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After the sneaky success of the 2017 film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, a sequel announcement soon followed. Kenneth Branagh is returning to direct and star as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile, with an entirely new star-studded cast to accompany him on another mystery to solve. The sequel was originally set to brave Star Wars: Episode IX with the same release date on December 20, 2019, but in light of the Disney-Fox merger, Death on the Nile has just been moved to hit theaters on October 2, 2020 instead.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox has recently been discreetly rearranging its release calendar to coordinate with its new partner studio. In addition to the delay of Death on the Nile, Fox also pushed space thriller Ad Astra starring Brad Pitt from January to May 24, 2019 and action-comedy Stuber starring Dave Bautista from May to July 12, 2019. Ad Astra's shift to share an opening with Disney's live-action Aladdin remake seems a bit counterproductive to the coordinating strategy, but with both the studios having packed schedules, releases were bound to face off at some point anyway.
While federal regulations prohibit Disney and Fox film executives from directly working together to complement the other's schedules, here we are seeing the effects of the merger already taking flight. The new $70 billion marriage between the studio giant will officially be in place on January 1, 2019, so more shifts and strategies will likely continue to take place between the paired studios as they prepare their budding partnership.
While 2017's Murder on the Orient Express received mixed critical reviews and never quite made it to No. 1 at the box office, the movie was among the quieter hits of the year. It stirred up $352 million worldwide on a budget of $55 million, making it quite the success. The film is based on the 1934 Agatha Christie novel of the same name, and its star-studded cast, including Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad and Michelle Pfeiffer, likely drew in the big crowd.
Death on the Nile is aiming to replicate the success of its predecessor with an entirely new cast, except for Kenneth Branagh's return as the main mustachioed Detective Poirot and Tom Bateman reprising Bouc. Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot was the first new actor to join the sequel, and she will play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle, a rich heiress who approaches Poirot to help her. Armie Hammer has also signed on to Death on the Nile. The project is reportedly set to begin production in mid-2019.
Considering the rocket-high anticipation for Star Wars: Episode IX, Fox's decision to move Death on the Nile's release date isn't a half bad one. If the sequel replicates or surpasses the success of Murder on the Orient Express, the studio could have an Agatha Christie franchise on their hands after it comes out on October 2, 2020.