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Disney delays ‘Mulan’ indefinitely. AMC pushes back reopening again

AMC's Studio 30 theater in Olathe, Kan.
AMC’s Studio 30 theater in Olathe, Kan.
(Associated Press / Orlin Wagner)

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest cinema owner, is delaying the reopening of its domestic locations again, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to scramble plans for film industry’s recovery.

The Leawood, Kan.-based exhibitor, owned by China’s Dalian Wanda Group, on Thursday that said it currently plans to reopen its U.S. movie theaters in “mid to late August.”

Also on Thursday, Walt Disney Co. delayed the release of the highly anticipated live-action remake of “Mulan,” which was expected to debut on Aug. 21 after previous delays. The studio did not give a new date for the big-budget film.

“Over the last few months, it’s become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis, and today that means pausing our release plans for ‘Mulan’ as we assess how we can most effectively bring this film to audiences around the world,” a Disney spokesman said in an emailed statement.

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The decisions came after Warner Bros. on Monday postponed the release of its Christopher Nolan film “Tenet,” a potential blockbuster, indefinitely, amid continued concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. The movie was expected to help kickstart the beleaguered U.S. movie business after months of being largely closed down.

This is not the first time AMC has changed plans. AMC, which operates about 630 theaters in the U.S., earlier delayed plans to open its doors until July 30, after previously targeting July 15.

“This new timing reflects currently expected release dates for much anticipated blockbusters like Warner Bros.’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan, as well as release dates for several other new movies coming to AMC’s big screens,” the company said in a statement.

AMC, which has about 1,000 theaters globally, has been closed in the U.S. since mid-March. The company, led by CEO Adam Aron, has laid off and furloughed thousands of employees and raised hundred of millions in financing to help it survive months of no revenue as it waits for new movies from Hollywood studios.

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Many analysts had speculated that Disney would pause “Mulan’s” release plans as coronavirus cases continue to rise in places including Los Angeles, which is the biggest domestic market for theatrical film. The movie was originally planned for March 27 and had already held its premiere in Los Angeles before theaters shuttered.

Disney said it is also delaying all of its scheduled “Star Wars” and “Avatar” movies by a year.

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In a recent note to clients, MKM Partners analyst Eric Handler said “it would be surprising to see theaters able to re-open nationwide before September, at the earliest.”

Warner Bros. this week said that it would disclose a new “Tenet” release date “imminently.” The AT&T-owned studio had first planned to put out the time-bending thriller on July 17, before rescheduling it for July 31 amid continued coronavirus concerns.

While some films have eschewed theaters and gone directly to streaming services during the public health crisis, that is highly unlikely to happen with “Tenet.” Nolan is a staunch advocate of the theatrical experience and penned a Washington Post op-ed advocating for the survival of the cinema.

Nonetheless, the theatrical rollout of “Tenet” will not look like the traditional studio plan. The film may debut in international countries before hitting American theaters, premiering first in places where the virus’ effects have been better mitigated.

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“We are not treating ‘Tenet’ like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that,” said Warner Bros. Pictures Group Chairman Toby Emmerich.

Theaters need new movies to recover from months of closures and minimal sales. Some U.S. theaters have opened by showing classic films and recent releases, including the Vin Diesel vehicle “Bloodshot,” but have struggled to draw audiences.

Abroad, however, AMC has already started its reopening.

“Approximately one-third of all AMC cinemas in Europe and the Middle East are already open and are operating normally,” the company said.


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