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‘Black Widow’ isn’t delayed, but MCU Phase 4 could still be in trouble

Published Mar 12th, 2020 3:19PM EDT
MCU Phase 4 Timeline
Image: Marvel Studios

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  • Marvel’s Black Widow will launch on May 1st in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly because Disney can’t really afford to delay any of its movies and TV series. Postponing Black Widow might delay other shows since all the stories are connected.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a limited TV series for Disney+, should follow in August, but the coronavirus outbreak already has had an impact on the show’s production.
  • Similarly, other MCU Phase 4 TV series that are in production might be affected by delays caused by the new disease.
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Watching a brand new movie in cinemas might be a thing of the past until the coronavirus pandemic is under control, at least in those regions seeing a surge in daily infections. Sony is one of the tech giants that’s been among the first to withdraw from events that draw plenty of crowds, including MWC, PAX East, and GDC, to minimize COVID-19 transmission risks. Avoiding large gatherings of people is one of the things you can do to protect yourself against infection, and Sony is acutely aware of that. It’s also very aware that the coronavirus will have a significant impact on certain sectors of the economy and its bottom line, and the company is already taking measures to protect its business. The company delayed two movie releases, including the brand new James Bond as well as Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. The delay of No Time to Die was particularly surprising, given that it’s one of the most highly anticipated films of the year.

Not all studios can afford to do the same thing with their upcoming 2020 creations, and that includes Disney’s Marvel. Earlier this week, Marvel released the final trailer for Black Widow, reiterating plans to release the first MCU Phase 4 flick on May 1st, as previously announced. Unlike Sony, which might have plenty of wiggle room with its movie releases, Disney might be forced to go forward with Marvel movies regardless of any potential financial hit.

As I explained before, Disney has no choice but to launch Black Widow on schedule, and the same goes for The Eternals in November. That’s because the films are just two titles of the 14 MCU Phase 4 stories scheduled to be released in 2020 and 2021, of which two more are supposed to launch on Disney+ later this year.

Black Widow will be followed by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in August, with WandaVision set to start streaming at some point this winter after Eternals hits theaters. All these stories are intertwined, and Marvel has to release them in order. Events from Black Widow might ripple through Falcon as well as other films and TV series. That same goes for each title that follows the standalone Black Widow film.

Black Widow would easily conquer the box office during its launch weekend, but the coronavirus might hurt its overall take. Even so, the film is tracking for a huge opening weekend — $90 to $130 million, an estimate says. Things could change down the road but no matter what happens, Black Widow will surely open on May 1st.

That said, the coronavirus might still ruin the MCU going forward, and I’m not even referring to Disney’s bottom line. Plenty of the upcoming MCU Phase 4 films are in pre-production or shooting right now, and the pandemic might significantly affect some or all of them. One such example is The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Disney has just halted shooting in Prague over coronavirus fears, as Deadline reported:

The show has been shooting for months in Atlanta, but they began a short shoot in Prague last Friday that was to be completed in about a week. Today, the studio shut down the production and called everybody home to Atlanta. No word at the moment whether the show will return to Prague, but it seems unlikely.

The same might happen with other TV series that are in the works, especially if they’re shooting in places where local governments have started enforcing stricter rules and restrictions. Any such delays might force Disney to delay the actual launch of the Marvel series on Disney+.

Image source: YouTube

Not to mention that there’s always the chance that some of the stars involved in these huge Marvel projects, as well as the crew working on them, could get infected. Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 will have to be quarantined in a hospital until they recover.

If that’s not enough, there’s even a rumor going around that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier plot would have featured a pandemic threat. That’s something Disney has removed from the script over the actual novel coronavirus outbreak, which has just been declared a pandemic — from MurphysMultiverse’s report from a few weeks ago:

By the time The Falcon and The Winter Soldier streams in August, it is likely that the disease will have met the criterion to be considered a true pandemic (the last global pandemic was the H1N1 virus which killed as few as 151,000 and as many as 575,000 people worldwide, according to the CDC). From what I’ve been hearing, Disney may be proactively trying to get ahead of what could be a potential disaster for the studio by rewriting and, as a result, reshooting parts of the series, with a heavy emphasis on the season’s first couple of episodes.

Given all the significant connections between all these movies, and considering Black Widow is already locked, there may be elements in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier script that can’t be altered too much. But it’s absolutely clear that the coronavirus will have an impact on this Disney+ original show, and the pandemic might similarly affect other Phase 4 TV series set to start streaming next year.

Aside from the two TV series scheduled to hit the streaming service in 2020, eight other MCU Phase 4 shows should launch on Disney+ next year, starting with Loki in early 2021. And if Black Widow does get delayed, we might see all other Phase 4 pushed back accordingly.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.