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On March 4, MGM's James Bond film No Time to Die became the first Hollywood tentpole in the COVID-19 era to delay its theatrical release.

The 25th installment in the storied spy franchise moved from early April to Thanksgiving. At the time, the decision seemed drastic — theaters were still open in the U.S. and the World Health Organization hadn't declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic — but it proved to be a bellwether of the coming chaos.

Theaters in the U.S. soon shuttered (cinemas in China, where the pandemic began, had gone dark in late January). Studios rushed to rearrange their slates in what has been the biggest disruption to the release calendar in Hollywood history. The migration, which is ongoing, will have implications for years to come and will make 2021 particularly crowded. Choosing a movie's date is a vital part of the process. It's common for the fiercely competitive studios to select a date two to three years out for their bigger films — and sometimes even farther into the future.

No one could have imagined the calendar carnage as theaters remain closed amid a devastating surge in cases across the U.S. and in some overseas territories. On July 24, Disney said it was taking tentpole Mulan off the calendar and pushing back its Avatar and Star Wars films by a year, through 2028 (Avatar 2 moves from December 2021 to December 2022). A few days earlier, Warner Bros. had likewise removed Christopher Nolan's Tenet before announcing that the tentpole will begin an overseas rollout Aug. 26, followed by select U.S. cities Sept. 3. Paramount made a major announcement July 24, saying it was pushing marquee titles A Quiet Place Part II from Labor Day to April and Top Gun: Maverick from Christmas to June.

"We've never faced such uncertainty, which has resulted in the most fluid dating situation ever," says Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at Paramount. "The whole supply chain has been impacted."

Another top distribution executive was a little more colorful in his description of the complicated climate, saying, "It's like playing four-dimensional chess on acid."

Under normal circumstances, shifting the release date of a tentpole could signal that something is wrong with the movie. Mulan and Tenet eachhas moved no fewer than three times because of the pandemic. "This has upended everything we know about the sanctity of the release calendar," says Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore. "Release-date changes for huge movies have become commonplace and barely raise the blood pressure. Everyone has come to expect that everything is uncertain."

Sources say it was preferable to unschedule Tenet and Mulan for now instead of announcing new dates and having to move them again. "I think everything is in flux until Tenet goes," says Eric Handler, a Wall Street analyst with MKM Partners. "Other studios will watch to see how many people show up. That could cause some more delays."

Remaining 2020 tentpoles on the calendar include Wonder Woman 1984, Black Widow, No Time to Die, Free Guy and Steven Spielberg's West Side Story. Mulan's fate isn't yet clear.

Early in the pandemic, many 2020 event pics gave up on this year, including The Eternals, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, F9, Minions: Rise of Gru, In the Heights and Jungle Cruise, all of which are now set for the first three quarters of 2021. "Next year has become incredibly crowded, but we don't know if the films [set] toward the end of the year will be able to finish production," says Handler. "The clock is ticking with every day that goes by." With A Quiet Place Part II and Top Gun: Maverick now in the 2021 mix, competition will be even fiercer. Says Dergarabedian, "Next year is fast becoming a cage match."

Meanwhile, 2022 may not provide more breathing room: Besides Avatar 2, the next installments in the Thor, Doctor Strange and Indiana Jones franchises also have been pushed to that year. However, industry experts and studio execs expect that some smaller and midrange titles will continue to go straight to premium VOD or streaming in order to lighten the calendar.

And even big movies could see shorter runs; on July 28, mega-chain AMC Theatres said it will allow Universal titles to be made available on premium video-on-demand after just 17 days.

"There is going to be a redefinition of what is theatrical and what is not," says one top executive who's spending more time than ever reviewing slots. He says a proliferation of 2023 dates are being snatched up for untitled event films (think of it as insurance). Adds Handler, "It's a messy situation."

© Provided by The Hollywood Reporter

This story first appeared in the July 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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WWE Monday Night Raw: Raw Underground takes center stage

Shane McMahon, SmackDown commissioner and minority owner of WWE, raises the WWE World Cup trophy following the match as part of as part of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Crown Jewel pay-per-view at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh on November 2, 2018. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

WWE revealed a new style of fights of sorts with Raw Underground

There was something out Monday that sparked off a swath of rumors around the August 3 edition of Monday Night Raw. Expectations were set for a few different surprises and even that description was not enough to set the stage for what occurred.

The first match of the night brought out the rightful United States champion, Apollo Crews, who returned to television for the first time in a few weeks. He faced off against the man carrying the new edition of the US title, MVP.

The match started with both men exchange grappling techniques on the mat. Crews got the first advantage, finding a way to control the veteran in MVP. Crews’s advantage would not last once the Hurt Business got involved, helping swing the momentum toward their stable mate. MVP looked like he was on his way to a victory before he made a mistake that allowed for Crews to jump all over him. Crews would hit is sit-out power bomb to get the pin fall, walking out of the match with the legit US belt.

An impromptu women’s tag match broke out when Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott reunited to face the IIconics. The IIconics tried to single out Riott early in the match which was working. Once she created to separation to tag in Morgan, Morgan came in with a head full of steam aimed at both opponents. She would roll Billie Kay up for the victory roll, but the IIconics tried to jump her before she could celebrate. Riott ran in and saved Morgan from the attack, laying Kay out in the middle of the ring.

The 24/7 championship was up for grabs in a triple threat match. Shelton Benjamin defended his belt against Akira Tozawa and R-Truth, even though Truth tried to steal the title and run. It looked like Benjamin was going to keep his title, until Tozawa’s ninjas got involved. They would distract Benjamin and the rest of the Hurt Business long enough to allow Tozawa to hit his Senton Bomb from the top to pin Truth.

#WWERaw Womens Champion @SashaBanksWWE had quite the twist for @WWEAsuka on the road to #SummerSlam! pic.twitter.com/pF4qLKkjxr

— WWE (@WWE) August 4, 2020

Shayna Baszler made it clear that she is looking at Sasha Banks and the Raw women’s title is on her radar. For a minute it looked like Baszler was about to have her way with Banks, but thankfully Bayley was at ringside to help her best friend. Bayley’s presence would not benefit her at all when Asuka ran down to the ring to attack her, resulting in the referee ringing the bell to throw out the match.

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The Street Profits faced their SummerSlam challengers, Andrade, and Angel Garza, in a series of one-on-one matches. Garza had to deal with a massive size and strength advantage in his opponent’s favor. A momentary distraction that saw Montez Ford collapse at ring side allowed Garza to capitalize and get the victory.

Ford’s night was not over as he was up next in a singles match against Andrade. The story of the match was that Ford seemed “off” throughout the match, unable to get any real offense going. Andrade held the advantage for much of the match. That would be until Ford would go on a flurry of offense. But before things could materialize, he would collapse in the ring a second time, forcing the referee to call off the match.

#RawUnderground is under new management. #HurtBusiness#WWERaw @fightbobby pic.twitter.com/x6oXsxJumP

— WWE (@WWE) August 4, 2020

A new segment debuted during the show as Raw Underground put on an atmosphere right out of the 1988 cult classic, Bloodsport. DABBA-KATO made his first appearance on the WWE main roster and dispatched two men back to back in the first series of fights for the night. Erik from the Viking Raiders was the next man up in Raw Underground as he smashed another jobber in moments. Even Dolph Ziggler got in on the action as he choked another man to sleep. The big moment came when the Hurt Business walked in and established their dominance by beating up multiple people, before clearing the room out entirely.

With what seems to be a new segment and a refreshing air of unpredictability in tonight’s show, it seems like WWE Monday Night Raw is attempting to head in a new direction.

Next: WWE SmackDown: The Fiend attacks Alexa Bliss August 3 Monday Night Raw results
  • Apollo Crews defeated MVP to retain the United States title
  • Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan defeated the IIconics via pin fall
  • Akira Tozawa defeated Shelton Benjamin and R-Truth to win the 24/7 championship
  • Angel Garza defeated Angelo Dawkins via pin fall
  • Andrade versus Montez Ford ruled a no contest

 

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