Fox has pushed back the release date for X-Men: Dark Phoenix by three months, putting the next entry in the mutant saga into 2019; originally set for November 2, 2018, it will now release on February 14, 2019. That's a big move for one of 2018's biggest tentpoles and feels particularly strange given the film wrapped shooting months ago, but taken in the bigger context of Fox makes a lot more sense.
UPDATE: It's been reported that Dark Phoenix's delay has been heavily influenced by reshoots in response to test screenings that, due to scheduling conflicts with star Sophie Turner on Game of Thrones, couldn't take place until Summer 2018, necessitating a delay for reediting and special effects. The New Mutants is also reportedly undergoing reshoots.
This wasn't the only major announcement made by Fox regarding upcoming films. Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic starring Mr. Robot's Rami Malek, has been moved up a month to this coming November, taking Dark Phoenix's original slot. The film, mired in much controversy following the removal of director Bryan Singer, was in the Christmas Day slot, against tough competition in the form of Mary Poppins Returns. December is a very busy month this year, arguably more so than the Summer when it comes to blockbusters. Bohemian Rhapsody, a film clearly being set up for Oscar glory, would have had to break out from the December crowd of Mary Poppins, Bumblebee, Alita Battle Angel, Aquaman and Mortal Engines. Now, its biggest worry is Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.
In light of the Dark Phoenix reshoot reports it would seem that Bohemian Rhapsody was moved to plug a gap, but if it was intended to escape the Christmas glut that would have still necessitated an X-Men move - otherwise, it would be in direct competition with Fox's other big release. And it couldn't be shifted slightly: any earlier saw it competing with fellow superhero property Venom, while later had it brushing with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and the many Christmas-angled films Bohemian Rhapsody was already moving away from.
Where it's ultimately moved to, though, is just as interesting. The February 14 weekend essentially sees Dark Phoenix take the February 22 slot from fellow X-Men movie The New Mutants. Josh Boone's horror spinoff had already moved back from an April 2018 release, but has now shifted to August 2, 2019, a whole six months later. The original delay had reportedly happened to allow for reshoots that would make the film frightening and allegedly add a whole new character. Now, its place in Fox's slate has seemingly been shifted to make way for Dark Phoenix, although reshoot rumors suggest further reworking. Besides that, though, it's a necessary move for the distributor; before this decision, Fox distributor didn’t have any releases set for Summer 2019 and, while the Summer season is changing dramatically, it’s still a dominant period.
This whole situation may benefit Dark Phoenix. Just this year we saw how well February worked out for Black Panther; it's no longer a dumping month for studios to get rid of their bad movies. February releases are a viable strategy, and it's one whose success many studios will try to replicate in the coming years. The need to adhere to the so-called Summer blockbuster season is over. There are other lessons to be learned from Black Panther but the release window is a factor.
Moving release dates, especially this early in the game for 2019, is a smart move for any studio looking to get ahead of the competition. It allows them to avoid clashes with tough competitors like Marvel and means they can spread their own offerings more evenly across twelve months; Fox has also moved Joe Cornish’s The Kid Who Would Be King back a month to make room for Dark Phoenix.
Now, the big question is if this change will start off a chain reaction like Fox's previous move of Deadpool 2 had on Avengers: Infinity War and Rampage.
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