Antebellum, the new horror film starring Janelle Monae, has been pulled from its August 21st release date by Lionsgate Studios. The news was posted on social media, with Exhibitor Relations Co. stating, "Lionsgate playing it safe—ANTEBELLUM moves to TBD, leaving August 21 in the dust." Like so many other movie studios, Lionsgate had hoped that the coronavirus pandemic would've been under control by the time late summer arrived, which is why it shifted Antebellum from it's April 24th release date to August 21st. With COVID-19 infections still spiking around the US, a late summer re-opening for movie theaters now looks all but impossible.
Lionsgate playing it safe—ANTEBELLUM moves to TBD, leaving August 21 in the dust.— Exhibitor Relations Co. (@ERCboxoffice) July 31, 2020
"We believe that by August 21st, audiences will be eager for the distinctive, unique story and voice of these groundbreaking filmmakers' debut, Antebellum," Lionsgate's David Spitz said, back when the film's release was delayed.
The question now (as you can see in the comment threads above) is what the best next move is for Antebellum. The film seems to be right on the cusp in terms of appeal: a modest-budget horror film that could draw a crowd, but could also do fairly well on Video On Demand services. It's a gamble either way, but there could be one factor that heavily influences Lionsgate's decision...
Antebellum follows a successful author in the modern-day south, who suddenly finds herself transported to the era of the Antebellum South, with its slave plantations. Clearly, directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz will be exploring some "From then 'til Now' themes of how much ideas of race have (or have not) changed over time. That could be a timely conversation piece in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the resulting wave of global protests over social justice. A big enough opportunity that Lionsgate doesn't want to risk having Antebellum slip through the cracks of VOD releasing. As stated, it's a tricky call to make, in this case.
Antebellum was inspired by a nightmare that Bush had following his father's death, in which his ancestors were haunting him:
“I felt like the woman in the nightmare was so desperate for help that she was screaming through multiple dimensions and that this could exist in a different space and time. And then we built out the story. What people will experience in the movie is pretty much the nightmare.”
Antebellum doesn't have a new release date yet.