Tenet in Bondage – will blockbuster release dates in 2020 soon be hindsight?

The latest Bond film is currently titled No Time To Die, but that could all change yet. One replacement option is Dominoes Falling, because 007’s confirmed shift to 2021 could have a knock-on effect leaving this year bereft of big movie releases.

Sure, Fast 9 and Halloween Kills have already upped sticks and moved to next year. But, the acknowledgement that coronavirus has beaten Bond seems more significant.

The No Time To Die shift was confirmed end of last week. Yesterday came the news that Tenet is being postponed indefinitely.

Although they maintain Christopher Nolan’s latest will still see the inside of cinemas this year, Warner Bros. are wise not to fix a release date. A film about moments of time being repeated over and over, the continuous postponements began to resemble a marketing stunt gone startlingly awry.

So, Bond is due to appear sometime in 2021. We’re predicting Tenet will move to December 2020 at the earliest. Warner Brothers have also stated it will have a far longer cinema run in which to make its money.

But, with single films taking up multiple screens due to social distancing requirements, and US cinemas likely to remain closed as COVID-19 sweeps America, we think studios must be considering other scenarios.

One of which could be bypassing cinema altogether for the rest of 2020.

Disney’s Mulan (above) still has an August release date. But, even in countries where coronavirus is more under control, will parents risk taking kids to the cinema? Even if they do, will the court of Twitter cancel them as responsible parents, spreading a fear that could dissuade others?

Speculating entirely, we can see Mulan being released as a home rental premiere in August or September, before launching on Disney+ at the end of the year as a Christmas subscription driver.

This is another crucial factor in cinema releases looking wobbly for 2020: films are not just for the big screen. All studios have revenue targets for home rental, then subscription streaming services and free-to-air channels. None of those plans can withstand multiple movies having a lost year.

Better to conduct damage limitation and get them in front of as many eyeballs as possible, even if the result is skipping a theatrical release. Trolls World Tour made $100m from being a home rental premiere, so there is money in them thar house dwellers.

You have to think that services such as Sky Cinema, Netflix and Amazon Prime would also prefer a release strategy that means they have something to show for the rest of the year…

We predict Wonder Woman 84, Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick and Dune will be shunted into next year.

Does this mean cinemas will remain empty shells for the remaining 5-ish months of this terrible year? We don’t think so.

Blockbusters and films targeting family audiences will likely move to 2021 or appear as home rental premieres. But, studios and cinemas may see an opportunity to give screens over to mid-range films targeting adult audiences. And those same studios may not be as concerned with postponing a US release for these titles, making them in other countries and accepting that shonky pirate copies will inevitably hit the internet.

Or, they may be released in cinemas in Europe and elsewhere and hit home rental in the US, South America and other COVID hotspots.

Again, all speculation. But, there is an argument people will go to see A Quiet Place Part II (above) in the UK if cinemas can effectively manage social distancing. With fewer films in cinemas, movies such as AQP2 could then command more screens.

Same for Candyman and The Trial of the Chicago 7 in September and The French Dispatch in October. Candyman especially could experience a longer cinema run now that Halloween Kills and The Conjuring 3 have moved into next year.

Although August’s Bill and Ted Face the Music, November’s Soul and December’s Peter Rabbit 2 all carry the whiff of home rental premieres due to their family audience angle. And November’s Death on the Nile may do the same due to its appeal for at risk older audiences.

Remember, this is not just about big studios seeing a return on their latest superhero flick. If cinema chains start going under because they cannot open or have nothing to show, it is not hyperbole to say the future of cinema starts to look shaky.

Curzon saw box office of £11m for Parasite earlier this year. While an outlier example for indie cinema, tidy profits can be made on smaller films shown in chains such as Curzon and Picturehouse. Leading onto other interesting movies reaching audiences. Take this away and post-coronavirus we potentially face years of cinemas showing only empty calorie blockbusters, while indie titles that do get made are relegated to the A-Z sections of streaming services.

Curzon has opened its Canterbury cinema. On Friday 24th July, London’s Curzon Mayfair is due to re-open. Cineworld and Vue still plan to open doors again on 31st July. Odeon has opened some cinemas and will continue this reopening through August.

The next month is going to be crucial in deciding what the cinematic landscape looks like for this year, next year and well beyond…

Second wave or not, only a fool would say this is going to be over by Christmas…

P.S. For those wondering, yes, there has been a Bond girl named Domino. She appeared in 1965’s Thunderball and was played by Claudine Auger.

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
Podcast: The Movie Robcast

Leave a Reply