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Disney (DIS) Postpones Black Widow, Marvel Lineup to 2021

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Disney’s (DIS - Free Report) Marvel fans will have to wait a bit longer for upcoming superhero movies such as the Black Widow and Eternals as the company again pushed back their release dates. This marks the first time since 2009 that a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie hasn’t been released in a calendar year.

Disney has updated its release calendar to factor in the continued uncertainty over the reopening of theaters in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Studio Entertainment business is expected to suffer delayed releases. In third-quarter fiscal 2020, Studio Entertainment segment (14.8% of revenues) revenues decreased 54.7% to $1.74 billion.

Further, the timeline by which film and content production can resume is uncertain. Despite a healthy portfolio of new releases, the lack of visibility poses a challenge to Studio business.

The Walt Disney Company Price and Consensus

Disney Shakes Up Marvel Slate

Set to debut on Nov 6, Black Widow starring Scarlett Johansson reportedly will now open on May 7, 2021. Due to the interconnected nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow’s move has shifted back other instalments in the superhero franchise.

Eternals, a comic book adventure about a super-powered alien race, will debut on Nov 5, 2021. It was previously dated for Feb 12, 2021.

Meanwhile, Legend of the Ten Rings and Shang Chi, Marvel’s first film with an Asian lead, both have moved from May 7, 2021 to Jul 9, 2021.

Moreover, Disney has postponed the release of other fall blockbusters by several months. West Side Story, which marks Spielberg’s first foray into musicals, was expected to be a key Academy Awards contender, which has been postponed by a year to Dec 10, 2021 instead of Dec 18, 2020.

Additionally, Death on the Nile — a follow-up to 2017’s box office hit Murder on the Orient Express — will now release on Dec 18, 2020 instead of its original Oct 23 premiere.

Meanwhile, Deep Water, Adrian Lyne’s thriller with Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas will no longer open on Nov. 13, 2020. It will instead debut on Aug 13, 2021.

Dull Consumer Turnout: A Potent Challenge

Nearly 70% of movie theaters in North America resumed operations in recent weeks, with many timing their re-openings to the release of Tenet, the sci-fi thriller from AT&T’s (T - Free Report) Warner Bros.

Theaters remain closed in Los Angeles and New York, the two largest movie-going hubs in the United States while big chains including AMC Entertainment (AMC - Free Report) and Cineworld Plc's Regal Cinemas have reopened in other U.S. cities.

According to a survey conducted by Morning Consult, 77% and 76% of respondents in Los Angeles and New York City said they are not comfortable returning to a movie theater.

A number of movies have been postponed following the release of Tenet, including Comcast (CMCSA - Free Report) owned Universal’s horror thriller Candyman into 2021 and STX’s disaster film Greenland with Gerard Butler.

While the Pixar release Soul remains on the calendar for late November release, two films will actually bow earlier in the schedule. The Empty Man, a horror film with James Badge Dale, will be released on Oct 23 instead of Dec 4. Moreover, The King’s Man, previously dated on Feb. 26, 2021, will move ahead two weeks to Feb. 12.

Few other blockbusters left on this year's include James Bond movie No Time to Die, due to debut on Nov. 20, and Wonder Woman 1984, which recently moved to Dec. 25 release.

While movies like Hamilton and Artemis Fowl went to Disney+ as regular streaming exclusives, Disney also built a new Premier Access digital purchase shelf within Disney+ for Mulan. Disney+ subscribers could pay an additional $30 to buy Mulan — a $200 million blockbuster originally destined for theaters — on top of their $7 monthly Disney+ subscription fee to watch the movie.

Per Bloomberg, Mulan made only $6.5 million in its second weekend in mainland China, a big drop-off from its already lackluster $23.2 million opening weekend sales.

Mulan received weak response from streaming audiences as they had the option to wait until Dec 4 when Mulan would become free to all Disney+ subscribers upon the film’s theatrical release.

Disney’s release strategy follows Comcast’s Universal Studios, which made its Trolls World Tour film available online in April for a $20 fee.

With a release strategy to test whether streaming subscribers are willing to pay extra fees to purchase content, this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company might continue releasing more of their films on the platform due to the dull consumer response toward theatrical debut.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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