As the world prepares to slowly reopen following the coronavirus pandemic, life as we know it is sure to change. Last year, we saw Avengers: Endgame officially kick-start the summer box office with a stunning $1.2 billion worldwide debut. However, these days, studios are stuck trying to choose between releasing films directly to video-on-demand services or further delaying the theatrical releases that were meant to be summer blockbusters.
The downfall began in late February when studios began to pull films from release. At the time, Disney’s live-action Mulan was set to hit the big screen on March 27 with box office experts predicting a decent opening for the film which had already seen its share of controversy ahead of release. As a precautionary tale, though, Disney removed the film from its slate with a new July date released shortly thereafter. It remains to be seen whether the film will retain that July date, of course, as theaters are still closed. And despite some stay at home orders being relaxed throughout the countries, some theater chains have stated they will not reopen until Hollywood is ready. So, can a movie like Mulan, or even one like Marvel Studios’ Black Widow, go on to find success a second time?
While this year seemed doubtful to have an Avengers: Endgame on its hand to push the box office into new territory for the year, there were plenty of box office guarantees that would have resulted in a promising box office year. From A Quiet Place: Part 2, the sequel to 2018’s surprise hit, to Mulan, Black Widow, and even Wonder Woman 1984, the summer box office seemed ready to course correct the box office that had already been stumbling. All of these titles have since received new dates from their studios, however, the success they once promised now seems uncertain.
The first obstacle any release will need to face is the public’s fear of crowded public spaces, something we’ve seen already with China. The theaters may open back up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean audiences will be eager to flock to them right away. This is something that could potentially hurt forthcoming films financially. Then again, it’s entirely possible the opposite will occur. As more people begin to demand their states ease up on stay at home orders, it’s becoming clear there is a large population eager to return to life before this pandemic essentially halted everything. This could result in the public heading to theaters in drones in hopes of seeking entertainment outside of their homes for a few hours.
In order to overcome that obstacle, though, theaters will first need to reopen. While Regal Cinemas hasn’t made any official statement regarding its reopening plans, AMC Theaters has. Along with being concerned regarding the health of both moviegoers and employees, AMC released a statement confirming its current plans: “To be able to open, we also need a line of sight into a regular schedule of new theatrical blockbusters that get people truly excited about returning to their favorite movie theaters.”
One of the biggest problems, though, will be trying to recapture the momentum these films once had. These films were not simply delayed for a month. In some cases, studios have pushed releases back nearly a year as the probability of the world returning to normal remained unclear. (Case in point: Fast & Furious 9.) Mulan was pushed back four months and had already begun its promo tour, and Black Widow was pushed back five months, taking over the date previously held by The Eternals, thus altering the release date of every Phase Four film to follow. It’s hard to believe there won’t be an audience of sorts when these films are finally released, however, it does seem probable the box office returns will take a hit, even if minor.
Luckily for both Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984, they have built-in fanbases eager to return to these universes. The same can’t be said for the rest of the delayed releases. One thing that is certain, however, is that Disney at least has some faith in Mulan’s performance whenever it is released as a sequel is already reportedly in development.
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As the world slowly begins to reopen following the coronavirus pandemic, it raises the question of whether films will be able to gain buzz again.