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Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow

Last week, movie studios were announcing postponements of scheduled film releases left and right due to COVID-19 concerns for public health and safety. Marvel stalled all the way up until major movie theaters decided to close its doors in response to the spreading virus. But we knew it was coming, and as expected, Black Widow has been delayed to an undisclosed date. Since then, more movies have shaken up the release calendar currently extending through June. This includes Wonder Woman 1984 being pushed back two months to mid-August.

This uncertainty surrounding Black Widow particularly poses a problem for the MCU slate as a whole. Phase Four is the most packed lineup of movies and now Disney+ television shows to date. It’s an incredibly ambitious showcase of the studio’s ability to gracefully interconnect its universe. It’s been teased that the events of movies including Black Widow will lead into the storylines for the series on Disney+ and the new corner of the MCU being explored in The Eternals. So what happens when Black Widow’s tightly-arranged slot becomes unhinged? Let’s talk through how Black Widow’s delay could impact the future of the MCU.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in solo movie

Where Does Black Widow Go Now?

Fans have already been waiting years to see Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff hit center stage for her own solo flick. It’s a bummer to wait longer, but the decision was out of Marvel’s control considering the state of the world. Although some other big-budget releases have been quick to take another slot on the release calendar, Black Widow doesn’t have it quite figured out. It’s tough to tell at this point. On one hand, F9 decided to delay its release a full year later to take up the spot of the 10th Fast & Furious movie’s planned release in 2021. Wonder Woman 1984 jumped to later this summer and No Time To Die jumped down to November.

With all these delays and more movies still on the calendar for later in the summer, Disney might not want to place Black Widow among them. Plus, the studio has also delayed Mulan, which is another big-budget release that Disney wants to be a blockbuster just as much as Black Widow. Phase Four’s summer slot was supposed to go over to Disney+, where The Falcon and the Winter Soldier would premiere. One option could be Black Widow replacing Jungle Cruise at the end of July, but that doesn’t leave much time for fans to jump on Falcon and the Winter Soldier in August.

Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow, staying hydrated

What Happens If Black Widow Takes Over The Eternals’ Release Date?

Following suit with the Fast and the Furious franchise, maybe Black Widow will take The Eternals’ November release date and just push the slate back completely. According to a recent update from The Eternals’ VFX team, the movie is still being worked on, just on a work-from-home schedule. Yet there were reports of The Eternals planning summer reshoots as is routine with the studio’s workflow. (Avengers: Endgame went through reshoots just a few months ahead of its release as well.) With many productions being delayed, Black Widow being pushed back to November could give the The Eternals more leg room to get the movie finished without working around COVID-19 roadblocks.

Marvel’s release dates are calculated and often take advantage of certain times of the year. It just wouldn’t make sense for Black Widow to hit theaters in, let’s say, September or January. If the problem is working around the timeline of the rest of the MCU, just stalling Black Widow to the The Eternals date avoids this issue of continuity. Now maybe Black Widow doesn’t particularly lead into The Eternals in the way Captain Marvel did for Avengers: Endgame and Endgame did for Spider-Man: Far From Home, but as Kevin Feige said himself, there’s a “method to the madness” of placing Black Widow ahead of other titles. So why compromise his vision?

Elizabeth Olsen in Wandavision

Will The Premiere Dates Of Disney+ Shows Shift Around?

Then there’s the Disney+ of it all. A lot of subscribers have sifted through all the classics, but are certainly holding onto their memberships for the releases of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Wandavision. The good news is WandaVision finished up its shooting before COVID-19 concerns shut down a slew of television productions. But Falcon and the Winter Soldier was affected by the global health crisis and it is supposed to premiere before WandaVision and after Black Widow.

So let’s say Black Widow moves down to November and the entire slate is just pushed back. That would mean the summer months that promised content from Marvel would just not happen. This isn’t a good idea from a business perspective for Disney+ as a brand. But as Kevin Feige stated at last summer’s San Diego Comic-Con, these television shows will be interwoven into the fabric of the film universe. Maybe Marvel got lucky with Black Widow because it’s technically a prequel and may not directly lead into the rest of the planned slate, but if The Eternals’ date gets in the way, it feels like a ripple effect is inevitable.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

Marvel’s 2021 Slate Is Packed As Is, But There’s Production Delays

And speaking of a ripple effect, some future productions in Phase Four have already been delayed by COVID-19. Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings has stalled filming, and it’s expected to come out in February 2021. If these delays continue for a matter of months, maybe Shang-Chi doesn’t make it in time for its date. And let’s talk about the remainder of 2021 for Marvel. It’s easily the most packed year for Phase Four. Besides Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is planned for May, Spider-Man 3 comes in July and Thor: Love and Thunder is set for November. There’s zero wiggle room there for a pending 2020 release to squeeze in without the entire schedule shifting around.

It’s obviously a complicated setback for Marvel that executives are likely debating back and forth somewhere in a heated video chat window. I want to hear your thoughts now that we’ve talked it through, what should the MCU Phase Four game plan be now that Black Widow is no longer coming on May 1? Sound off in the comments and vote in our poll.

How should Marvel handle the Black Widow delay?
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