Box Office: The 3 Worst Covid Casualties Were Originally Scheduled To Open In 2019
Most of the biggest Covid casualties of 2020, including No Time to Die, Wonder Woman 1984 and Top Gun: Maverick, were initially supposed to open in 2019.
Well, this is unfortunate. Paramount has announced that Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick has been delayed yet again. The Tom Cruise sequel, which was originally supposed to open on July 2, 2019 (it was moved to summer 2020 on August 29, 2018), will now open not on November 17, 2021 but on May 27, 2022. Mission: Impossible 7 has now moved from May 27, 2022 to September 30, 2022. No word on where Keanu Reeves’ John Wick: Chapter 4 (still slated for, yes, May 27, 2022) will go, but I can’t imagine both of those films opening concurrently. As for the delay, blame rising Covid infections.
Circumstances related to (but not exclusive to) the (even more) contagious Delta variant, which has A) caused a number of production stoppages for Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible 7 and B) may cause problems in terms of Tom Cruise flying around the world to promote his big-budget sequel. I wondered a few weeks ago if we’d see a situation where most of the biggies held firm but MGM and Universal’s No Time to Die took flight yet again, but now the opposite may occur. Sure, Venom: Let There Be Carnage shifting to October 15 (so says the newest poster) isn’t a game-changer, but this shift arguably is.
We’ll see if Paramount moving their key late-2021 tentpole to summer 2022 will give other studios the justification to do likewise. I’d guess that Eternals and Encanto are pretty safe if only because Disney can always go with “Premier Access” for those if Shang-Chi opens soft and doesn’t leg out. The 20th Century biggies (The French Dispatch, Nightmare Alley, West Side Story and The Kings Man) are more complicated, as HBO still gets the first pay-tv window for those. I’m sure deals can be struck and checks can be cut. Universal has mostly cheap horror movies and Focus Features flicks until Illumination’s Sing 2 at Christmas.
Save for maybe The Matrix: Resurrections (an expensive sci-fi tentpole for which no marketing has been released to the public), I’m guessing Warner Bros.’ 2021 slate is locked thanks to the HBO Max deal. Sony is now the big question mark with Ghostbusters: Aferlife* and Spider-Man: No Way Home in November and December. The grim irony is that many of the biggest Covid casualties (in terms of Hollywood movies) were films that were supposed to open in 2019. Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick, 20th Century’s Death on the Nile, Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 and MGM’s No Time to Die were all slotted to open in 2019.
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The DC Films flick was sent from November 1, 2019 to June 2020 (the same weekend as its predecessor) where it was expected to rule the summer. The James Bond flick swapped directors (Cary Fukunaga instead of Danny Boyle) and was moved from November 9, 2019 to early April 2020 where it was hoping to play like a Fast & Furious sequel. Likewise, Death on the Nile moved (after Disney started the process of eventually buying Fox) from December 20, 2019 to October 2, 2020. Even Sonic the Hedgehog was supposed to open in November of 2019, although its delay came weeks before Covid shut down theaters (although it arguably took a hit overseas).
While the Sonic the Hedgehog delay was in reaction to fans and general audiences not caring for the design of the film’s CGI protagonist, there was nothing unusual about the Top Gun 2 delay. The big-budget film (which apparently features in-cockpit flight sequences shot with IMAX cameras) just wanted extra time to get it “just right.” Although that Disney was already expected to absolutely dominate most of 2019 (since Bob Iger was allegedly retiring and Disney+ was about to launch) with the likes of Avengers 9, Frozen 2, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Aladdin and Star Wars 9, there was an unofficial “Let Disney have its fire sale” mentality.
Alas, what was supposed to be a comeback year for “not-Disney” got crushed by Covid. And now Top Gun: Maverick will open almost three years after its initial release date, as we wait for No Time to Die to open two years after its initial launch and six years since the last 007 movie. In every case, including Wonder Woman 1984, moving from 2019 to 2020 was the right call at the time, as I still maintain that the Gal Gadot/Chris Pine superhero sequel would have ruled the summer had summer not gone up in metaphorical flames. But many of the biggest Covid casualties only became such because they decided to skip 2019.
* Sony has moved Ghostbusters: Afterlife from November 11, 2021 to November 19, 2021, essentially taking the date just left open by Top Gun: Maverick. The Jason Reitman-directed threequel, which screened to decent buzz last week at CinemaCon, will get IMAX screens alongside the related PLF and conventional theaters.