reeves, Awkwafina and Snoop Dogg. The previous “SpongeBob” animated feature, 2015’s “Sponge Out of Water,” made $325.1 million worldwide.