Burbank entertainment and media giant Walt Disney Co. has shuffled its fall release schedule, delaying the theatrical launch of several movies including the blockbuster Marvel superhero title “Black Widow.”
The delays come as the coronavirus pandemic maintains a stifling chokehold on the domestic box office, and cinemas in the country’s two biggest markets of Los Angeles and New York remain closed.
“Black Widow,” which tells the story of the titular assassin played by Scarlett Johansson, was slated for release Nov. 6. Disney has delayed it until May 7, marking a more than yearlong setback from its first pre-pandemic release date of May 1.
Because films in the Marvel cinematic universe are interconnected, “Black Widow’s” postponement affects the release of “Eternals,” which has been delayed from Feb. 12 to Nov. 5 next year, and “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” which will open July 9 instead of May 7.
Also delayed are Steven Spielberg’s musical “West Side Story,” which will launch Dec. 10 of next year instead of Dec. 18 of this year; murder mystery adaptation “Death on the Nile,” which will hit theaters Dec. 18 rather than Oct. 23 next year, and Adrian Lyne’s thriller “Deep Water,” which will open Aug. 13 next year instead of Nov. 13 this year.
The pandemic has thrashed profits at Hollywood production studios, with analysts projecting domestic grosses to decline between 70 and 80 percent on the year, according to Variety. The most notable theatrical release of the summer, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” grossed a dismal $36 million in domestic sales over its first three weekends in theaters.
Interestingly, two Disney movies have been rescheduled to debut earlier than expected: “The King’s Man,” a sequel in 20th Century Studios “Kingsmen” franchise, will move up to Feb. 12 from Feb. 26; and horror flick “The Empty Man,” will open Oct. 23 instead of Dec. 4.
Disney’s rescheduling announcement bears more bad news for exhibitors, which are starving for business after a summer of government-mandated closures and slim output from Hollywood.
Cinema stocks fell Wednesday. Shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. (AMC) fell more than 8 percent on the New York Stock Exchange, as did shares of Imax Corp. (IMAX), while Cinemark Holdings Inc. (CNK) stock dropped 6 percent.