The novel coronavirus health crisis has crippled the global economy, and millions of people have lost their jobs in the past few months. Some sectors have been hit harder than others, like sports, travel, and entertainment. Basically, anything that involved leaving the house and meeting other people was canceled or postponed. That applied to simple things like going to the restaurant or the gym, but also to business events, sports competitions, concerts, and movie launches.
Several countries have started to reopen their economies, but we’re looking at baby steps meant to gauge whether it’s safe to return to a life closer to the one we had before COVID-19. Not everything will reopen at once, and it may be a while until we can go to cinemas. Or until we’ll want to go without worrying about how a virus can travel inside a closed space ventilated by air conditioning. The good news is that some films will be launched directly for streaming, like Frozen 2 and Onward. The bad news is that the biggest blockbusters will still hit theaters before they start streaming, including Disney’s Marvel movies, which will all be saved for theatrical releases.
Black Widow was supposed to be out in theaters already, but Disney postponed it to November a few weeks ago. All the other MCU Phase 4 titles were pushed back accordingly, and we may see similar delays for the Disney+ Marvel shows that are still in production. Shooting isn’t even done on most of them, but considering that the TV shows are linked to the movies, Disney might have to delay them as well to fit the new schedule.
What seems to be clear, however, is that none of the highly anticipated Marvel movies will see a digital release anytime soon.
“We believe in the theatrical experience, particularly to launch big blockbuster franchise films,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said on CNBC’s Squawk Alley (via ComicBook). “It fuels the entire Disney company, from consumer products to theme parks all the way to Disney+. And so we really think that’s the smart way to launch our big, tentpole films.”
The CEO, who recently replaced Bob Iger at the helm of one of the world’s biggest companies, admitted that Disney+ will be a viable avenue for some movies. But not the ones that can make billions at the box office.
“With the luxury of having Disney+ and the humongous success that it has had with 54 and a half million households across the world, we believe that that’s also for certain films a very viable and important way to premiere films as well,” Chapek said. “And it will be on a very deliberate basis — a film by film by film basis — that we make that decision.”
He also conceded that nothing is guaranteed with the COVID-19 crisis, and things may still change in the near future. “There’s not going to be any hard and fast rules. I think what the situation with COVID has taught us is that you need to remain flexible, you need to remain nimble, and we will remain nimble. But we do believe in that theatrical window,” he said.
Chapek’s comments echo similar remarks from Iger about a month ago. “In terms of movies going ahead after Artemis, there may be a few more that we end up putting directly onto Disney+, but for the most part a lot of the big tentpole Disney films, we’ll simply wait for slots,” the former CEO said. “In some cases, we’ve announced new ones already, but later on in the calendar.”
Black Widow will be the only MCU Phase 4 film to launch this year, assuming a new wave of COVID-19 doesn’t ruin its November 6th premiere this fall. The Eternals, which was initially supposed to launch on that date, has been pushed back to February 12th, 2021.
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