‘Black Widow,’ ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Eternals’ Postpone Release Dates.
Disney has postponed the release of fall blockbusters such as Marvel’s “Black Widow,” Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Death on the Nile” by several months. The results are bad news for the exhibition industry, which is facing fierce headwinds after closing for months due to coronavirus.
The studio has kept the late November release date of Pixar’s “Soul,” surprising some in the industry who had expected the animated family film to either move to a later perch or get released on Disney Plus. The moves set off a cascade of distribution shifts that will upend the theatrical landscape for months. Other Marvel releases, such as “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Eternals” will all debut deeper into 2021. Disney’s release date shifts all but guarantee that box office revenues this year will reach a nadir — analysts have already projected that domestic grosses would decline between 70% to 80% due to the pandemic.
“Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson, was set to debut on Nov. 6, a date that started to look increasingly unlikely as movie theaters on the coasts remained closed. Variety previously reported that the studio was eyeing a new time to unveil the film on the big screen after the disappointing performance of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” in the U.S. and the delay of “Wonder Woman 1984.” “Black Widow” will now open on May 7, 2021.
“Death on the Nile” — a follow-up to 2017’s box office hit “Murder on the Orient Express” — will bow on Dec. 18, 2020, vacating its original Oct. 23 premiere. “Death on the Nile,” a murder mystery based on Agatha Christie’s novel, appeals to an older moviegoers, a demographic that might be hesitant to return to indoor spaces during the pandemic.
“West Side Story,” which marks Spielberg’s first foray into musicals, was expected to be a key Academy Awards contender. An awards career may still be in its future, but not at this year’s Oscars. “West Side Story” will launch a year later than expected, on Dec. 10, 2021 instead of Dec. 18, 2020.
Due to the interconnected nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Black Widow’s” move shifted back other installments in the superhero franchise. “Eternals,” a comic book adventure about a super-powered alien race, will debut on Nov. 5, 2021. It was previously dated for Feb. 12, 2021. Chloé Zhao directed the film, which stars Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Gemma Chan and Kumail Nanjiani.
Nearly 70% of movie theaters in North America resumed operations in recent weeks, with many timing their reopenings to the release of “Tenet.” Now, exhibitors face the potential of months without new content to offer audiences.