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Here Are the Movies Still in 2020, and What’s Likely to Move Next

Tentpoles are the only sure thing. Everything else still scheduled to play in theaters this summer could wind up on VOD or streaming. (Updated 4/30/20)

"A Quiet Place Part II"

“A Quiet Place Part II”

Paramount

Pity the poor studio distribution executive, whose job has become a complex game of 3D chicken. First there’s the question of when theaters will reopen, and where. Then there’s calculus of how many people will feel confident returning to the movies, and how the necessary safety allowances (plexiglass? fifty-percent capacities? eating popcorn while wearing masks?) will impact the experience, to say nothing of the box office.

They must weigh releasing their films against these known unknowns, or consider the possibility of a streaming or VOD release — another kind of unknown, but one that might look more secure under these circumstances. That decision requires another kind of reckoning: Which films are truly theatrical experiences, and which are the ones that might do as well or better if they premiere in the audiences’ homes?

Truth is, many of the movies in which the studios have the most theatrical confidence have already landed 2021 dates. These include Universal sequels “F9” and “Minions: Rise of Gru;” Warner Bros. franchise “The Batman,” James Wan’s horror film “Malignant,” David Chase’s Sopranos movie “The Many Saints of Newark” and Jon M. Chu musical “In the Heights.”

Sony placed sequels “Ghostbusters Afterlife,” “Morbius,” and “Peter Rabbit 2,” as well as videogame prequel “Uncharted.” Disney moved back Marvel movie “Eternals,” “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and Dwayne Johnson E-ride “Jungle Cruise.” Paramount pushed Mark Wahlberg thriller “Infinite” and sci-fi actioner “The Tomorrow War,” starring Betty Gilpin and Chris Pratt.

Warner Bros. moved “King Richard” back a year to November 19, 2021, Disney moved “Eternals” to February 12, and Sony moved “Escape Room 2” to January 1, “Fatherhood” to April 2, and “The Man From Toronto” to September 17, 2021.

That’s 20 major films that no longer belong to the 2020 box office, taking with them billions in revenue as well as an essential element of studios’ and exhibitors’ distribution strategies. (That migration pulled up an awful lot of tentpoles.) What’s left is the challenge of crafting a release calendar —  in the midst of a global health crisis — that can make sense of the movies still standing.

(To make this a little less complicated, this discussion does not include the plethora of specialty titles, like Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” [Focus] or A24’s Sundance breakout “Minari,” that in normal circumstances would be heading for the fall festival circuit — but what does that mean when festivals are trying to figure out if they’ll exist this year, and in what form?)

The number of variables are dizzying: Once theaters reopen, will they stay open or be forced to stop-start in response to the virus’ peaks and valleys? At what point does cash flow become the primary consideration? Studios want to support their beleaguered exhibition partners (Florida chain Cinemex USA is already filing for bankruptcy), but are under increasing financial pressure themselves. For some, better the money in hand from Netflix (which has been inundated with studio submissions, including unfinished projects that have already exhausted their completion bond insurance) or VOD, than waiting for the maybe-better deal a theatrical debut might bring.

Studios have already pushed back many releases in 2020, including Paramount’s “SpongeBob: Sponge on the Run” (August 7) and “A Quiet Place Part II” (September 4); Searchlight’s “The French Dispatch” (October 16), Universal’s “Candyman” (September 25), Disney/Marvel’s “Black Widow” (November 6), Disney/Pixar’s “Soul” (November 20), MGM’s James Bond entry “No Time to Die” (November 25), and Twentieth Century’s “Free Guy” (December 11).

More changes are coming and while no one has the answers, we do know some of the odds. Low-budget movies, family-friendly titles, and sequels are more likely to move to home-viewing premieres. Fall dates are more likely to hold than summer ones. And then there’s those films where, no matter what the release calendar says, logic tells us they won’t open in theaters this year.

So far, PVOD and streaming premieres have been led by family-friendly titles like Universal’s “Trolls World Tour,” Disney’s “Artemis Fowl,” and Warner Bros.’ “Scoob!” However, Disney’s “The Woman in the Window,” which is currently undated, wrapped in October 2018. The Amy Adams thriller was first slated for 2019, and now it’s one of the strays that Disney acquired in its purchase of Twentieth Century Fox.

Also undated for now are Marvel’s “The New Mutants,” as well as two Lionsgate’s horror thrillers, Saw sequel “Spiral” and “Antebellum,” plus Sony’s Tom Hanks war movie “Greyhound.” (The COVID survivor stars in two other 2020 releases, sci-fi actioner “BIOS” and Paul Greengrass’ late-year western “News of the World.”)

"Tenet"

Tenet

Warner Bros.

A few brave souls hold on to summer slots. Universal, given its successful VOD performance with “Trolls World Tour,” is weighing its options for Judd Apatow’s comedy “The King of Staten Island” (June 19) and Blumhouse’s “The Purge 5” (July 10). (UPDATE: Apatow broke the June 12 PVOD release news on Instagram on Monday, followed by a studio announcement.)

The most likely film to herald a return to theaters is Christopher Nolan tentpole “Tenet” (July 17, Warner Bros.), followed by Disney’s “Mulan” (July 24) and Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman 1984.” If that happens, these titles could claim virtually every open screen in North America.

Still on the summer 2020 schedule are Lionsgate’s “Barb and Star Go to the Vista Del Mar” (July 31), Twentieth Century supernatural thriller “The Empty Man,” (August 7), Disney talking-animal film “The One and Only Ivan” (August 14, ), Orion’s “Bill & Ted Face the Music” (August 21) Orion), and Lionsgate’s “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (August 28) — but any or all of these titles could fit the parameters for a home premiere.

“The King’s Man”

Similarly, September contains five more movies that could be prime streaming/VOD candidates, including Screen Gems’ “Monster Hunter” (September 4), Disney’s “The Beatles: Get Back” (September 4), Warner Bros.’ horror sequel “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (September 11), Twentieth Century’s Matthew Vaughn sequel “The King’s Man” (September 18) and Paramount’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (September 25).

More theatrically inclined are October releases such as Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” Twentieth Century’s Hercule Poirot mystery “Death on the Nile” (October 9), Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” from Warner Bros. (October 9), and Universal’s “BIOS” starring Tom Hanks (October 2) and “Halloween Kills” starring Jamie Lee Curtis (October 16).

"The French Dispatch"

“The French Dispatch”

Searchlight

Other October titles are more likely VOD candidates, including Paramount’s Tom Clancy actioner “Without Remorse” (October 2) and game adaptation “Snake Eyes” (October 23); Sony’s animated Lord & Miller animated film “Connected” (October 23) and Twentieth Century’s drag musical “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” (October 23, Disney).

Almost certain to keep their dates (excepting any theater closings) are MGM’s “No Time to Die” (November 25); Disney’s “Black Widow” (November 6), “Soul” (November 20), and “Free Guy” (December 11); and Twentieth Century’s Steven Spielberg musical “West Side Story” (December 18). Warner Bros. is opening “Godzilla vs. Kong” (November 20), Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi spectacular “Dune” (December 18), and Tim Story’s animated “Tom and Jerry” (December 23), while Universal is opening “The Croods 2” (December 23). For its part Paramount is banking on family movie “Clifford the Big Red Dog” (November 13) plus two sequels, Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America 2” (December 18) and Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun: Maverick” (December 23). Hoping for Oscar attention is MGM’s Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect,” starring Jennifer Hudson (December 25), and winding up the year is Sony’s “Escape Room 2” (December 30).

Less assured are Disney’s erotic thriller from Adrian Lyne, “Deep Water” (November 13) and Ridley Scott adventure “The Last Duel,” which has a December 25 release date but still hasn’t begun production.

The complete list of studio releases for 2020 follows, which was correct at publication but almost certainly will change. (We’re updating.)

No Time to Die

“No Time to Die”

MGM/screenshot

2020 Release Schedule

June 19 (Now June 12 on PVOD)
“The King of Staten Island” (Universal)

July 10
“The Purge 5” (Universal)

July 17
“Tenet” (Warner Bros.)

July 24
“Mulan” (Disney)

July 31
“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” (Lionsgate)

August 7
“The Empty Man” (Disney)
“SpongeBob: SpongeBob on the Run” (Paramount)

August 14
“Wonder Woman 1984″ (Warner Bros.)
“The One and Only Ivan” (Disney)

August 21
“Bill & Ted Face the Music” (Orion)

August 28
“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (Lionsgate)

September 4
“A Quiet Place Part II” (Paramount)
“Monster Hunter” (Screen Gems/Sony)
“The Beatles: Get Back” (Disney)

September 11
“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (New Line/Warner Bros.)

September 18
“The King’s Man” (Twentieth Century/Disney)

September 25
“Candyman” (Universal)
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Paramount)

October 2
“BIOS” (Universal)
“Without Remorse” (Paramount)

October 9
“Death on the Nile” (Twentieth Century/Disney)
“The Witches” (Warner Bros.)

October 16
“The French Dispatch” (Searchlight)
“Halloween Kills” (Universal)

October 23
“Snake Eyes” (Paramount)
“Connected” (Sony)
“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” (Disney)

November 6
“Black Widow” (Marvel/Disney)

November 13
“Deep Water” (Disney)
“Clifford the Big Red Dog” (Paramount)

November 20 
“Soul” (Pixar/Disney)
“Godzilla vs. Kong” (Warner Bros.)

November 25
“No Time to Die” (MGM)

December 11
“Free Guy” (Twentieth Century/Disney)

December 18
“West Side Story” (Twentieth Century/Disney)
“Dune” (Warner Bros.)
“Coming to America 2” (Paramount)

December 23
“Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount)
“Tom and Jerry” (Warner Bros.)
“The Croods 2” (Universal)

December 25
“News of the World” (Universal)
“The Last Duel” (Twentieth Century/Disney)
“Respect” (MGM)

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