Long Range Box Office Forecast: What the Latest Delay of Ghostbusters: Afterlife Means for Theatrical Recovery

Photo Credits: Warner Bros. ("Wonder Woman 1984"); Sony / Columbia ("Ghostbusters: Afterlife"): Disney ("Raya and the Last Dragon"); MGM ("No Time to Die")

Earlier this week, Sony dropped the news that Ghostbusters: Afterlife would be shifted an additional three months from March 5 to June 11, 2021. While this doesn’t seem as drastic as other recent delays (the recent six-month push of No Time to Die reverberated across the industry a bit more pointedly), it does provide further indication of what studios are thinking in terms of the long-term box office recovery period.

Afterlife is a much-anticipated direct sequel to the classic Ghostbusters films of the 1980s, and had originally been slated to open in June of this year. Sony was quick to move the film out of that spot completely early on during the pandemic back in March, though.

With the obvious exception of Wonder Woman 1984, currently still slated to hit theaters on Christmas Day this year, the Ghostbusters revival was poised to be the first 2021 tentpole release for cinemas in North America and most of the global market. It’s delay has two significant effects, though.

The first impact: Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon is now the de facto “first tentpole” of 2021. The original animated epic is still positioned for a March 12 debut, one week after the Sony film had been slated to release. In fact, Disney just this week doubled-down on their commitment to Raya‘s planned March release with the first trailer for the film.

The second effect is interconnected with the previous, though. Now that the first weekend of March is absent such a high-profile franchise film, it leaves an opening for the aforementioned Wonder Woman 1984 should Warner Bros. decide to delay that film again. With consistent news of the fall surge in COVID-19 cases taking effect right now, and given the track record of how this year has played out so far, that doesn’t seem too far-fetched of an expectation.

While emphasizing this as pure speculation, Wonder Woman 1984‘s most logical move would be that two-month-plus jump to March 5, 2021. Not only would give it studios and theaters additional time to weather the winter storm of the virus, it would coincide with International Women’s Day on Monday, March 8. Disney and Marvel Studios previously executed a similar strategy for Captain Marvel in March 2019.

The pieces on the board are constantly in motion right now, and anything could happen. News of New York state’s ability to reopen theaters meeting certain thresholds is certainly a positive step for both studios and theater owners hoping to have as many films as possible open over the next few months, but the priority is still working toward a timeframe for New York City and Los Angeles themselves –which are still not allowing theaters to re-open.

Granted, it’s possible Wonder Woman 1984 doesn’t go anywhere and does indeed provide theaters and audiences with an event to look forward to during the holiday season. Even if it doesn’t stick around, though, there remain a number of wide releases (listed in the chart below) scheduled throughout November and December, as well as potentially important titles like Monster Hunter, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, Respect, The King’s Man, Marry Me, and others on the calendar for January and February. Within the more immediate future, we recently reported on the potential strength of having a film like Freaky come out in November.

Nonetheless, what Afterlife‘s move suggests is that studios are increasingly looking toward the tail-end of 2021’s first quarter as the optimal time to start releasing blockbuster content on a regular basis again. With No Time to Die still on the books for April 2, the Bond film combined with Raya could be solid place-setters for the global market leading into the domestic openings of A Quiet Place Part II (April 23) and Black Widow (May 7).

From there, at the moment, the theatrical calendar looks a lot more normal with major releases scheduled for almost every weekend from May onward.

Again, though, this is part of the rotating door that is the world right now. But with health officials increasingly optimistic about a vaccine potentially becoming available by these time frames next year, there might be a reason — however faint that hope may seem — to start trusting release dates a little more again. Hopefully.

Please note that significant changes to forecasts below are less related to traditional tracking and, instead, more representative of the expected lack of advertising and closed New York / California theaters in response to the delayed tentpoles.

Notable Release Additions and Changes This Week

  • All My Life (December 4, 2020)
  • Breaking News in Yuba County (from January 29, 2021 to January 22, 2021)
  • Candyman (re-dated for August 27, 2021)
  • Don’t Breathe Sequel (August 13, 2021)
  • The Comeback Trail (December 18, 2020)
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife (from March 5, 2021 to June 11, 2021)
  • Happiest Season (removed from theatrical calendar; releasing on Hulu)
  • The Last Vermeer (November 20, 2020)

8-Week Film Forecast

Release Date Title 3-Day (FSS) Opening Range 3-Day (FSS) Opening Forecast % Chg from Last Week Domestic Total Range Domestic Total Forecast % Chg from Last Week Estimated Location Count Distributor
10/30/2020 Alita: Battle Angel (2020 Re-Issue)   n/a     n/a     20th Century Studios
10/30/2020 Come Play $1,000,000 – $6,000,000 $2,500,000   $3,000,000 – $18,000,000 $7,000,000   1,800 Focus Features
11/6/2020 Let Him Go $2,000,000 – $6,000,000 $3,000,000   $10,000,000 – $25,000,000 $15,000,000   2,000 Lionsgate
11/6/2020 Stillwater   n/a     n/a     Focus Features
11/13/2020 Freaky $7,000,000 – $12,000,000 $8,000,000   $15,000,000 – $35,000,000 $20,000,000     Universal
11/20/2020 The Last Vermeer   n/a NEW   n/a NEW   TriStar Pictures
11/20/2020 Untitled Tom McCarthy Projection (Wide Expansion)   n/a     n/a     Focus Features
11/25/2020 The Croods: A New Age $8,000,000 – $13,000,000 $12,500,000   $30,000,000 – $65,000,000 $44,000,000     Universal
12/4/2020 All My Life $1,000,000 – $6,000,000 $2,000,000 NEW $5,000,000 – $20,000,000 $8,000,000 NEW   Universal
12/4/2020 Half Brothers   n/a     n/a     Focus Features
12/11/2020 Free Guy n/a n/a   n/a n/a     20th Century Studios
12/11/2020 Parallel   n/a NEW   n/a NEW   Vertical Entertainment
12/11/2020 Wander Darkly   n/a NEW   n/a NEW   Lionsgate
12/18/2020 Death on the Nile (2020)   n/a     n/a     20th Century Studios
12/18/2020 The Comeback Trail $2,000,000 – $5,000,000 $3,000,000 NEW $7,000,000 – $17,000,000 $10,000,000 NEW   Cloudburst Entertainment

As always, the news cycle is constantly evolving. Market projections are subject to breaking announcements at any moment.

This column will continue to track the impact of release date changes in the weeks ahead.

For press inquiries, please contact Shawn Robbins

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Photo Credits: Warner Bros. ("Wonder Woman 1984"); Sony / Columbia ("Ghostbusters: Afterlife"): Disney ("Raya and the Last Dragon"); MGM ("No Time to Die")