Pandemic Continues to Postpone Tentpole Films, Suppressing Revenues


“Dune,” initially scheduled for release on Nov. 20, 2020, was pushed back to Dec. 18, 2020 and then Oct. 1, 2021. (Courtesy: Warner Bros. Pictures)

By Cade Anderson, Arts Writer


When the COVID-19 pandemic first took hold of the U.S. back in early March, it made sense that theaters shut down and film projects come to a screeching halt. But few moviegoers had expected to still be experiencing such a setback now, over half a year later. Initially, hopes were high that we could be comfortably back in theaters by now, but a void of responsible government leadership — including Gov. Herbert’s and Lt. Gov. Cox’s lack of involvement as well as President Trump’s trivialization of the virus and efforts against stimulus money — has kept that a pipe dream.

Although many major theater chains have reopened with new safety protocols and restricted seating capacities, the threat of the coronavirus persists. Many viewers still don’t feel safe sitting indoors with a group of people when it’s not necessary to do so, especially in states like Utah where COVID-19 infections are higher now than they were in the spring. As a result,  


I was let down but not shocked by the recent delay of Denis Villeneuve’s highly-anticipated sci-fi thriller “Dune” from this December all the way up to Oct. 1, 2021. Comic book superhero fans were saddened to see the pushback of “The Batman” from June 25, 2021, to Mar. 4, 2022 as well as “Black Widow” from May 1, 2020, to May 7, 2021. 

Cary Joji Fukunaga’s James Bond film “No Time to Die” has been pushed from this November to Apr. 2, 2021, Jordan Peele’s slasher film “Candyman” from June 12, 2020, to an unspecified date in 2021 and the sequel to James Cameron’s “Avatar” from Dec. 17, 2021, to Dec. 16, 2022. But since “Avatar 2” was also officially slated for release in 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2020, I doubt many, aside from a niche fanbase of the blue people, had their hearts set on this one in particular.

Eager moviegoers should treat these dates lightly, as most film release predictions have shifted several times this year alone. A comprehensive list of films postponed due to the pandemic, including their current release dates, can be found here

A Suffering Industry

While all these delays could mean increased time spent on post-production and marketing, the absence of blockbusters in 2020 is a crushing blow to the film industry. Small, local theaters are struggling to stay in business while dominant streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ are absorbing much of this displaced ticket revenue. Time will tell how this economic imbalance will play out after the pandemic — but for now, independent cinema non-profits like The Salt Lake Film Society are exploring creative solutions. You can check out their website here for the latest information on drive-in showings and online streaming. 

The day when I can safely take myself on a movie date still feels so far away. Of course, there are far more grave concerns in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, but film is deeply important, both culturally and economically. The survival of the classic theater experience as we know it depends upon individuals wearing masks and only gathering in small groups — as well as more empathy and trust in science from our state and federal government.


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