THB #183: Revisiting The 2020 COVID Movies
Almost 2 full years ago (July 23, 2020), I wrote a Movie City News piece on the movies expected to be released in 2020 that were beached by COVID, their futures unknown. Now, as we are at the end of the list of those films (3 left, by my count), I thought it would be a good time to take a look at what happened to them all.
My first grouping was “The Untouchables,” 18 movies that I felt were too big to just stream.
It turned out that 4 of the movies were determined by their production entities to be just small enough to just stream:
Coming To America 2, sold to Amazon by Paramount, released March 2021
Connected, sold to Netflix by Sony Animation, titled changed to The Mitchells vs The Machines, released April 2021
Soul, pushed to Disney+ for Christmas 2020, winner of 2 Oscars
Mulan, pushed to Disney+ for Christmas 2020
Of the other 14, 10 had theatrical-first releases and 4 had combined theatrical/streaming releases.
Black Widow - $184m domestic - $380m worldwide
3 of the titles were part of Project Popcorn, Warner’s failed effort to make day-n-date work for theatrical/streaming, launching theatrically and on HBO Max same day.
Wonder Woman 1984 - $47m domestic - $170m worldwide
The Conjuring 3 - $66m domestic - $206m worldwide
Dune - $108m domestic - $402m worldwide
The Theatricals (in order of eventual release) -
Tenet - $59m domestic - $307m worldwide
The Croods 2 - $59m domestic - $216m worldwide
A Quiet Place II - $160m domestic - $297m worldwide
Free Guy - $122m domestic - $332m worldwide
No Time To Die - $160m domestic - $774m worldwide
The Last Duel - $11m domestic - $31m worldwide
Eternals - $165m domestic - $402m worldwide
West Side Story - $39m domestic - $76m worldwide
The King’s Man - $37m domestic - $126m worldwide
Top Gun Maverick- $586m domestic - $1,131m worldwide
There were 37 other titles in the piece. 19 of them ended up with some kind of theatrical release. 18 of them ended up going direct to streaming, whether a streamer or in a straight VOD release.
In this group, Universal and Focus had 8 of the theatrical releases, using their shortened window formula (355, Candyman, Land, Let Him Go, News of The World, Promising Young Woman, The Sparks Brothers, and Stillwater). Candyman was the Universal high grosser with $77m worldwide and Promising Young Woman led for Focus with $17m worldwide.
Disney had 5 Fox-inherited titles in this group, selling Everybody’s Talking About Jamie to Amazon for a streaming-only release and putting Deep Water onto Hulu without a theatrical. The other 3 titles - Death on the Nile, The New Mutants, and The Empty Man - all got dumped theatrically, by contractual obligation. D’Nile was the only title that got out of 2020, to 2022, where it did an unimpressive $46m domestic, but turned profitable with an added $92 million overseas.
Searchlight, under Disney, released 4 of the 5 titles it had in the hopper back then, Taika Waiiti’s Next Goal Wins still awaiting a date more specific than “2023.” The movie was apparently completed in 2021. Nomadland stuck to its 2020 release and took home the Oscar. The Personal History of David Copperfield didn’t do as well in that summer of 2020. The Eyes of Tammy Faye waited for September 2021, when no one saw it in theaters ($2.7m worldwide), but ended up winning an Oscar for Jessica Chastain. The French Dispatch waited until October 2021 and didn’t do normal Wes biz, but did do $46m worldwide.
Sony had 3 movies in this category and sold 2 to streaming… Happiest Season to Hulu and Cinderella to Amazon. They did release Peter Rabbit 2 theatrically in June 2021 domestically… meh box office here. Internationally, it did $113 million, which was closer to the first film in the franchise, but still only about half of the first.
Sony Classics released its two titles theatrically, The Father and The Duke (which they picked up after July 2020).
A24 pushed 2 of its titles to streaming-only, Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks and the Ilana Glazer thriller, False Positive. They held Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon for award season November 2021… but didn’t get much business ($4.1m worldwide) or the award attention it deserved.
Paramount released on title theatrically, Clifford The Big Red Dog ($107m worldwide), and dumped another to Paramount+, Rumble.
MGM released Respect pretty much on schedule, in August 2021. $24m domestic, $32m worldwide.
There were 7 movies on the list in July 2020 that didn’t have distribution at the time, but were expected as or discussed as 2020 releases. 3 of them ended up with small theatricals: After We Collided (Kumble, Open Road), The Tax Collector (Ayer, RLJE), and The Water Man (Oyelowo, RLJE). Todd Haynes’ doc The Velvet Underground was picked up by AppleTV+ for streaming release only.
Still unreleased are:
Kilroy Was Here - being released at ComicCon next week as an NFT movie.
Blonde - headed to Netflix as their first NC-17 rated release.
The Good House - an Amblin movie that is now scheduled for September w/ Lionsgate
2021 had its own issues, not so much focused on holds.
There were only 93 wide releases (over 1000 screens) in 2021. Only 26 films grossed $50 million domestically. Half of them grossed over $100 million.
Only 4 of the $50m+ domestic grossers were not franchise, reboot or major IP-based (House of Gucci, Raya & The Last Dragon, Encanto, Free Guy). Only one of those, Free Guy, passed $100 million.
Disney, which led with 8 domestic releases grossing over $50 million, released 4 films with strings to D+ and 4 without. 3 of the 4 without strings passed $100m domestic (Shang-Chi, Eternals, Free Guy), with (the mishandled) Encanto at $96 million.
Of the Disney releases with strings, Jungle Cruise and Black Widow did over $100m domestic, while Cruella ($86m) and Raya & The Last Dragon ($55m) did not.
But that is another column…
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