UPDATE: Per Deadline, Fox has moved their Untitled Marvel Film from January 12, 2018 to March 2, 2018 as part of a major release date announcement. The article as originally published follows.
After releasing the first two installments in the Maze Runner trilogy in 2014 and 2015, respectively, 20th Century Fox planned to take some extra time producing the finale - Maze Runner: The Death Cure - so the series ended on a bang. The film had been set for a February 2017 premiere, looking to capitalize on the lucrative President's Day weekend window. Unfortunately, the studio is going to have to wait a bit longer to release the movie, due to circumstances surrounding the condition of star Dylan O'Brien.
During principal photography on Death Cure, O'Brien was hurt in an accident on set, which led to production being shut down when it was determined his injuries were more severe than initially believed. That development made it seem unlikely Death Cure would be able to arrive in theaters on schedule, since the cast and crew had been sent home until an undisclosed date as O'Brien recovers. Now, it's been confirmed that the threequel's impending release has been pushed back almost a full year, debuting in 2018.
According to Variety, The Death Cure is currently slated to hit theaters on January 12, 2018. It is unknown at this point when production will resume, but Fox settling on a new release date is a positive sign. If things stand as they are, Death Cure will face Paramount's Garden Gnomes and an untitled Marvel film from Fox (presumably Deadpool 2) in its new frame.
It is somewhat surprising that Fox now has two different franchise installments slated for the same day in January 2018. One would think that Fox would be keen on moving one of them, so they don't compete against themselves and potentially maximize the profits of both. In the event a project is pushed back, it will be interesting to see where exactly Fox moves it, since the 2018 release calendar is stacked with several high-profile films seemingly each month. However, September (when the first two Maze Runner films were released) is relatively free in 2018, so it might make sense for Fox to delay The Death Cure to the fall, where it could hopefully find greater success.
Either way, there's now set to be a three-year gap between 2015's The Scorch Trials and its sequel. It's worth wondering what kind of effect that gap will have on Death Cure's box office prospects. The original Maze Runner performed well domestically, posting $102.4 million during its run, but Scorch Trials made less with $81.6 million. Signs are pointing to the YA craze being near its end in Hollywood, meaning the demand for Death Cure may not be there when it is ready to hit theaters. At the same token, the Maze Runner movies are mid-budget affairs and do great business overseas, so Death Cure should still be able to find a sizable audience.
The greatest concern, of course, is that O'Brien fully recuperates and returns to the set when he can. It's no secret that acting can be a dangerous job, and it's always upsetting to see an actor get injured while making a movie. Thankfully, O'Brien's condition is not life threatening, and he just requires additional time to make his recovery. Maze Runner fans have a while to go before they can see the end of the story, but hopefully the wait will be worth it in the end.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure hits theaters January 12, 2018.