Walt Disney has delayed and postponed the release of three major films, dealing a fresh blow to cinema operators struggling amid the pandemic.
The new Avatar and Star Wars films have been delayed a year, while Mulan has been removed from schedules completely.
Mulan, already delayed because of cinema closures, had been scheduled for release at the end of August.
A rise in virus cases in the US and the impact globally on film production forced the change.
It had been hoped that Mulan might spark a late-summer rebound in cinema-going. The Avatar sequel is now set to debut in theatres in December 2022, and the next Star Wars movie in December 2023.
“It’s become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis,” a Disney spokesman said. “Today that means pausing our release plans for Mulan as we assess how we can most effectively bring this film to audiences around the world.”
On Thursday, the AMC and Cineworld cinema chains pushed back the reopening date for their US outlets until at least mid-August, from the end of July.
The Mulan delay follows Warner Bros’ decision to postpone the August release of Christopher Nolan’s thriller Tenet. Cinema owners were pinning hopes on the two films to salvage part of the lucrative summer season.
Avatar 2 would have been one of next year’s biggest films. It is the follow-up to James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster, which is the second highest-grossing film of all time.
Other delayed Disney film is Sir Ridley Scott’s historical thriller The Last Duel, which stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. That has shifted from December of this year to October 2021.
While cinemas in England were allowed to reopen from 4 July – as long as social distancing guidelines were followed – the picture across North America is much more uncertain.
New York City and Los Angeles, the two biggest markets in the US, have no concrete plans for reopening cinemas.