I honestly thought, based on some unofficial estimates of Mulan’s VOD performance, that theaters might start releasing movies onto VOD and Disney+, but it’s becoming more clear that the other, lesser unofficial estimates for Mulan were probably closer to accurate (I’ve seen everything from $33 million to $260 million in the movie’s first 12 days).
In either respect, Disney knows how much Mulan made, and Disney has acted accordingly, delaying Black Widow officially now until May 2021. At this point, we’re not expected to see another major movie until Thanksgiving, two months from now, when the next Bond film, No Time to Die, opens. But again, with holiday moviegoing being driven largely by families, and families being the least likely to return to theaters during a potential COVID second wave (not that we’re done with the first) and flu season, how likely is it that theaters will actually get back to full speed in 2020?
Actions speak louder than words.— Exhibitor Relations Co. (@ERCboxoffice) September 23, 2020
Maybe Disney isn't so enamored with MULAN's PVOD performance after all, as Pixar's SOUL stays on board for its Thanksgiving theatrical release, while BLACK WIDOW jumps ship to May 7, 2021.
It is starting to feel like Disney’s Black Widow is going to be the film that brings back movie theaters, which will probably shut down again unless there’s some certainty behind those holiday movies. With additional delays announced today, the schedule for November/December looks like this right now:
No Time to Die - November 20, 2020.
Soul - November 20, 2020.
The Croods: A New Age - November 25, 2020.
Free Guy - December 11, 2020.
Coming 2 America - December 18, 2020.
Dune - December 18, 2020.
Death on the Nile - December 18, 2020.
Wonder Woman 1984 - December 25, 2020.
That schedule right there would generate a ton of box office during the holiday season. If I were single, I would irresponsibly see at least seven of those eight movies, but would I see them during a pandemic with my kids? Nope. Absolutely not. All the Tom Cruise ads about the safety of movie theaters in the world could not change my mind.
That said, I am actually glad that Black Widow got pushed to May instead of being released on Disney+, and I was reminded why this week when watching Avengers: Endgame with my family. I remembered clearly what it felt like when Cap grabbed Thor’s hammer, and how the movie theater crowd went apeshit. I have a five-person family, so we were able to create a few decibels, but it wasn’t the same as sharing that with an entire theater full of people.
I think Ben Affleck is right: He said that the future of theaters will probably be 25 tentpoles a year, plus some specialty movies or low-budget horror flicks, while all the other movies — movies like Ben Affleck’s The Town or Seth Rogen comedies or a movie like The Social Network — will debut on streamers. I’m OK with that. I still prefer big comedies to be in theaters (Bridesmaids in a crowd, for instance, was spectacular), but I can manage. However, for those big crowd-pleasers? We really need the crowds, and I’m willing to wait.