Actually it was late last night. Just before bedtime Thursday, Paramount released a statement confirming that they are indeed moving their two biggest 2020 titles to 2021.
A Quiet Place Part II, which had been slated for September 4, 2020 will now open next spring on April 23, 2021. Top Gun: Maverick, which had been set to bow on December 23, 2020 will now fly next summer on July 2, 2021.
This marks the third new date for each film. A Quiet Place Part II had first been set to open on March 20 of this year. However, when it finally hits screen in late April, that will be a full 13 months after it was originally supposed to run. Similarly, Top Gun: Maverick‘s new date of July 2 is just over one year from its originally intended launch of June 26 this summer.
In an unprecedented oddity, both A Quiet Place Part II and Disney’s Mulan had already been screened for major film critics in early March, before their release delays had to incur. In other words, there are non-studio people who have actually seen both movies but are not allowed to talk or write about them until they release, resulting in what will end up being the longest press embargo of all time.
To stress just how much of a wash 2020 is for studios, Paramount is also liquidating its slate in other ways. The studio is currently in negotiations with Amazon Studios to sell worldwide rights to Without Remorse, the Tom Clancy adaptation Paramount produced that stars Michael B. Jordan as U.S. Navy SEAL John Clark.
Sales to streamers for midrange properties like these make sense for a major studio as it would likely cost more money for them than its worth to keep sitting on it in frustrating attempt to find the perfect, reliable release window.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the week when Tenet was delayed indefinitely, that one move would trigger a dramatic chain reaction, most likely as soon as this week. We saw that trigger pulled yesterday.
The net effect of all this? First and foremost, 2020 has now been all-but-completely delayed until 2021. A few big titles still “officially” remain — Wonder Woman 1984, No Time To Die, Black Widow, Soul, Dune, West Side Story — but truly it’s only a matter of time before their 2021 dates are announced, the first four probably for next summer and the other two likely for the 2021 holidays. It’s not an issue of if these moves will occur, but when.
The biggest tell for that was seeing Top Gun: Maverick move off the holiday frame, a shift that followed yesterday’s decision by Disney to move 20th Studio’s biggest Oscar hopeful The Last Duel from its 2020 Christmas release. When two major studios abandon what is, simultaneously, one of the biggest money-making corridors of the year as well as the prestigious awards season, the writing is on the wall.
The other studios know what they know: that U.S. audiences will not regain confidence in 2020 theatrical to the necessary degree that will blockbuster movies to earn the return on their budgets and investments.
Also, the fact that Disney preemptively delayed its two biggest franchises by a whole year — Avatar and Star Wars — is further proof that the industry is fully aware that ev-er-y-thing is basically going to be delayed a year.
Yes, we will continue to see more fluctuation with midrange titles like Without Remorse as some of those go straight to PVOD or streaming services in 2020, but the big tentpoles will remain theatrical properties for 2021.
In terms of Hollywood, history will look back on 2020 as the year that the entire movie release calendar was put on pause.