Sony delays almost entire movie slate to 2021, proving studios are still committed to theaters

Still from Sony’s “Ghostbusters Afterlife.”


Nearly every Sony Pictures title due out in 2020 has been pushed to next year in the wake of the global coronavirus outbreak. 

On Monday, the company announced it would debut “Morbius,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Uncharted” and “Peter Rabbit 2” in 2021. Theaters across the U.S. and internationally have shuttered and intend to remain closed for at least the next two months, if not later into the summer.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which was slated for July 20, will now arrive in theaters on March 5, 2021. “Morbius” has been pushed from July 31 to March 19, 2021. “Peter Rabbit 2” which had already been moved once from April to August is now set for Jan. 15, 2021.

The video game adaptation of “Uncharted” has also been displaced from its March 5, 2021 date to Oct. 8, 2021 and an untitled Marvel/Sony movie has been delayed from that Oct. 8 date and is now undated.

The only exception is the Kevin Hart drama “Fatherhood,” which was initially set to arrive in January 2021. It has been moved to Oct. 23, 2020. The Tom Hanks’ World War II drama “Greyhound” has been taken off the schedule from its June release and has not been assigned a new date.

Sony’s decisions suggest that studios do not expect theaters to be open again until mid-summer, and underscore that they are still committed to theatrical releases.

So far, only two movies have decided to go straight to on-demand instead of going to theaters — Universal’s “Trolls World Tour” and Paramount Pictures “Lovebirds.” “Trolls World Tour” was originally going to be simultaneously released in theaters and at home before all theaters were shuttered.

It’s not too surprising that studios are sticking with theaters. Last year, the North American movie theater industry took in $15 billion in revenue, a combination of around $11 million in ticket sales and $4 billion in concessions. 

While the 2020 box office is now expected to be down more than 24% to $8.6 billion, according to Wedbush estimates, it remains a financially viable investment for studios.

Just look at Disney-produced films that were released last year. The company rang up more than $11.26 billion in ticket sales at the global box office, $2.8 billion of that came from “Avengers: Endgame.” And that doesn’t include the features from Fox, which it had recently acquired.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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