Few of us can recall when words like “Coming soon to a cinema near you” were not part of our cultural vocabulary. This significant difference a pandemic causes. The phrase “coming soon” now takes with it the ring of evasion, the threat of negotiated or broken promises following the postponement of numerous big-budget titles by a year or more. The tagline best sums up the mood for The Croods 2, one of the many films that may or may not open later this year amid the hokey-cokey of shifting release dates: “The future isn’t what it used to be.”
To understand how we got here, look at the fates of 2 films that did get released because of this pandemic. Following a stretched summer in which Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s live-action Mulan remake fought upon the coronavirus in a game of grandmother’s footsteps, both the films were finally launched using opposing methods.
“Warner Bros did a brave thing taking out Tenet at that very fraught time,” says Naman Ramachandran, an international correspondent at Variety magazine. “It sent a positive wibe to the exhibition sector as a whole.” On the other hand, Disney released Mulan on its streaming service Disney+, where it came with a significant price tag along with subscription fees. Cinemas launched it only in territories where Disney+ is not possible.
“My opinion is that Disney should have launched Mulan in cinemas also,” adds Ramachandran. “There was a requirement for it and it would have kept the theatrical chains happy.” As it looks, no one is not the exhibitors who missed out on an event movie, nor Disney, who won’t be thrilled if the mediocre streaming audience estimates are correct.
Mulan’s failure and Tenet’s under-performance in the US have had a destructive effect on other big releases. The most significant development arrived at the weekend when the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, was retarded yet again, this time to April 2021, a whole year on from its initial launch date. Its initial seven-month postponement to November had seemed reasonable at the start of the pandemic; this one, coming when cinemas are in danger, feels anxious.