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When Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes was written off AMC’s The Walking Dead during Season 9 of the show last year, we learned that the character’s story would be continued in a series of Walking Dead movies. At San Diego Comic-Con this month, we found out that the Rick Grimes movie would actually be heading to theaters and not the AMC network where the show airs. The Walking Dead movie wasn’t always planned for theaters though, as AMC’s president of programming David Madden explained:
It could’ve ended up with us [on AMC], it could’ve ended up at a streaming platform. It’s a big dream to have a current TV show that is still on the air to have a feature film incarnation. That doesn’t happen very often.
Up until San Diego Comic-Con, I believe that the prevailing wisdom was that the Walking Dead movie would air on AMC. It just sounded like the logical choice considering the show airs on that cable channel. Even The Walking Dead chief content officer and former showrunner Scott M. Gimple expressed this belief back when the films were initially announced. A theatrical release wasn’t the definite plan originally.
Based on what David Madden told The Wrap, it seems that it was a real possibility the movie would end up on the same network as the The Walking Dead TV show or even one of the various streaming services out there. But The Walking Dead movie won’t be premiering on AMC, Netflix, Hulu or any other small screen platform. Instead, it will be a feature film coming exclusively to theaters.
Although a big movie following the Rick Grimes character would have surely been big for the AMC channel, David Madden seems excited about having the Walking Dead movie hitting the silver screen. As he said, the AMC, Skybound and Universal film is a big deal and something that doesn’t happen very often for a show that is still airing.
You hear talk of big shows ending with theatrical movies (Game of Thrones comes to mind), but it rarely happens. When it does, it’s an end point, like Serenity, and not something that can elevate and draw attention to the show, as is the case here. It has happened though, with The Simpsons Movie and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut having feature film incarnations while the shows were still (and are still) on the air.
David Madden didn’t reveal what the thought process was or why the plan was changed from a small screen release on AMC or a streaming platform to a theatrical release. When we first heard about the trilogy of Rick Grimes films, it was said that they would be big, epic and made on a feature schedule, so perhaps the decision was made that this film warranted a theatrical release, both for content and budgetary reasons.
I am extremely curious how the decision to do a theatrical release for the Rick Grimes movie will pan out. On the one hand, a feature film draws a great deal of attention to The Walking Dead brand as a whole and that’s a good thing. And while it’s no longer as big as it once was, The Walking Dead is still one of the biggest shows on TV and fans will surely want to know what happened to Rick and to see that cliffhanger resolved.
However, fans of The Walking Dead are used to their content being "free" and coming included with their cable bill. So to go from not feeling like you’re paying for something to paying for it could be a tough pill to swallow for some. I expect the films will be big enough to distinguish themselves from the show and justify the price though.
We don’t have a release date, official title, plot or really any details about the Walking Dead movie just yet or know whether or not a full theatrical trilogy is still planned, but we’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, check out 2019’s theatrical releases in our premiere guide.