In addition to being a global disaster in many ways that matter a good deal more, COVID took a wrecking ball to the film industry, and Hollywood is still cleaning up the debris. Countless films have been re-edited, delayed, and outright cancelled as a result of necessary COVID restrictions, illnesses, financial markets in upheaval, and an absence of audiences.
The pandemic is three years old, but your local megaplex is still feeling the impact, with this year’s global box office take coming in some 40% below pre-pandemic levels. This year, part of the problem had to doo with a lack of supply: Release dates for major tentpole blockbusters — your Aquamans, your Captains Marvel — have shifted so many times that we were left with long stretches, particularly in the fall, without enough new releases on offer to get people coming out to theatres again.
Will things finally normalize in 2023? Maybe. Here are 15 movies booted around the calendar by COVID-related delays, though sometimes only because other delayed films pushed them back on the release calendar, that are finally coming to theatres. Hopefully someone will show up to buy tickets.
House Party (January 13, 2023)
Originally scheduled: Dec. 9, 2022
A reboot of the hilarious, beloved 1990 original (and its four mostly not-great sequels) sees The Chi’s Jacob Latimore and Doctor Who’s Tosin Cole take over the event planning in a film directed by music video whiz Calmatic. I’m into it, even if it’s tough to remake a classic.
Creed III (March 2, 2023)
Originally scheduled: Nov. 23, 2022
The Creed films have breathed new life into the Rocky franchise, so it’s entirely fitting that Sylvester Stallone steps back entirely for this third instalment. Michael B. Jordan flies solo not just as the film’s star but as director (with Ryan Cooler contributing to the story). Jonathan Majors plays a former friend looking to face off against Donnie Creed in the ring. No reason was given for the delay; the film wrapped shooting in mid-2022.
65 (March 9, 2023)
Originally scheduled: May 13, 2022
Yeah, I’ve never heard of this one either. Adam Driver plays Mills, a pilot whose spaceship crash lands on what he things is an alien world, but which he soon discovers is actually Earth of the distant past (65 million years ago, to be…not that precise). So it’s Adam Driver versus dinosaurs, essentially. Could be fun? The March date will be the movie’s fifth announced release date, so I’m going to say the jury is still out.
Shazam: Fury of the Gods (March 16, 2023)
Originally scheduled: April 1, 2022
Though a mostly post-Zack Snyder addition to DC’s movie slate, the 2019 Shazam still comes from that earlier generation of characters (Wonder Woman, Superman, Aquaman, etc.) who are all getting complete reboots as part of Warner Bros. new “everything from before goes in the trash” strategy. That first movie was an uncharacteristically light and family-friendly and did well, so maybe this won’t be the end for Zachary Levi and company? Nearly the entire 2023 DC slate consists of movies that have already been disowned as irrelevant by their studio, though Shazam might be an exception.
John Wick: Chapter 4 (March 23, 2023)
Originally scheduled: May, 2022
The longest wait between Wick movies thus far came about because COVID delays affected Keanu’s exit from The Matrix Resurrections. Director Chad Stahelski, who helmed the first three quite successful movies, is returning, and the trailer rules, so there’s no reason to believe the time away has had a negative impact.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves (April 6, 2023)
Originally scheduled: Nov. 19, 2021
After a mostly-bad, mostly direct-to-DVD trilogy in the early ‘00s, the folks behind Dungeons & Dragons are making a fresh run at the property, with hopes of building a franchise to include more movies and at least one TV show. Of course, that will all depend on the reception for Honour Among Thieves, already delayed by a year-and-a-half. Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez star, so there’s star power in the mix, but directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley have but two movies under their belts — the not-great 2015 Vacation and the much better 2018 Game Night — and neither exactly screams fantasy epic. Let’s hope they roll a nat 20 here.
Super Mario Bros. (March 30, 2023)
Originally scheduled: Dec. 1, 2022
The Sonic movies were pretty good, so maybe? I suppose your anticipation levels will fluctuate with how you feel about Chris Pratt doing another Chris Pratt voice in an animated movie (also coming soon: Garfield, voiced by CHrist Pratt). This one wasn’t delayed directly because of COVID, but became a domino that fell as other movies were moved around (the new Puss in Boots movie took Mario’s 2022 slot).
Fast X (May 19, 2023)
Originally scheduled: April 2, 2021
COVID lead to delays of over a year for F9, which naturally pushed the tenth film forward, also delaying the 11th film, the planned conclusion of the mainline series. Jason Momoa, whose Aquaman fortunes have since taken a dive, joins the movie as villain Dante.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (June 1, 2023)
Originally scheduled: April 2022
Even with plenty of competition, Into the Spider-Verse stands as the very best Spider-movie, and a top-tier superhero movie full stop. The trailer suggests that the small extra wait for the sequel (the first of two in production) will be worth it.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (June 8, 2023)
Originally scheduled: June 24, 2022
Does the world need a seventh live-action Transformers movie? I think the answer is an emphatic “no,” but, in all fairness, the post-Michael Bayformers previous film, Bumblebee, was the series’ best by a wide margin. And Beast Wars was the best Transformers cartoon, so maybe there’s something here.
The Flash (June 15, 2023)
Originally scheduled: July 1, 2022
Oh, lord this movie. Multiple delays have meant that it has gone from being the tentpole of a new phase of DC-related movies to what’s increasingly looking like an afterthought. The multiverse-spanning concept apparently brings together multiple Batmen (Affleck and Keaton) and introduces Supergirl, but it seems that the new management (i.e. James Gunn) is looking to move away from the Zack Snyder-related characters, which would presumably mean Ezra Miller’s Flash. Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot, the less controversial stars of successful films, have already gotten the axe (including their cameos in The Flash), so it seems unlikely the perpetually problematic Miller is likely to stick around beyond next summer.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (June 29, 2023)
Originally scheduled: July 29, 2022
COVID came into play with this delay, but also a shoulder injury sustained by the then-79 year-old Harrison Ford that slowed down production while the actor healed. It’s unclear if this will be the last outing for Indy (Ford has suggested that it may well be, while Disney has said both that they won’t recast the character and that they’re looking for ways to continue the franchise). The trailer, at least, works in some Nazi-punching; always a good sign.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One (July 13, 2023)
Originally scheduled: July 23, 2021
The back-to-back productions of both of the next two Mission: Impossible films (expected to be the end for Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, if not the entire series) were both impacted by COVID delays and reshuffling, making July 14 the movie’s fifth announced release date. Things seem to be more-or-less back on track, and Cruise is certainly back in the saddle with this year’s Top Gun sequel, so this one will likely land.
The Marvels (July 27, 2023)
Originally scheduled: July 23, 2021
The delay here involved a date swap with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania; nothing too dramatic, apparently, just that Ant-Man was a bit further along. This Captain Marvel sequel sees the three Marvel-related characters (Carol Danvers, Monica Rambeau from Wandavision, and Kamala Khan from Ms. Marvel) team-up, which sounds pretty fun, actually.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (December 26, 2023)
Originally scheduled: December 16, 2022
As with The Flash, and most of DC’s movie properties, the delay here means that the Aquaman series, in general, will have been dead for a full year by the time the movie actually comes out. Oh, well. I’m sure Jason Momoa will land on his feet.