After a knockout Easter weekend for monster mashup “Godzilla vs. Kong,” whose domestic opening surpassed VIP’s own data-backed projection that the film would set a pandemic record, some studios are showing optimism.
On Friday, Sony moved up sequels to “Peter Rabbit” and “Hotel Transylvania,” which will now hit theaters earlier in the summer than intended, and Universal pulled a similar move for its final “Purge” film.
But Paramount acted differently, notably delaying tentpoles from Tom Cruise as it shifted other titles. Originally slated for July, “Top Gun: Maverick” was moved to the date occupied by the seventh “Mission: Impossible” film, which is now set for a May 2022 release.
With just seven films left on its 2021 slate, Paramount is lagging behind major studio competitors.
Likewise, Paramount is also the only major studio that has yet to release anything in 2021, with its “A Quiet Place” sequel set to kick things off at the end of May, where it was previously moved up from a September release.
With such a diminished slate to contend with and no gross to show as of yet, it makes sense Paramount would want to prioritize and maximize the best box-office scenario possible for its breadwinning Tom Cruise tentpoles.
Even with its rebranded streaming service Paramount+ having launched in March, the studio has sold a variety of films to multiple streaming services since the start of the pandemic, with just one “SpongeBob” sequel originally set for 2020 and an untitled “Paranormal Activity” reboot the only scheduled releases diverted to its own streamer from theaters, among other titles in development from the Paramount Players label.
“Without Remorse” is a high-octane actioner starring Michael B. Jordan that could have filled seats in theaters, while “Coming 2 America” saw Eddie Murphy reprise his role from the classic 1988 hit comedy of (almost) the same name. Plus, Paramount also lost the potential gross of Chris Pratt vehicle “The Tomorrow War,” which producer Skydance sold to Amazon in lieu of a planned release through the studio this July.
If Paramount elected to part ways with such films starring A-list talent, rather than let them populate a 2021 slate coming out of the latter stage of the pandemic or use them to beef up content on Paramount+, it’s apparent getting some immediate cash for these films was more important than moving them up the calendar alongside the Cruise titles, the latter delays of which demonstrate how seriously Paramount is taking its best fare.
Furthermore, delaying “Mission: Impossible 7” also means it will take longer for that film to make its way to Paramount+, per the studio’s new windowing deal with exhibitors that allows titles to leave theaters after 30 or 45 days, depending on how well they perform.
While Disney CEO Bob Chapek has attested to the film-releasing flexibility afforded by the success of Disney+, where the company plans to drop “Cruella” and “Black Widow” day-and-date with theaters, it’s obvious the pandemic has taken a tougher toll on Paramount.
Even as tentpoles such as “F9” (June 25), “Black Widow” (July 9) and “Jungle Cruise” (July 30) could help usher in a grand return to cinemas this summer amid the nation’s strong vaccination effort, it appears Paramount’s biggest blockbusters have to sit the summer out.
UPDATED, April 16, 12:43 p.m. PT: A passage erroneously referring to Paramount as the seller of “The Tomorrow War” has been amended, and extra information regarding developing film projects for Paramount+ originally set for release through Paramount Pictures has been added.
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