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Universal pushes back Fast & Furious 9, Minions sequel in latest pandemic release date shuffle

By Josh Weiss
F9 | Fast & Furious

While COVID-19 vaccines are being administered across the globe, the pandemic — which celebrates its macabre, one-year anniversary this month — continues to gum up the theatrical gears. Variety reports that Universal Pictures has once again postponed two of its upcoming summer tentpoles: Fast & Furious 9 and Minions: The Rise of Gru.

Now pushed for the third time due to pandemic, F9 will zoom out of Memorial Day weekend and keep the engine idling until Friday, June 25. "Universal had been weighing several release date options for F9, including the holiday season or next year. However, the studio opted to only incrementally delay the film, given the positive developments around the vaccine and the hope that Los Angeles movie theaters will soon reopen," writes Variety.

 The Minions sequel, on the other hand, won't arrive on the silver screen until July 1, 2022 — two years after its intended opening of July 3, 2020. Given that the first Minions brought in over $1 billion at the worldwide box office, it's no wonder studio is holding out for a healthy theatrical rollout for the second installment.

This isn't the best news for exhibitors, especially after Alamao Drafthouse filed for Chapter 11 yesterday, but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer by the day. In late February, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Manhattan-based theaters (a key part of the North American box office) are now allowed to open with limited seating. Moreover, a tweet from the White House this week confirmed that the U.S. government will have enough vaccine doses for all Americans by the end of May.

Major studio releases have barely been able to reach a fraction of pre-pandemic ticket sales, but the Universal-owned DreamWorks Animation found itself in possession of a bona fide hit with The Croods: A New Age. Since opening in November of 2020, the film has made over $156 million globally, an impressive feat when you consider the film was released on PVOD back in December. In addition, Warner Bros. saw surprising returns for Tom & Jerry, which raked in $13.7 million at the domestic box office last week, despite the fact that it was made available to stream on HBO Max the same day.

Disney will try and replicate that success this weekend when Raya and the Last Dragon simultaneously hits theaters and Disney+.

(Universal Pictures & SYFY WIRE are both owned by NBCUniversal)