When COVID-19 swept across the world over the course of the year 2020, Hollywood studios were faced with hard choices. They could put off releasing what should have been their money-making blockbusters last year (as theaters were closed) and wait for the pandemic to lighten up so that the cinema sector can reopen; or they could premiere their movies on digital streaming services and hope that online viewer subscriptions could recoup losses. Sony-Columbia Pictures did that with “Bloodshot” following a short March 2020 theater run. Some studios might do both, like with Warner Bros. slating their 2021 premiers with oft-simultaneous HBO Max releases. Others however, want cinema releases or bust.
The Hollywood Reporter tells us that Hollywood at this point is becoming more determined to see their big-budget films, including those supposed to come out last year but delayed, to premiere in cinemas that they hope to see reopening around the world this 2021. This new attitude is being borne from the increasing availability of vaccines for the COVID-19 that has laid the motion picture industry low the year before. It may take yet another calendar shuffle to late 2021, but if that is what it will take then fine.
For instance, Marvel Studio had hoped to kick-start Phase 4 of the MCU last May 2020 with “Black Widow,” an interquel starring Scarlett Johansson as super-spy Avenger Natasha Romanov. It has already been re-scheduled twice, to November last year and current at May this year. While Marvel’s parent company Disney has hedged bets with releasing “Raya and the Last Dragon” on theaters and Disney+ Premium this March, the superhero movie studio is adamant that a major part of the MCU must stay in the theaters.
Paramount is thinking the same with their distant sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” starring Tom Cruise. First slated for July 2020, then to December, they are now betting it all on a July 2021 premiere. So far, the idea of putting the film on their upcoming Paramount+ streaming service, which replaces CBS All Access, is not a go for the studio.
Hoping that cinemas will widely reopen soon as more people get vaccinated against COVID is a gamble for Hollywood. A January survey on US moviegoers by the National Research Group already has 82% of the respondents feeling “comfortable” in watching films in theaters when the vaccines are accessible. It is the hope of filmmakers and production companies that this positive trend only increases in future.
Image from The Projects World