Walt Disney Co. is making massive changes to its movie-release schedule, including canceling the planned August release of “Mulan,” as the coronavirus pandemic continues to roil Hollywood.
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Disney said on Thursday it is not only forgoing its planned Aug. 21 premiere of the live-action remake of the animated classic, but is also delaying the release of future installments in the “Avatar” and “Star Wars” series by a year. While “Mulan” doesn’t yet have a new date, Disney said it was moving its next “Avatar” and “Star Wars” movies by around a year each, to 2022 and 2023, respectively.
Hollywood studios have been forced in recent months into a game of wait and see as the effects of the coronavirus upend plans to reopen the economy. This is the third time Disney has had to change its release plans for “Mulan.” However, this is the first time Disney canceled one date without providing a new one.
“Over the last few months, it’s become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis,” said a Disney spokesperson by email.
Similar delays at other major Hollywood studios have already forced exhibitors such as AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. to postpone their scheduled reopenings. No major release is now on the calendar until early September, and some exhibitors consider that to be overly optimistic, making it unclear when consumers might return to auditoriums. Some Hollywood executives privately say they don’t expect major releases to come out until at least 2021.
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Earlier this week AT&T Inc.’s Warner Bros. delayed its coming science-fiction thriller “Tenet” indefinitely. The studio is expected to select a new date soon, and when it does, it is likely the $200 million film will open first overseas and then domestically, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The calendar reshuffling changes nearly a decade’s worth of release plans Disney had set for two of its most vital franchises.
Four sequels to “Avatar,” James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster, were moved back a year, meaning “Avatar 2” will premiere in 2022 and “Avatar 5” in 2028. Disney acquired the franchise in its 2019 purchase of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox.