Movie studios prepare for audiences to head back to theaters

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Universal announced “F9” will be cruising into theaters in June 2021, rather than May. As vaccines roll out and theaters begin to reopen, studios are trying to decide when to release big movies. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

With vaccines rolling out and business reopenings on the horizon, heads of movie studios are making it clear they have not given up on theaters. Several studios have now announced big theatrical releases in May and June, and have said that while exclusive theatrical windows may be shortening, they’re not ditching them altogether. 

Universal moved its next “Fast and Furious” film, “F9,” from May to June, while Disney is holding on to two May release dates for “Black Widow” in early May and “Cruella” over Memorial Day weekend.  

In a show of optimism, Sony moved its “Peter Rabbit” sequel up a month from June to May.  

For now, Warner Bros. is still putting all its 2021 movies on HBO Max the same day they open in theaters. The recent release “Tom & Jerry” did better in theaters than anticipated, even though the film was also available to stream on HBO Max. That suggests that people are so desperate to go out and do something that they may be willing to go to a movie theater, even if a film is available to stream at home. This could especially be the case for kids’ movies, where parents are eager to find ways to keep kids occupied outside of the home. 

Streaming will still play a huge role in film releases going forward, especially for smaller movies that want to reach a global audience right away. But for studios looking for the next breakout hit like “Joker” or even the surprise start of a franchise like with “A Quiet Place,” they’re depending on the buzz and word of mouth that for now can only come from a theatrical release.

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Kim Masters

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Kaitlin Parker