Amid Coronavirus, Disney has further pushed back the release of its MCU Phase 4 movies along with other big-budget titles to 2021.
In a long time since 2009, Marvel Studios’ hasn’t had a theatrical release nor does it plan on one. In an expected turn of events, Black Widow followed in the footsteps of Wonder Woman and is now delayed to 2021. Along with Black Widow, Marvel Studios’ owners at Disney have delayed other big-budget productions like Stephen Spielberg’s West Side Story, The King’s Man and more.
Disney’s move come after the lukewarm reaction to Christopher Nolan’s recent theatrical release Tenet. Disney executives have deduced that the audience is quite not ready to step out of the safety of their homes. Weeks earlier, WB delayed their superhero offering Wonder Woman 1984 to Christmas in hope for better business during the holidays.
Black Widow Reshuffles MCU Phase 4 Slate
First things first, what does Black Widow’s delay mean for Marvel Studios?
Interestingly, the MCU Phase 4 is not only delayed by a year but it also comes in with some title shuffling resulting in a new phase 4 timeline. The Black Widow will now open on May 7, 2021 – pushed back to over a year from its initial release date. The movie will now be followed by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings releasing on July 9, 2021. The Eternals, which was originally supposed to follow BW will release on November 5, 2021. Spider-Man: Far From Home Sequel is still sticking to December 17, 2021 release date so is Thor: Love And Thunder to February 11, 2022. Finally, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness for March 25, 2022.
MCU’s Disney+ offerings have also seen some shuffling with no particular release dates in sight. The Flacon And The Winter Soldier which was supposed to be the first Disney+ show has now been delayed to 2021. The cast and crew of the show are currently finishing the shoots in Atlanta. However, WandaVision is certainly coming to us in 2020, as the new trailer affirms. Alas, no official date has been announced but experts feel it should fall sometime around Thanksgiving.
Watch: Black Widow Release Eternals & Shang Chi Officially DELAYED
The shuffling of the projects points at fast changing decisions at the Studios. As we know ‘continuity’ is MCU’s key, storytelling has undergone a change. We know The Eternals has finished production already while Shang-Chi is finishing the final shoots. So there’s no other reason for Marvel to restructure the Phase 4 release chronology unless ‘new continuity’ demands it. Similarly, Falcon and The Winter Soldier which is close to finish shoots – is set to directly lead into events of Black Widow movie. So, it would make sense to release it sometime early 2021 before the May release of the movie.
However, the longest gap is between WandaVision and Doctor Strange sequel that is set to crack open the MCU Multiverse. While we see Wanda and Vision’s adventures this year, it will be well over 2 years when Doctor Strange will see the light of day. Meanwhile, we would have Loki series which should tie these two in between somewhere. With further development, it’ll be interesting to see how Coronavirus shapes up as we move on with the new timeline of MCU Phase 4.
Watch: WandaVision | Official Trailer | Disney+
Disney’s Content Bottlenecking
While it’s clear that Disney wants to wait out the virus, it is to be noted that the studio haven’t had a release since March 2019. This draught has taken a toll on the financial health of the company in the third quarter, Disney’s entertainment revenues slumped 55% to $1.7 billion. Compared to the same quarter last year (Q3, 2019), Disney had Avengers: Endgame and Aladdin released. And Endgame, of course, is the highest-grossing film of all time, earning $2.79 billion at the global box office.
The company has been experimenting with various release models in recent times. The lack of theatrical releases this year was covered up by utilizing Disney+ video on demand and also by lower marketing costs and lower film costs. The spike in streaming subscriptions opened new doors for Disney when its long-standing cash cows, the amusement parks, were brought to a grinding halt due to global lockdowns.
Properties like Hamilton and Artemis Fowl were released as regular streaming exclusive, whereas the $200 million Mulan saw a $30 premier access fee. The profits of Mulan still remain undisclosed but it has paved the way for many others.
Soul, Death on the Nile, and The Empty Man remain the only three offerings this year from Disney. Black Widow’s delay is the beginning of future losses for Disney if theatres fail to safely reopen in time.