Paramount Pictures pushes the release of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ to May.
Maverick is disengaging.
Paramount Pictures on Wednesday scrapped a plan to release a much-anticipated “Top Gun” sequel in theaters in November, citing uncertainty about the willingness of moviegoers to brave the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus, particularly overseas.
“Top Gun: Maverick,” with Tom Cruise returning to the rebel fighter pilot role that made him a superstar, was rescheduled for theatrical release in May.
To make room, Paramount pushed back the release of “Mission: Impossible 7,” another sequel starring Mr. Cruise, from May to September 2022. Paramount also removed “Jackass Forever” from its fall release calendar.
Theater owners were counting on “Top Gun: Maverick” to help salvage their year, which has been filled with one pandemic-related setback after another. Several movies scheduled for the summer were rerouted to streaming services or made available simultaneously in theaters and online, cannibalizing ticket sales. North American multiplexes have sold about $1.9 billion in tickets this year, compared with $7.7 billion for the same period in 2019. (Many theaters were closed for most of 2020.)
Just last week, theater owners gathered for a convention in Las Vegas and used the moment as a type of pep rally: The big screen is back. Paramount even showed 13 minutes of “Top Gun: Maverick” to attendees.
Other studios may follow Paramount. The biggest movies that remain pointed toward exclusive theatrical releases in 2021 are “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (Sony), “Eternals” (Marvel-Disney), “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (Sony), “No Time to Die” (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), “West Side Story” (Disney) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Sony).
Studios have been paying close attention to moviegoer surveys by National Research Group, a film consultancy. On July 11, about 81 percent of American ticket buyers said they felt comfortable (“very or somewhat”) sitting in a movie theater. By late August, with the Delta variant surging, only about 67 percent said they felt comfortable.
Mothers have been particularly reticent, surveys have shown, imperiling movies aimed at families. As a result, studios have been trying to figure out what to do with films like “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” which Paramount pulled from its fall release calendar on Aug. 4, and “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania,” which Sony is selling to Amazon for streaming.
“The business has what it takes to recover, but as long as Covid persists, moviegoing will remain sluggish,” David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, wrote in a recent client note.
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