With Tenet delayed yet again, some indie films trying to sneak into drive-ins, and theatrical exhibitors losing their minds over the potential for another month without a blockbuster release, it seems like it’s as good a time as any to re-evaluate the look of the rest of the 2020 feature film slate. Studios are clearly doing it on a daily basis, with Universal — who moved two of its biggest releases out a full year and then released movies like Trolls World Tour direct to streaming video on demand early in the pandemic — seemingly having rolled the dice and won, and everyone else running to keep up.
The calendar as it stands is a little chaotic. There are movies planned for release that have likely not yet completed post-production, but studios and exhibitors are having a hard time determining what their next step is.
With Tenet and The New Mutants getting big status quo changes this week and a lot of speculation as to what’s next, it seems like as good a time as any to take a look at the release calendar as it exists now (or at least as far as we know), at least between now and the start of the Halloween horor season, and try to make educated guesses as to what’s going to actually find its way to a big screen and what will end up on a streaming service soon.
Let us know if you agree with our assessment in the comments below, or hit us up on social media!
Friday, August 21
Disney has maintained that there’s no way Mulan and Black Widow, the studio’s two biggest 2020 tentpoles, will go straight to streaming. They’re dedicated to the “theatrical experience,” and that’s that. It doesn’t hurt any that both of these movies cost obscene amounts of money to make, so it seems pretty difficult to break even with half-full theaters and something like 60% of your audience convinced that it’s not a good idea to be in crowded rooms.
This one seems like a perfect candidate for a straight-to-streaming movie. From Lionsgate, a mid-sized studio who have shown themselves to be flexible in terms of release strategies, Antebellum centers on a successful author, who finds herself in a horrifying reality and must figure out the mystery behind it before it is too late. It has a lot of potential upside, but it’s also made on a small budget, and even just the title “Antebellum,” given the current hesitation about all things from the Reconstruction-era South, seems like a loser at the box office. Send this one to streaming and watch it find exactly the audience it deserves.
Let Him Go
Let Him Go is probably pretty borderline. It seems like a decent candidate for a streaming release — it was made relatively inexpensively, and comes from Focus Features — but the cast itself feels like it deserves a big-screen release. The movie, about a retired sheriff and his wife who fight to rescue their grandson from a dangerous off-grid family upon the death of their son, stars Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Lesley Manville.
Friday, August 28
At one point, The New Mutants was going to open here, but instead it’s going to September on Disney+. That leaves Bill & Ted Face the Music, the long-awaited sequel to the cult-classic Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and …Bogus Journey to stand alone. This one is likely dependent on Mulan; if that movie really comes out and looks like it’s ready to have some measure of success, Orion might roll the dice, given that Bill & Ted likely doesn’t need to make a ton of money to break even. Still, they’d like it to be a hit, both for the long-term health of the franchise and because a failure starring Keanu Reeves is a waste of one of Hollywood’s greatest resources.
Friday, September 4
Not much of a chance of this one getting a small-screen-first release. The experience really enhanced A Quiet Place, and since the movie is relatively inexpensive compared to other movies with the same financial upside, it feels like it can wait.
Friday, September 18
The King’s Man, the latest intsallment in the Kingsman franchise based on the comics by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar, is the next comic book movie likely to hit theaters. Given the tepid performance of the previous installment, it might be a good candidate for being dumped on either Disney+ or Hulu — but if so, it might spell trouble for the film franchise as a whole.
In The War with Grandpa, Peter and his grandpa used to be very close, but when Grandpa Jack moves in with the family, Peter is forced to give up his most prized possession: his bedroom. Peter will stop at nothing to get his room back, scheming with friends to devise a series of pranks to drive him out. However, grandpa doesn’t give up easily, and it turns into an all-out war between the two.
This one’s a toss-up. With stars like Christopher Walken and Robert DeNiro and a relatively inexpensive budget, it feels like it would be a guaranteed success on streaming, even though it isn’t strictly necessary to drop it there. The dealbreaker there might be the fact that even pre-COVID, this movie has been delayed a bunch of times since 2018.
In Kajillionaire, two con artists have spent 26 years training their only daughter to swindle, scam and steal at every turn. During a desperate and hastily conceived heist, they charm a stranger into joining them, only to have their entire world turned upside down. The movie feels like a great candidate for a home release, since it’s a small movie without a superstar cast, but with terrific reviews from Focus, an indie studio that doesn’t have a lot of big money hits.
Friday, September 25
Given the success they have already had with Premium Video on Demand and the likely box office for Praise This, a musical comedy from filmmaker Tina Gordon, don’t be surprised if this one ends up going the way of Trolls World Tour and making more money on VOD than it likely would have made in theaters. That assumes it’s even ready to roll yet; the movie hasn’t got a trailer or offiical art as far as we can tell by looking at the Universal website.
Friday, October 2
Wonder Woman 1984 has the benefit of being scheduled far enough out that its release date will likely be impacted by the performances of other planned big hits like Tenet, Mulan, and The King’s Man, but it seems impossible to imagine a movie this big — the $200 million sequel to a critically beloved movie that grossed $1 billion — heading to HBO Max, as much as fans might hope to see it sooner.
Friday, October 9
Death on the Nile, Kenneth Branagh’s follow-up to Murder on the Orient Express, feels unlikely to get a streaming release first. It appeals to cinematic purists who want to see beautifully shot movies on a big screen, and while it was an outsized hit for its modest budget, it feels like something that might have a hard time finding its audience with an SVOD-only debut.
The Witches is a stumper. It’s hard to know what Warners expects out of this movie (the previous version didn’t perform that well in its initial box office run, but became a beloved classic), and it’s possible that if they think they can capitalize on a family audience during a down month, and do so without risking another Blade Runner 2045-style embarrassment, it might be worth it.
Friday, October 16
Candyman is going to hit theaters. Given that it’s a fairly low-budget horror movie that’s hugely anticipated, it might seem like an obvious choice, but it also isn’t scheduled until mid-October, and it doesn’t need to make gargantuan money to turn a profit.
Don’t expect to see The French Dispatch coming direct-to-home, either, for much the same reason we gave with Death on the Nile. It’s guaranteed a certain amount of money from filmmaker Wes Anderson’s hardcore fans in theaters, but it might not find them — or they might not respond as well to it — at home.
Out beyond this — who knows? We could make some wild guesses, but as we get further and further from the start of the pandemic, people’s patience, the market’s needs, and other factors will begin to have an outsized impact on exhibiting…unless there continues to be a persistent public health crisis with thousands of deaths a week. If that keeps up, it’s impossible to know whether the calendar will start to look “normal” before the end of the year at all.
Justin Morgan helped bring TeslaBel from a weekly newsletter to a full-fledged news site by creating a new website and branding. He continues to assist in keeping the site responsive and well organized for the readers. As a contributor to TeslaBel, Justin mainly covers mobile news and gadgets.