A major component in modern movie marketing is the announcement of release dates for films that haven’t even gone into pre-production yet. While studios battle for optimal dates on the calendar, do we really need to forward plan a night out at the cinema in 2025?
The Internet and social media have seen a radical change in the way movies are promoted. Pre-awareness is at an all time high – we are now privy to the very first on-set photographs, directors tweeting that the cameras have begun rolling, and hundreds of words are written on what a new Star Wars title could actually mean. Then there are the teasers for the teaser trailers, which are followed by at least three spoiler-heavy trailers before the film finally opens in cinemas.
But perhaps the most perplexing development is the announcement of release dates for films that haven’t even gone into pre-production – some of which don’t even have a title as yet (expect an ‘Untitled Avengers Film’ in 2019). Does anyone really plan a night out at the cinema that far ahead? “Hey, keep 19th December 2025 free, we’re going to see Avatar 5.” Or look forward to an as-yet-untitled Event Film from Warner Bros. that hasn’t been cast, but will be in cinemas November 2021?
With franchises from Marvel, DC, Disney, Lucasfilm and the Potterverse all now competing for optimal release dates and screens at your local multiplex, the need for some kind of advance schedule does make sense. However, wouldn’t it be prudent to at least wait until production is underway on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 before announcing the date for Fantastic Beasts 3 (20 November 2020, at this stage)?
Just last week it was revealed that Star Wars: Episode IX would be in cinemas on 23 May 2019. That’s only 751 sleeps away! Bear in mind that this is likely to change, given the December release spot established by The Force Awakens and Rogue One – keeping with the two-year gap between canon Star Wars episodes, with a spin-off film in the middle. If a mid-year release is to be believed, wouldn’t it make more sense to schedule Episode IX in June to coincide with – and capitalise on – the America summer release period?
Regardless of when we’ll actually see Episode IX, the point here is that nowadays, blockbusters are foremost being made to meet a release date, which can compromise the quality of the finished film, especially if reshoots are required. The much-maligned Alien 3 (1992) is a prime example of this – nobody had a clue where to take the series next and subsequently, the third film began shooting without a completed script. Producer Jon Landau summed it up best when he noted: “I always felt that we set out to make a release date, not a movie.”
Moreover, when it comes to sequels and franchises, box office and audience response plays a huge part in determining their future. Do you really still expect to see Suicide Squad 2 in 2019, as previously announced? Hollywood would be better off taking it one year at a time rather than attempting to meet deadlines in the distant future for projected franchises that might struggle to get past the first instalment.