Why Some Summer Blockbusters Won’t Be Coming To A Home Near You

May 16, 2020, 10:56 AM | Updated: Sep 5, 2022, 11:19 pm
Disney is releasing a live action version of "Mulan" in 2020. (Credit: Walt Disney Pictures)...
Disney is releasing a live action version of "Mulan" in 2020. (Credit: Walt Disney Pictures)
(Credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

(CNN) — With theaters closed because of coronavirus, studios are shifting all types of films to digital platforms. Yet one genre is largely missing from Hollywood’s digital revolution: blockbusters.

Not long after the crisis started, studios began announcing revised release dates that pushed their biggest franchises into late 2020, and in many instances well into 2021. While Universal irked theater owners by boasting about the on-demand returns from “Trolls World Tour,” those kinds of numbers aren’t enough to offset the money left on the table by forgoing a global theatrical launch.

That’s why films like “Black Widow,” “No Time to Die” and “F9” were delayed instead of released digitally. With no clear guidance about if, when or how theaters will reopen, could big films like “Mulan” or “Wonder Woman 1984” make the giant leap to digital?

Probably not, according to Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at

“Unless there is a drastic setback from current plans to gradually reopen cinemas, I wouldn’t bet on it,” Robbins said. “The blockbusters remaining on the schedule have too much dependency on box office revenue.”

Robbins added that a digital release could also “cannibalize the profits of a major title” via potential home video sales and global box office returns.

A summer movie season amid coronavirus

Keeping blockbusters on the big screen is sometimes about more than money, however.

For example, Warner Bros.’ “Tenet,” which is set to hit theaters on July 17, would undoubtedly do gangbusters on digital thanks to the name recognition alone of its director. Christopher Nolan’s films, which include hits such as “The Dark Knight” and “Inception,” have made more than $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office, according to Comscore.

Nolan is a staunch believer of the theatrical experience and likely would never allow his films to debut anywhere but the big screen. So if Warner Bros. wants to stay in the Christopher Nolan business, it has to stay in the movie theater business.

“Unless aliens possess his frontal lobe, Nolan will not cave to the cries of digital,” Jeff Bock, senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations, told CNN Business. “And if Warner Bros. decides digital is the right move, he’ll likely never work with them again.”

“Mulan,” which opens a week later on July 24, might also be an ideal candidate for a digital release, but it also comes with major hurdles for Disney.

The live-action remake of the 1998 animated classic would likely make millions of dollars via on-demand, and give a huge boost to Disney+ subscriber numbers at a time when Disney could use a big win.

But like “Tenet,” it’s unlikely “Mulan” makes a move to streaming or on-demand anytime soon.

The $200 million film has “too much global potential to skip a traditional release in theaters,” Robbins said. And with authorities reopening theaters in China, where the film’s story and characters are set, Disney has even more reasons to stay put and see what happens.

On top of all of that, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has said that the company believes in the “value of the theatrical experience overall for large blockbuster movies,” so it would be tough to reverse course.

Then, finally, there’s Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman 1984,” with its scheduled opening date of August 14. Like “Mulan,” the superhero sequel, projected to be one of the highest-grossing films of 2020, is just too big to bypass theaters.

“While I’m sure it would absolutely destroy digital record books, I think it still makes sense to play the wait and see game with this title,” Bock said.

Which summer movies could go to digital?

While major blockbusters are likely to stay in theaters, other summer films like “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” and “Bill & Ted Face the Music” could make their way to digital, according to Bock.

“We just don’t know at this point what the world will look like in June and July, but what we do know is if studios are planning to release these films in theaters, they’d have to begin advertising them right now,” Bock said. “That’s more money that they might be risking. That’s why these some of these films make a lot of sense going straight to digital.”

Warner Bros.’ “Scoob!” and Disney’s “Artemis Fowl” were all set to hit theaters this summer but are now heading directly to living rooms.

And Disney announced on Tuesday that it’s fast-tracking the premiere of the filmed version of the original Broadway production of “Hamilton.” It will now stream on Disney+ on July 3 rather than in theaters next year.

“With the uncertainty that lies ahead, studios are no doubt running alternative scenarios, crunching numbers and ultimately weighing the possibility of more films going to on-demand,” Bock said. “The pandemic will likely only streamline which films fit into that pipeline more and more going forward.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 09: A pharmacist prepares to administer  COVID-19 vaccine booster sho...
Jed Boal

University Health recommends getting omicron booster and flu shot now

The CDC approved the COVID-19 bivalent boosters that target the most recent omicron variants on September 1. Since then, tens of thousands of Utahns have rolled up their sleeves.
4 days ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
Jed Boal

Despite reaching 5,000 deaths, Utah’s COVID-19 numbers are down

The director of the World Health Organization said yesterday about COVID-19, “the end is in sight,” even if we are not there yet.
15 days ago
FILE PHOTO (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

WHO: COVID end ‘in sight,’ deaths at lowest since March 2020

The head of the World Health Organization says the number of coronavirus deaths last week was the lowest reported number in the pandemic since March 2020, marking what could be a turning point in the years-long global outbreak.
15 days ago
A school classroom with chairs and desks...
Brooke Williams

Project to provide air purifiers in Utah K-12 classrooms

Cleaner air improves student performance, decreases COVID transmission and school absenteeism. New project provides air purifiers for classrooms in Utah.
16 days ago
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 08: People walk by a closed store at a neighborhood designated as a medium-r...
Laura He, CNN Business

Zero- COVID-19 at what price? Chinese researchers are treading on sensitive ground

Authorities in Shanghai have denied a report by a leading Chinese real estate research firm that claimed more than a third of shops in a major mall had been shuttered because of strict COVID-19 curbs.
18 days ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
LAURA UNGAR AP Science Writer

Is COVID-19 winding down? Scientists say no

New booster shots have arrived and social distancing guidelines have eased but COVID-19 infections aren't going away anytime soon. Experts predict the scourge that's already lasted longer than the 1918 flu pandemic will linger far into the future as the virus continues to cause deaths and may well mutate or evolve into a new disease.
22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
Why Some Summer Blockbusters Won’t Be Coming To A Home Near You