The studio also indefinitely pulled “In the Heights” — an adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical that was due out June 26 — as well as “Scoob” — an animated film based on “Scooby-Doo” characters set for May 15. “Malignant,” a thriller from “Aquaman” director James Wan, was originally scheduled to open on Aug. 14, but was bumped for “Wonder Woman 1984.” Those three movies remain undated for now.
“When we greenlit ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ it was with every intention to be viewed on the big screen and are excited to announce that Warner Bros. Pictures will be bringing the film to theatres on Aug. 14,” Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman, said in a statement. “We hope the world will be in a safer and healthier place by then.”
The delays were inevitable as multiplexes across the country remain closed to help halt the spread of the novel virus. Warner Bros. was always committed to debuting its “Wonder Woman” sequel in cinemas, and the studio felt it was realistic for theaters to be up and running again by August. Warner Bros. is now looking for new times to release “In the Heights,” “Scoob” and “Malignant.”
As Hollywood continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis and its impact on the entertainment business, studios have been busy postponing major movies en masse. It’s a growing list that includes Disney’s “Black Widow” and “Mulan,” Universal’s “Fast & Furious” entry “Fast 9,” MGM’s James Bond follow-up “No Time to Die” and Paramount’s “A Quiet Place” sequel.
Until now, studios delayed tentpoles through May, but stopped short of pulling summer releases. Universal’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” had been the one exception — the animated sequel was previously set to release in July but was indefinitely postponed because Illumination’s studio closures in France meant the movie wouldn’t be completed in time. “Wonder Woman 1984” and “In the Heights” delays are the first real sign that Hollywood expects theaters could still be dark in June.
Movie theaters nationwide closed their doors last week, and there’s a mounting sense of uncertainty over when venues might be able to turn their lights back on. AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest chain, estimated its locations could remain shuttered for six to 12 weeks starting in mid-March. Other major circuits like Regal, Cinemark, Alamo Drafthouse and Arclight didn’t offer up timeframes.
Popcorn season, the exhibition industry’s nickname for the high-trafficked stretch between May and August, could be entirely upended if quarantine efforts extend longer than anticipated and studios continue to pull major movies. That would further devastate the film business since summer months tend to generate a large chunk of the year’s overall revenues.
When theaters do eventually reopen, it’s unclear how eager audiences will be to return to a darkened room packed with strangers. If China is any indication, business could start off slow as moviegoers get re-accustomed to doing public activities. More than 500 cinemas in China have commenced operation again as coronavirus outbreaks in the country begin to recede, but box office receipts are still cratering.
Warner Bros. was particularly cautious when it came to setting a new release date for “Wonder Woman 1984” because it is expected to be one of the highest-grossing movies of the year. It carries a hefty budget above $180 million, so outsized box office ticket sales are essential for the film to turn a profit.
Since “Wonder Woman 1984” wasn’t going to hit the big screen for another two months, the studio hadn’t gotten to the bulk of its promotional efforts yet. However, one of the most effective marketing tactics for studios is having trailers play in theaters before other releases. That can’t happen, of course, unless multiplexes are open.
“Wonder Woman 1984” is a sequel to 2017’s “Wonder Woman,” DC’s first standalone movie to spotlight a female superhero. The first film earned $821 million globally, and became a massive critical and commercial success.
The follow-up, again directed by Patty Jenkins, follows Gal Gadot’s Amazonian warrior in the Reagan era as she battles two formidable foes — Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) — while reuniting with her past love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). The cast also includes Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen.
“In the Heights,” starring “Hamilton” alum Anthony Ramos and directed by “Crazy Rich Asians” filmmaker Jon M. Chu, was also expected to be a buzzy draw in theaters over the summer. Miranda’s slice-of-life musical centers on a largely Hispanic community in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.
“We had the best summer of our lives filming ‘In the Heights’ movie last year,” Miranda wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “We couldn’t wait to share it with you. But we’re going to have to wait a little longer. When we can safely gather again, flags in hand, we will be there, enjoying this movie in theaters.”