How coronavirus transformed the summer blockbuster movie season

Breath of fresh air.
Breath of fresh air.
Image: Warner Bros.
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From mid-March until recently, most movie theaters around the world were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cinemas in the United States and other countries are cautiously beginning to reopen this month, but not until after the theatrical releases of the vast majority of Hollywood summer movies were delayed. Those that weren’t postponed were forced to find other types of distribution outside of theaters, including digital rental and straight-to-streaming. Some have yet to find new release dates at all.

Now that the dust is settling, Quartz compared what the 2020 summer blockbuster calendar should have looked like to what it is now with all the postponements. Here is the amended 2020 summer movie schedule, with all important changes noted:

A handful of big movies—namely Christopher Nolan’s Tenet—still plan to come out on their original dates. Virtually ever other major film that was meant to be released this summer has moved to either later in the summer, the fall, or, in several cases, into 2021. For instance, F9—the highly anticipated ninth installment of the Fast & Furious saga—was delayed nearly an entire year, to April 2021.

On the flip side, Disney decided to move up the release of its Hamilton film adaptation by more than a year to July, to give those stuck at home something else to watch on the company’s new streaming service, Disney+. (Hamilton was originally supposed to be released in theaters in 2021.)

Most surveys suggest filmgoers are willing to returning to theaters when they reopen, as long as they implement certain health precautions, like reduced capacity. Theater chains say they can still turn a profit with fewer attendees—but no one really knows yet how many viewers will actually show up.

The first big test for Hollywood and the post-coronavirus theater system is Tenet, which has steadfastly kept its July 17 release date. The Tenet crowds—or lack thereof—should give us some idea of how many tickets studios and theaters should expect to sell for the rest of the summer.

Even in the best case scenario, attendance will likely be far lower than normal. But that’s still better than no attendance at all, which is what Hollywood has had to grapple with for nearly three months in the middle of its most lucrative season of the year.