Let's pretend for a moment the COVID-19 pandemic ends and the curve is flattened like a pancake — but not fast enough to save the year in movies. 2020 is a wash for Hollywood and 2021 is when we're back in theaters, buckets of popcorn on hand and ready to watch all the blockbusters we were denied in quarantine.
Here's the thing: That might be a problem. As it stands, 2021 will be one of the biggest years in movies as 2020's delayed feature films keep squeezing into the cracks of what 2021 already had in store.
For the average movie fan, that means taking a look at each weekend and picking and choosing what to spend your money on from multiple options. While that's something many of us already do, the choices in 2021 will be even more severe because of all the highly-anticipated movies from 2020 competing with the movies in 2021.
"It's going to be extremely competitive," Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst for Comscore, previously told Inverse. "2021 is shaping up to [have] numerous high profile big franchise films. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out."
Here's what that means for you and everyone you know.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced a wide swath of non-essential businesses to close, including the Hollywood film and TV industry. From basic cable TV shows to superhero blockbusters, virtually all cameras have stopped rolling, leaving actors, producers, and countless crew unaware when they'll get to resume work. Completed movies, some a mere few weeks away from theatrical release before local and national governments enacted quarantine rules, are now withheld indefinitely.
The strategy most movie studios have implemented is to delay most, if not all of the biggest theatrical movies. We're talking specifically event movies, your Marvels and Star Warses you still go to the theater for and are usually based on comic books or video games or sequels to a beloved franchise.
Disney, for example, postponed the release of Mulan and Black Widow — two movies that were poised to dominate the first quarter of 2020 — while Sony pushed the release of movies like Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Morbius from 2020 into new dates scattered across 2021.
As we've covered before, releasing these big movies early on streaming isn't a viable option for studios. While Universal is sending its family animated film Trolls World Tour straight to VOD, it's not doing the same for Fast & Furious 9, a big-budget spectacle that will only add many more millions to the franchise's $5 billion stockpile gross when it opens to a paying public. That movie, which held an outdoor concert in Miami in January to premiere the trailer, was delayed an entire eleven months and will be released on April 2, 2021.
And again: That's if the pandemic is defeated this year.
2019 also looked busy, with major releases like Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, The Lion King, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Toy Story 4, and Frozen 2 all packed the calendar (and that's just what Disney had to offer.) But 2021 will have what 2019 did not: An eager audience bursting at the seams to be out in public again and enjoy new release movies in the way people have enjoyed them for decades.
Here are all the big release movies of 2021.
- Untitled Blumhouse Productions Movie (January 8)
- Mortal Kombat (January 15)
- Cinderella (February 5)
- The Eternals (February 12)
- Untitled M. Night Shyamalan Movie (February 26)
- Ghostbusters: Afterlife (March 5)
- Masters of the Universe (March 5)
- Jackass 4 (March 5)
- Untitled Universal Movie (March 5)
- Untitled Disney Live Action (March 12)
- Morbius (March 19)
- Tomb Raider 2 (March 19)
- Untitled Paranormal Activity Movie (March 19)
- Fast & Furious 9 (April 2)
- Untitled Universal Movie (April 16)
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (May 7)
- John Wick: Chapter 4 (May 21)
- The Matrix 4 (May 21)
- Cruella (May 28)
- Micronauts (June 4)
- Jurassic World: Dominion (June 11)
- Untitled Pixar Movie (June 18)
- The Batman (June 25)
- Indiana Jones 5 (July 9)
- Space Jam 2 (July 16)
- Untitled Spider-Man 3 (July 16)
- Mission: Impossible 7 (July 23)
- Disney's Jungle Cruise (July 30)
- The Suicide Squad (August 6)
- Untitled Blumhouse Productions Movie (August 13)
Surprisingly, there are no major franchises scheduled for September, except for the untitled My Little Pony sequel and an "untitled" Universal movie.
- Uncharted (October 4)
- Untitled Disney Live Action (October 8)
- Halloween Ends (October 15)
- Hamilton (October 15)
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (November 5)
- Untitled Fantastic Beasts 3 (November 12)
- Dungeons & Dragons (November 19)
- Untitled Disney Live Action (November 19)
- Untitled Disney Animation (November 24)
- Avatar 2 (December 17)
- Black Adam (December 22)
- Sherlock Holmes 3 (December 22)
- Wicked (December 22)
- The New Mutants
Notice the amount of weekends that have multiple movies out the same weekend. March 5, March 19, May 21, July 16, October 15, November 19 — for studios, consumer dollars will split as more people choose one out of two or even three mass-appealing options. For consumers, that means having to know exactly what is coming out, and when, and deciding how to spend hard-earned money.
It should be said that as much as the pandemic have delayed the release of movies, so have the making of them become delayed as well. Production on movies like Shang-Chi, The Batman, The Matrix 4, and Spider-Man 3 are all delayed, without any clear picture when crews can return to resume filming. If production is delayed enough, their release dates will inevitably follow suit.
Still: Based on what 2020 and 2021 looks like right now, 2020 has more or less emptied out while everything is crowding into 2021. There's space in September and January, historically a poor month for new movies.
Dergarabedian tells Inverse it is "no small thing" that a blockbuster movie moves its release date. "This impacts a lot of other movies on the release calendar and impacts consumer behavior," he says. "When this situation, hopefully sooner than later, resolves itself, audiences will follow those movies wherever they go. The question is what will the competitive environment look like when they’re released."
And you really shouldn't expect any of these movies to hit streaming early. "People home right now need entertainment. They’re getting that on the small screen but once the big screen is available, people are going to be wanting that experience because it’s something we’ve done since the beginning of cinema," Dergarabedian says. "The theater is place of solace and a way to escape the world. In time, those things will come back."