James Bond Gives Up on April Release. Is ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Next?

James Bond Top Gun Maverick
Daniel Craig as James Bond in "No Time to Die" (MGM) and Tom Cruise as Capt. Pete Mitchell in "Top Gun: Maverick" (Paramount).

This year was supposed to be different. All movie theaters were going to be open, concerts would be scheduled, and bars and restaurants would be back to normal. But the COVID-19 virus didn't care about our schedule, and now we're looking at a year that's going to resemble 2020 in too many ways.

The 2021 movie schedule is rapidly falling apart. James Bond is delayed, and "Top Gun: Maverick" is now the first big movie set to open in theaters this year.

The James Bond movie "No Time to Die" has abandoned its release date for the third time and is now optimistically scheduled to open in theaters on Oct. 8, 2021. The film marks Daniel Craig's last performance as Bond and "True Detective" director Cary Joji Fukanaga's debut with the series.

"No Time to Die" was originally slated to debut in theaters in April 2020. Rising star Billie Eilish's theme song for the movie had just been released when producers realized the severity of the pandemic threat and bumped the film to November 2020. As the summer dragged on and things didn't improve significantly, that November date was moved again to April 2021.

That April date was abandoned this week, but not before rumors flew last fall that Bond studio MGM asked Netflix and Apple if they'd be willing to pay $600 million to stream the movie last Christmas. The movie's producers shot down that plan, insisting on a theatrical release.

There's widespread belief that the "Fast & Furious" sequel "F9" will soon abandon its May 28 release date, which will clear the calendar of big releases until July 2, 2021.

That's the planned theatrical release of "Top Gun: Maverick," a movie that was originally scheduled to open on June 24, 2020. It was moved to Dec. 23, 2020, as the pandemic spread and then again to July 2, 2021, as an absolutely safe release date way off in the future.

So, that safe date on July 2 is now looking pretty shaky. If the new administration can't speed up distribution of the vaccine, our current pace puts us at herd immunity in early 2022. If we don't have herd immunity, cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco aren't going to reopen their theaters. If those huge movie markets aren't available, producers don't want to release their big movies.

Warner Bros. has thrown up its hands and decided to release its 2021 movies in whatever theaters happen to be open while simultaneously streaming them on the company's HBO Max streaming service. That's going to work well for some titles, but epic special effects flicks like "Godzilla vs. Kong" (opening March 21, 2021) would best be viewed in a big theater.

Are you willing to wait for James Bond and Maverick to return to theaters or are you getting tired of hearing about movies that you'd planned to see almost a year ago? If you live in a place where the theaters are open, are you already seeing movies in their reduced-capacity houses? If not, what are the conditions that will convince you to head back to theaters?

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