Universal announced on Monday that it is moving the release date for “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle” from April 2019 to January 17, 2020.
The film will star Robert Downey Jr. in what will now be his first major post-“Avengers” role as the titular doctor who can speak with animals. Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, and Jim Broadbent are also set to star in the film, with the animals being voiced by an all-star cast that includes Tom Holland, Rami Malek, Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Marion Cotillard, Octavia Spencer, and Kumail Nanjiani. Stephen Gaghan is directing.
Sources close to the project say Universal is moving the release back eight months to give it a more advantageous slot in the post-holiday season, with January giving the film more playability in international markets like China, which will have its Lunar New Year festivities around that time.
But it should be noted that “Dolittle” is moving out of what is becoming a month that may be more competitive than recent Aprils. The David Harbour reboot of “Hellboy,” which just released its teaser poster on Monday, is scheduled for release in “Dolittle”‘s previous release slot. The week prior, Warner Bros. will release the DC film “Shazam,” which won over superhero fans with a strong Comic-Con trailer this summer.
There’s also the possibility — though it hasn’t been announced yet — that Disney might move the highly-anticipated “Avengers 4” up to the last weekend of April as they did this year with “Avengers: Infinity War.” That move had been done to mitigate the potential of spoilers for the Marvel Studios film from countries that usually receive May releases from the studio a week early to coincide with local holidays. If Disney uses that same tactic again, it will curtail the amount of time any April films have to make money before the Marvel Cinematic Universe once again takes up almost all the shelf space and audience interest at movie theaters.
Now, “Doctor Dolittle” will go up against the Michael B. Jordan legal drama “Just Mercy,” a film that will be aimed at a much different audience. It also shares a release slot with Sony Pictures’ “Bad Boys For Life,” though the long-delayed third installment of the Will Smith cop series is only tentatively scheduled to be released then, and production still hasn’t officially been greenlit.
Universal will fill the April 12 slot with the Will Packer film “Little,” which stars Marsai Martin and Issa Rae.