Commentary: 'Black Widow,' 'West Side Story' postponed again, this time to 2021. Theaters are stuck and closing again

By Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Like so much else in 2020 that doesn't involve a couch and a remote, American moviegoing has become a hotly debated matter of risk and reward in a seriously flattened segment of the escapism economy.

The time-inversion Christopher Nolan thriller "Tenet," which opened in the U.S. Sept. 3, was supposed to be the cavalry riding, in reverse, to the rescue.

It didn't work out that way.

After four strained weeks and few other movies on offer, "Tenet" has made $36 million in the U.S. and Canada. It has pulled in a pandemically respectable $220 million in other countries - the countries that have managed this crisis more aggressively, effectively and humanely than we have.

On Wednesday, more grim news. Disney announced its latest round of release delays for several crucial titles, some to late 2021. That's a long way from now.

And now, it's a time of serious financial reckoning for multiplex owners as well as neighborhood theaters looking to stay alive and vital, at a time when many are wondering if we'll ever get former moviegoing audiences out of moviestaying mode, even with the 2021 prospect of an effective vaccine.


On Wednesday, the latest anvils fell. Variety reported Disney's postponement of the Marvel franchise action vehicle "Black Widow" from Nov. 6 to May 7, 2021. Another Disney title, director Steven Spielberg's remake of "West Side Story," moved from Dec. 25 (Merry Christmas!) to Dec. 10, 2021 (and Happy Wait-a-Year to you).

Other films are staying put, or for a few moving their release dates to an earlier slot, as the entire industry crosses its fingers. Disney/Pixar's animated "Soul" remains in its currently scheduled Nov. 20 position. That's the same date as the new James Bond film "No Time to Die," at least as it now stands.

The Agatha Christie adaptation, "Death on the Nile," is pushing its Oct. 23 release plans to Dec. 18, the same day "Dune" is scheduled, still, to give pandemic blockbustering a try. "Wonder Woman 1984" remains committed to its most recent target date: Dec. 25.

"If 'Soul' stays in October, if Bond stays in November, then we're solid," says Classic Cinemas CEO Chris Johnson, who plans on reopening his Illinois and Wisconsin theaters back up Nov. 20. "If they don't, we move on to December."


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