Disney Delays Spielberg's 'West Side Story,' Marvel's 'Black Widow' Due to Pandemic

Times Square, Broadway
Johannes EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

A poster on Times Square advertises West Side Story at the Broadway Theater on Feb. 7, 2020 in New York City.

The Walt Disney Co. has further postponed its next mega-movies from Marvel, including Black Widow, while also postponing Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story a full year in the company’s latest recalibration due to the pandemic. Ten of Disney’s top films shuffled release dates Wednesday (Sept. 23), uprooting several of the company’s major fall releases.

The Scarlett Johansson Marvel movie Black Widow, last set for Nov. 6, heads to May 7 of next year. Instead of opening next month, Kenneth Branagh’s murder mystery Death on the Nile moves to Dec. 18. That was the date set for West Side Story, but Spielberg’s musical will instead debut in December 2021.

Disney didn’t entirely abandon the season. The Pixar release Soul remains on the calendar for late November. The Empty Man, a horror release from the former 20th Century Fox, is moving up from December to Oct. 23. But the delays of Disney’s upcoming blockbusters reinforce the growing exodus from 2020 among the blockbusters that hadn’t already uprooted to next year. Following tepid ticket sales for Warner Bros.′ Tenet in a U.S. theatrical marketplace where about 30% of cinemas remain closed, Warner Bros.′ Wonder Woman 1984 moved from October to Christmas and Universal Pictures’ Candyman postponed to next year.

Speilberg's adaptation of the beloved Broadway musical with the Romeo-and-Juliet-like story of a star-crossed love affair between former Jets gang member Tony and the younger sister of a Puerto Rican gang leader, Maria, will feature Ansel Elgort as Tony and Rita Moreno -- who won an Oscar for the 1959 original film -- as Valentina.

Given the interconnected nature of Marvel releases, the latest delay of Black Widow had a domino effect on other films. Destin Daniel Cretton’s Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, starring Simu Liu as the martial arts hero, is now slated for July 9, 2021, instead of May 7. Chloé Zhao Eternals, with Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan and Kumail Nanjiani, moves from February to Nov. 5, 2021.

“Marvel made the right and responsible decision,” Nanjiani said on Twitter. “There’s a pandemic. Nothing is more important than health and lives. I can’t tell people to go to a movie theater until I feel safe going to one.” The Ben Affleck-Ana de Armas thriller Deep Water was also pushed from November until August next year.

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Notably, Disney didn’t announce any films were pivoting to its streaming platform, Disney+. Since the pandemic began, the company’s Mulan, Hamilton and Artemis Fowl have gone direct to streaming, with Mulan made available for a $30 premium purchase by subscribers. Disney has declined to share digital grosses for Mulan, though the live-action remake has underperformed in theaters overseas.