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Hollywood’s lost summer is beginning to look like a lost year

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AN outdoor ad for Disney’s Mulan in Hollywood on March 13. — BLOOMBERG

HOLLYWOOD’S summer blockbuster season is a bust. And the rest of the year isn’t looking much better.

After months of incrementally delaying the release of big-budget movies, studios are now pulling them off the schedule altogether — or pushing them well into 2021. That’s put the already-shaky reopening plans of US cinema chains in doubt.

In the latest steps, Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures and ViacomCBS, Inc.’s Paramount Pictures late Thursday delayed their next Spider-Man and Top Gun films, which had already been pushed out of summer. That came hours after Walt Disney Co. slapped an open-ended postponement on one of the last potential August tentpoles, the live-action remake of Mulan.

Wall Street has taken notice. Disney, a former high-flier, fell as much as 2.2% in New York trading Friday and is down 19% for the year. That compares with a 48% gain for Netflix, Inc., which has benefited from captive quarantine audiences.

Imax Corp., the big-screen movie company, tumbled as much as 8.1% on Friday after Wedbush warned of long-term risks from the pandemic.

Sony is pushing back the release of the third Tom Holland-led Spider-Man by one month to Dec. 17 next year in the US, Variety reports. International release dates are still to be confirmed.

Paramount Pictures is delaying the Top Gun sequel, Top Gun Maverick from Dec. 23 to July 1, 2021. A Quiet Place Part II, starring Emily Blunt, has been pushed back from Sept. 4 to April 23 next year according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The postponement of film releases has created a ripple effect that will last years. With the 2021 slate getting too crowded, Disney delayed the first of several planned Avatar sequels a year from its December 2021 target date. It also shoved the next Star Wars movie from December 2022 to the following year.

Just as studios depend on robust box-office grosses to make profits on movies that can cost more than $200 million, theater chains need the crowds that those movies draw to survive in what’s a barely profitable business at the best of times.

With film slates waning, AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc., the world’s largest cinema chain, this week delayed the reopening of its US locations to mid-to-late August from July 30. After the Mulan cancellation — which followed the indefinite delay of Tenet, from AT&T, Inc.’s Warner Bros. — the chains might well scuttle their returns yet again.

The exhibitors have suffered even more than studios, with AMC down 44% this year, Cinemark Holdings, Inc. down 64% and Regal parent Cineworld Group Plc down 79%. — Bloomberg





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