Film News

The Reason Behind All Those Disney Release Date Changes

Disney gonna Disney, and with Fox now under the Mouse House’s umbrella there was a lot of Disney-ing this morning. The company announced a slew of release date changes and a tentative schedule through 2024. The most headline-ready moves include:

  • Three new Star Wars movies dated for 2022, 2024, and 2026 (no word on whether those will be Benioff/Weiss or Rian Johnson movies).
  • The delay of all Avatar sequels to 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027.
  • Yet another delay for beleaguered New Mutants (from this August to next April).
  • The removal of Gambit from the release calendar altogether.

So, pour one out for poor Chambit, one of the more meme-able superhero movies that never actually got to be a superhero movie.

Plus, the extended calendar confirms there are only two Marvel Cinematic Universe titles due next year (one in May, the other November), though we still don’t know which films will take those dates (The Eternals and Black Widow seem the most likely candidates if simply because they are currently further along in development than everything else). After that, we return to a 3-MCU-movies-a-year scheduled starring in 2021.

Let’s step back from this for a moment and take a larger view.

Back in March when Disney’s takeover of Fox finally became official, Bob Iger’s powerhouse instantly doubled the number of movies it was committed to releasing in 2019, jumping from 10 Disney films to 20 combined Disney-Fox films. That was never going to last nor were all of the incoming Fox films safe to stay in their previously announced release dates.

“How will Disney treat marketing for films which launch near each other,” Wall Street analyst Eric Handler asked THR earlier this year, “especially if they go after similar demographics?”

That’s the question the entire industry has been whispering about for months. For example, pre-Disney James Gray’s sci-fi Brad Pitt-starrer Ad Astra was dated by Fox for a 5/24/19 release, the same weekend as Aladdin. Would Disney let an adult drama like that coexist with a four-quadrant blockbuster?

The answer is no. Ad Astra just got pushed back to September (9/20), although that might have nothing to do with Aladdin whatsoever. With weeks to go before its original release date, Ad Astra still has no trailer or major promotional materials. A delay was inevitable and dropping it in September makes more sense anyways for something with even a trace of awards ambitions.

To find a better example of Disney avoiding cannibalizing itself, look to Call of the Wild, a Jack London adaptation starring Harrison Ford and Dan Stevens. Originally announced by Fox as a Christmas Day 2019 release where it would arrive just 5 days after The Rise of Skywalker, Disney just pushed it to 2/21/20, where it will play opposite a Sony action movie starring Vin Diesel (Bloodshot) and arrive on the heels of the Kingsman prequel movie. Both are expected to target a different demo than a family-friendly adaptation of a beloved children’s novel.

That doesn’t mean Disney is completely vacating the post-Rise of Skywalker release window though. In fact, by moving Call of the Wild the studio created a new opening for Spies in Disguise, Will Smith’s animated comedy about a superspy turned pigeon. Originally slated for 9/13 launch, Spies is now a Christmas Day 2019 release. Disney is likely guessing that a new Star Wars movie and a new animated movie can indeed co-exist. After all, Rogue One and Sing did that in 2016, with the former eventually reaching just over a billion worldwide and the latter shattering expectations with a $634 million total haul.

With Star Wars taking a three-year break from theaters after Rise of Skywalker and Avatar delayed yet again, Christmas 2020 opened up nicely for Disney to slip Cruella in there, a prequel in the vein of Maleficent set to star Emma Stone. It will be joined in that general release window by Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake, which didn’t previously have a release date but is now slotted in for 12/18/20. That’s a case of Disney maybe bunching two projects closer together than we’d guess, but as the Skywalker and Spies example illustrate the rules at Christmas are different than at just about every other time of the year.

Lastly, Disney’s blockbuster-a-thon of 2019 just took a hit. The studio delayed Artemis Fowl, Kenneth Branagh’s attempted franchise-starter adapted from Eoin Colfer’s fantasy novel series, from 8/9/19 to 5/29/20, escaping from behind the shadow of Hobbs & Shaw (8/2/19) to…holy shit. You’ve got be kidding me. Look at the 2020 release calendar as it stands now for Artemis Fowl:

They escaped from one Fast & Furious movie only to end up behind another! Not great, obviously, but just as long as whatever comes out the week after Artemis Fowl isn…

Oh, come on! Sorry, Artemis, you might just be screwed.

Maybe not. A fantasy adventure series pitted against Dom and Diana might find just enough cultural oxygen to breathe, but it’s going to be a challenge. In this age of year-round blockbuster scheduling and Disney’s swallowing of the industry, stories like that are going to be more and more common.

Release date changes, from THR:

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN (FOX) previously dated on 9/27/19 moves to 8/9/19

READY OR NOT (FSL) is now dated on 8/23/19

AD ASTRA (FOX) previously dated on 5/24/19 moves to 9/20/19

FORD v. FERRARI (FOX) is the updated title of previous UNTITLED JAMES MANGOLD PROJECT dated on 11/15/19

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (DIS) is the updated title of previous STAR WARS: EPISODE IX dated on 12/20/19

SPIES IN DISGUISE (FOX) previously dated on 9/13/19 moves to 12/25/19

UNDERWATER (FOX) is now dated on 1/10/20

CALL OF THE WILD (FOX) previously dated on 12/25/19 moves to 2/21/20

THE NEW MUTANTS (FOX) previously dated on 8/2/19 moves to 4/3/20

ARTEMIS FOWL (DIS) previously dated on 8/9/19 moves to 5/29/20

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN (DIS) is the updated title of previous UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION dated on 2/14/20, and moves to 8/14/20

DEATH ON THE NILE (FOX) previously dated on 10/2/20 moves to 10/9/20

WEST SIDE STORY (FOX) is now dated on 12/18/20

CRUELLA (DIS) is the updated title of previous UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION dated on 12/23/20

NIMONA (FOX) previously dated on 2/14/20 moves to 3/5/21

AVATAR 2 (FOX) previously dated on 12/18/20 moves to 12/17/21

UNTITLED STAR WARS (DIS) is the updated title of previous UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION dated on 12/16/22

AVATAR 3 (FOX) previously dated on 12/17/21 moves to 12/22/23

UNTITLED STAR WARS (DIS) is now dated on 12/20/24

AVATAR 4 (FOX) previously dated on 12/20/24 is now dated on 12/19/25

UNTITLED STAR WARS (DIS) is now dated on 12/18/26

AVATAR 5 (FOX) previously dated on 12/19/25 moves to 12/17/27

GAMBIT (FOX) previously dated on 3/13/20 is removed from schedule

UNTITLED FOX MARVEL (FOX) previously dated on 6/26/20 is removed from schedule

UNTITLED FOX MARVEL (FOX) previously dated on 10/2/20 is removed from schedule

UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION (DIS) previously dated on 10/9/20 is removed from schedule

UNTITLED FOX MARVEL (FOX) previously dated on 3/5/21 is removed from schedule

FOSTER (FOX) previously dated on 3/5/21 is removed from schedule

UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION (DIS) previously dated on 12/22/21 is removed from schedule

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