Disney Delays Release of New "Star Wars" and "Avatar" Movies

The latest installments of two massively popular film franchises will debut later than originally scheduled. Disney (NYSE: DIS) announced Thursday that it is pushing back the release dates of a clutch of features, including all upcoming installments in the popular Star Wars and Avatar series. Additionally, it has indefinitely pulled the release of the live-action version of Mulan, which was originally slated to debut on Aug. 21.

The long-awaited Avatar 2, the first of several planned sequels to the blue alien saga, is now scheduled for release on Dec. 16,  2022. Untitled Star Wars is set to open more than a year later, on Dec. 22, 2023. Subsequent titles in both franchises have also been pushed back -- for example, Avatar 3 is now due to be released Dec. 20, 2024.

Avatar 2 was originally scheduled to debut next year, and the next Star Wars in 2022.

A still from the 2009 film Avatar.

Image source: Walt Disney.

The reason for these delays is, naturally, the coronavirus pandemic, which has lately been surging rapidly in many parts of the U.S.

"Over the last few months, it's become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis," Disney said in a media statement.

The news came three days after AT&T film entertainment unit Warner Bros. announced it was indefinitely delaying a hotly anticipated film, the science-fiction thriller Tenet, directed by Christopher Nolan, for similar reasons.

These decisions are a significant blow to cinema operators, which were hoping to reopen by screening summer blockbusters. This is famously the busiest season in the movie exhibition industry.

On Friday, Disney's shares slumped by 0.4%, which was a slightly less steep slide than the declines posted by numerous other blue-chip stocks and the major stock indexes.

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Eric Volkman owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short October 2020 $125 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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