Analyst Says Movie Theaters to be Closed Until Mid 2021

As movie studios continue to play a game of chicken with the coronavirus and their new releases, film fans are left wondering when it will be safe for theaters to re-open on a large scale. The news changes every day on how much longer we'll need to wait and if this new report is to be believed, we could be waiting a long time. According to Cowen analyst Doug Creutz (H/T The Hollywood Reporter) has altered his rating on stock for The Walt Disney Company largely in part due to the pandemic's effect on their theme parks and feature film business, because theaters may not open until summer 2021.

"With the spread of COVID-19 having accelerated in the U.S., we expect a prolonged impact," he wrote. "We now expect domestic theaters to be largely closed until mid-2021, in part because we don't think studios will be interested in releasing their largest movies into a capacity-constrained footprint."

He addeed that they expected "no film releases in fiscal year 2020" and only a modest slate "in fiscal 2021," writing: "We had previously assumed that the spread of COVID-19 would be relatively halted, with social distancing requirements significantly lessened by late 2020. We have now extended that timeline out to at least mid-2021; the situation remains very fluid, and we do not rule out the possibility that the impact could last even longer."

Creutz paints a grim picture for Disney's profits from their theme parks as well, noting: "We now expect domestic park profitability to return to fiscal year 2019 levels in fiscal year 2025."

Disney's current theatrical slate for the rest of the year features only a few films from Disney proper or Marvel and consists primarily of features from the 20th Century side of the film empire. Mulan remains on the schedule to be released on August 21, but frankly another delay for the feature film seems inevitable. The studio is also set to release The New Mutants on August 28, The King's Man on September 28, Death on the Nile on October 9, Black Widow on November 6, Deep Water on November 13, Soul on November 20, Free Guy on December 11, West Side Story on December 18, and The Last Duel in limited release on December 25.

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Though the box office records for 2020 will no doubt come with an asterisk, Disney will no doubt wish they could change the top films of the year as they only have two films in the Top 10 with the highest presence on the list being 20th Century's The Call of the Wild at #7 and Pixar's Onward at #8. For reference they have seven of the top 10 in 2019 including the top six slots.

(Photo credit Michal Cizek / AFP via Getty Images)