Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux in No Time to Die
MGM and Universal
The shocking delay of ‘No Time to Die’ is bad news for ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ and may begin a wave of delays for the likes of ‘Mulan,’ ‘Trolls: World Tour,’ ‘Black Widow’ and ‘F9’.
Thanks to fears of the coronavirus threatening the theatrical marketplace in both China and elsewhere around the world, Universal and MGM have delayed No Time To Die from its planned early April launch all the way to mid-November. The move is both shocking and not that surprising, as the 25th “official” 007 movie (all due respect to Never Say Never Again) was set to be the first big would-be blockbuster to potentially be impacted by both the near-total lockdown on theaters in China and concerns around the world about the theoretical safety of sitting in a crowded theater with strangers amid a potential outbreak. For better or worse, the likes of Bad Boys For Life, Birds of Prey, Sonic the Hedgehog and Onward were not set to be that big (or play at all) in China.
No Time to Die was very much hoping to earn at least as much as the $83 million that Spectre earned in 2015. Disney will almost certainly delay the Chinese release of Mulan, although at this juncture we’ve seen little to suggest that they are delaying the whole global release. No Time to Die and Mulan will join Black Widow, F9: The Fast Saga, Wonder Woman 1984, Tenet and Top Gun: Maverick (among others) as big summer movies that were banking on Chinese box office as either a supplement or an essential component of their respective worldwide grosses. What this means is two-fold, at least in terms of the movie business. Next month is going to be very quiet, and next November may be very crowded. It may be good for 007, but it’s bad for Godzilla.
Poppy (Anna Kendrick) doesn’t know quite what to make of the Queen of Rock, Queen Barb (Rachel … [+]
Â© 2019 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved
First, April has a giant hole in its schedule, as No Time to Die was supposed to be that month’s court-appointed event movie. Now, presuming nothing else shifts as a result, April will be home to “only” Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2, Disney’s The New Mutants and Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls: World Tour. Second, the new November date is going to create havoc elsewhere. While Thanksgiving is currently occupied by the Will Smith-starring “father of the Williams sisters” biopic King Richard and Walt Disney’s animated Raya and the Last Dragon, it will be proceeded by just days by Warner Bros. and Legendary’s Godzilla Vs. Kong. Adam Winguard’s monster mash, a sequel to Godzilla, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island, had moved from its March 13, 2020 slot after King of the Monsters underperformed.
The pre-Thanksgiving date became available when WB delayed Fantastic Beasts 3 to November of 2020 and pushed Dune from mid-November to the key pre-Christmas slot. Godzilla vs. Kong was planning on being the big Thanksgiving live-action blockbuster, even with Marvel’s potentially leggy Eternals opening on November 6. Even if Kong Vs. Godzilla opens well, I can easily see a scenario like when Hellboy II opened with $35 million only to drop 70% in weekend two when The Dark Knight launched with a then-record $158 million debut. Yes, the (comparatively niche) monster movie and the (more mainstream) spy sequel could flourish concurrently, but the MonsterVerse flick was planning on being the big movie of the moment. So either WB holds its ground and hopes for the best, or it moves the monster movie for the second time.
Disney’s MULAN in Mulan (Yifei Liu)
Photo: Film Frame..Â© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
When No Time to Die opens on November 12 in the UK and November 25 (Thanksgiving weekend) in North America, it will have been five years since the last 007 movie, a sabbatical matched only by the 6.5-year gap between License to Kill in July of 1989 and GoldenEye in November of 1995. The “good” news is that the 007 series has been opening in November (or, in the case of Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997, December) since Pierce Brosnan’s GoldenEye. It earned a franchise-best $105 million domestic and $350 million worldwide in 1995, and the series has been a pre-Thanksgiving attraction ever since. If I’m being optimistic, I might argue that MGM always wanted No Time to Die to open in November and that this is them making the best of a bad situation.
By that, I mean I cannot say if this shocking move will cause a swell of major release date changes over the next few months. At the very least, I’d imagine the movies opening June and later are (for now) safe, as one would like to think that this potential seasonal bug (as opposed to The Stand-style crisis) will be under some measure of control by summer. But I wouldn’t be shocked if Disney moves Mulan (currently set for March 27) not just in China but around the world, or if Universal delays F9: The Fast Saga beyond its planned May 22 release. Tracking for Mulan’s domestic debut is dropping tomorrow morning, with the big LA premiere set for this Monday. I am hoping that I will still get to see it Monday night.
(from left) Han (Sung Kang) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) in “F9,” directed by Justin Lin.
COPYRIGHT Â© 2020 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.
No Time to Die, F9, Black Widow and Mulan would be big no matter when they opened, so (104% speculation) their theoretical new dates would wreak additional havoc on the films already slated for June and beyond. Heck, if this gets worse, we may see a variation on what has happened in China, where planned New Year’s blockbusters Lost in Russia and Enter the Fat Dragon debuted as straight-to-streaming titles. F9 would make a hell of a launch title for Peacock if it came to that, but I’d like to think we’re far from that doomsday prospect. Again, looking at the 007 release history, this could be a singular choice for a singular movie, as opposed to the start of an industry-wide delay. Or it could be the domino that sets everything else off.
After all, once one studio/movie essentially says, “We’re going to delay this film so you and your friends/family don’t get sick while watching it in theaters,” it’s that much harder for other studios/movies to say “There’s nothing to see here!” It’s not unlike in late 2014 with Sony’s The Interview. Once Carmike pulled the movie over fears of threatened retaliation (from groups allegedly connected to the North Korean government), it was almost impossible, for legal liability reasons, for other theaters to hold firm and show the movie as intended. In the end, it played in non-chain theaters and earned around $40 million in VOD grosses via a day-and-date pre-Christmas release. I’m hoping that’s not the precedent, but it may be the closest comparison. In the meantime, go to the movies and just wash your hands.