Yesterday served as a potent reminder that the current film release schedule is not so much a strong edifice—upon which a multi-billion dollar industry might comfortably rest—as it is a wobbly structure of gelatin and porcelain, just waiting for someone to haphazardly Mr. Bean into it at a moment’s notice. That became all too clear after Warner Bros. revealed that, actually, now that it’s thinking about it, maybe Christopher Nolan’s Tenet won’t risk potential box office ruin/pandemic super-spreader status by being the first summer blockbuster to open on schedule, on July 17. And while the film technically only dropped back two weeks, the ripples quickly fanned out, starting with Warner Bros.’ next big release, Wonder Woman 1984, and just sort of spreading out from there.
For instance: That Wonder Woman move, which sees the sequel now set for October 2, then caused Universal to adjust its schedule, moving the “Tom Hanks teaches a robot to love his dog” film (yes, really) Bios off that date. Meanwhile, Bill And Ted Face The Music has moved up a week, to August 14, taking the spot that Wonder Woman vacated. Universal and MGM also took this opportunity to move up the Daniel Craig Bond film No Time To Die, one of the first casualties of the COVID-19 theater closures, by five days, dropping it directly opposite Disney’s Soul, on November 20. That moves it off of its previous resting spot on the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, possibly to give the movie time to build up steam before the holiday.
While all that was happening, Warner Bros. continued to tinker its schedule throughout Friday night, moving The Matrix 4 back to Spring 2022 (from a previous May 21, 2021 release), moving Robert Zemeckis’ The Witches reboot off the schedule entirely, and bumping its Tom And Jerry animated feature back by several months. Oh, and Godzilla! Can’t forget Godzilla: Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong, which Warner Bros. is distributing, has been moved back to The Matrix’s old spot (May 21, 2021), presumably because it doesn’t want to have to battle it out with James Bond and Pixar on that now very-crowded November 20.
And hey, here’s the thing: All of this high-power cinematic maneuvering? It might be completely and utterly meaningless, because nobody knows if movie theaters will even be open by the time any of these dates arrive. After all, nobody wants to be the studio who spent $200 million (the low estimate on Tenet’s budget) on a movie, only for it to flop because COVID-19 rates started spiking again a week before its release. And so all of these schedules have essentially become the world’s most expensive, massively argued-over sand castles. And sure, you could argue that, by finally fulfilling the promise of a third Bill And Ted movie, Hollywood has already satisfied its reason for existence, and we can all call the whole thing off as a job well done. But the film still has to come out, damn it, and even with these hypothetical new dates, we’ve honestly got no clue when that actually might be.