If you were hoping that the year 2020 would end when 2021 actually began, at least as far as theatrical film exhibition goes, it does not appear that's going to be the case. Nearly every major movie planned for release in 2020 either found alternative means of distribution, or pushed itself back into 2021. And now, movies that were set for early 2021 releases are not getting pushed back either further. The first major casualty being an excellent looking action movie starring Jessica Chastain and Lupita Nyong'o called The 355. Originally set to debut on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend next year, the movie just saw a full calendar year delay, to the same holiday weekend in 2022.
This decision, reported by Deadline, is more than a little surprising because, despite all the other delays that movies are seeing right now, and will likely continue to see, The 355 wasn't necessarily a big tentpole release by any stretch. While the cast is excellent it looks like the movie could be really fun, the fact that the movie was given a January release date in the first place, even under the circumstances, would seem to indicate that massive box office potential was not one of the film's strongest elements. It's exactly the sort of movie that we're seeing sent to streaming services rather than holding out for theatrical release.
And yet, that's exactly what we're seeing. The studio, Universal Pictures by name, would rather wait a year and get the movie in theaters then than get it released faster through some alternative channel. It's possible streaming options were investigated and there weren't any takers. It's a buyers market right now and so streaming platforms have their pick of movies, and even Netflix doesn't have actually bottomless pockets.
Or, perhaps there really is a hope that once people see The 355, it's going to take off, and so the box office potential is too important to squander. Certainly, we haven't seen a lot of marketing money spent on any movies these dats, so putting The 355 on the shelf doesn't necessarily cost Universal much of anything.
There is a third option, which is that the movie by virtue of being a Universal film, could be important to theatrical chains. Universal recently set deals with two of the nations biggest theaters chains, AMC and Cinemark, that means the chains will see a portion of a film's streaming revenue after a limited theatrical run, but the movie has to have the theatrical run first. And so, this may be a move that has more to do with the revenue stream to the theaters than the studio itself.
There is a lot that's attractive about The 355, an action-spy movie that sees a collection of female agents from the world's best agencies teaming up together. The movie co-stars not only Jessica Chastain and Lupita Nyong'o but also Penelope Cruz and Diane Kruger, and that's a cast that is almost guaranteed to be good in anything.
The delay in The 355 probably isn't the last movie to get pushed back, however. If Universal doesn't see January as the light at the end of the tunnel, then the other studios are probably feeling the same way. We could start to see everything that's been pushed into early 2021 delayed again, which will start the dominoes falling all over again. There's no telling when this will all end.