Entertainment

'F9' delayed to 2021 amid coronavrius pandemic concerns

Key Points
  • The release of "F9" has been delayed due to concerns over the global coronavirus outbreak.
  • The film was set to be released on May 22, and will now arrive in theaters April 2, 2021.
  • This is the fourth Hollywood film to push its release date due to the pandemic.
Vin Diesel stars as Dominic Toretto in Universal's "F9."
Universal

"F9," the ninth installment in the Fast & Furious franchise, has been delayed by almost a year due to concerns over the global coronavirus outbreak.

The film was set to be released on May 22, and will now arrive in theaters April 2, 2021.

"F9" is about Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew going up against Toretto's brother, a skilled assassin and high-performance driver who is out for revenge.

This is the fourth Hollywood film to push its release date due to the pandemic.

Sony Pictures delayed "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runway," MGM and Universal moved the release date for the James Bond film "No Time to Die" and Paramount Pictures has postponed "A Quiet Place Part II."

The postponement of the film is likely a smart move for Universal, considering how reliant previous "Fast & Furious" films have become on international ticket sales. 

While the first two films in the series only received 30% and 46% of their respective box offices internationally, the more recent movies — "Furious 7" and "The Fate of the Furious" — took in 76% and 82% of their box offices from foreign countries.

Only $226 million of the $1.23 billion "The Fate of the Furious" made in 2017 came from North America.

Currently, theaters are closed in China and Italy. French cinemas are only open at 50% capacity (every other row must be empty) and South Korea has seen its lowest box office tally in years. So far in the U.S., there has been no clear impact on the box office from the coronavirus. 

But that could change quickly. To prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus, public health officials have been urging people to avoid large gatherings. In places where there have been clusters of COVID-19 cases such as San Francisco and the Seattle area large events were banned Wednesday.

"At least last weekend didn't appear to be off at all," Doug Stone, president of Box Office Analyst, said, after analyzing box office receipts. 

However, with more movies pushing their theatrical release dates, exhibitors like AMC, Cinemark and Cineworld could be in trouble.

"I just think it's kind of a disaster for the second quarter," Stone said. "'Mulan' will play and 'Black Widow' will play, but there's not much else product to play."

To date, Disney has not announced plans to move either movie's debt. 

Even as studios move other films into now vacant weekends — "Trolls World Tour" replaced "No Time to Die" — there's a fear that these smaller pictures won't be able to make up for the financial loss of having big budget blockbusters flee the early spring months.

"If you don't get it then, you won't get it later," Stone said. 

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal and CNBC. Universal is releasing "No Time To Die" internationally while MGM handles the domestic release. "Trolls World Tour" and "F9" are also being distributed by Universal. 

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