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SYFY WIRE Marvel's What If?

WIRE Buzz: What If...? moving along in quarantine; Cinemark hopes to reopen July 1; more

By Josh Weiss & James Comtois
Marvel What If

Marvel Studios' journey into parallel universes is still chugging along in the age of coronavirus.

Stephan Franck — head of animation for What If...? confirmed to Newsarama that the animated comic book anthology series coming to Disney+ is still being worked on, despite the fact that usual business on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California, has been temporarily suspended.

"I normally split my day between my home studio and the Disney lot for dailies and reviews, but now we’re just doing it all remotely," Franck said. "From what I hear across town, animation has been able to keep the shows in production with everyone safely working from home. Kudos to the studios for pivoting so fast to remote work."

Based on the classic Marvel comics of the same name, What If...? will explore alternate outcomes of the MCU. The very first episode, for example, is about what would have happened if Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) was given the super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Don't worry, though, Steve still gets to join the fight against the Nazis and HYDRA in a primitive Iron Man suit built by Tony Stark's young father, Howard (Dominic Cooper).

What If

Uatu the Watcher (voiced by Westworld's Jeffrey Wright) is set to host the program in a Rod Serling-esque type role. More teasers surrounding the series (including a glimpse of Bucky facing off with a zombified Cap) can be seen in the short Disney+ documentary Expanding the Universe

Franck, on the other hand, is a little more tight-lipped about the project.

"I really can’t tell you much about the show, or S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are going to come and take me away," he added. "What I can tell you is that the level of talent and passion on the team is off the charts and that I am having a blast."

The show is scheduled to premiere on Disney+ sometime next summer. In late 2019, Kevin Feige confirmed that a second season is already in the works.

Another theater chain closed by the pandemic is already planning its comeback story. According to a new report from Deadline, Cinemark is hoping to reopen its doors in early July. This intel arrived during an investor/analyst conference call with the company's CFO and COO, Sean Gamble, earlier today.

“We won’t be everything back day 1, but dip our toe approach,” he said, discussing the plan for employees to return to work two weeks beforehand in late June. In addition, this revamp would most likely vary "state by state, county by county," with shorter hours and limited days of the week.

Mark Zoradi, Cinemark CEO and Board Director, stated that if they can get back to a state of normalcy in July, there isn't an expectation for a large inflow of patrons. As such, the first two weeks or so will involve screenings of "library product, high profile library product," aka already-released movies. It was a system embraced by Chinese cinemas when cases of the virus began to dwindle in late March. Days later, however, the government forced them to close down again.

If Cinemark does reopen and if movie fans do want to see existing fare at reduced ticket prices, then they can rest assured that the company plans to do everything in its power to make sure the experience is safe.

Cinemark theater

“We will let the consumer know that they’re walking into a highly clean, highly sanitized [theater],” Zoradi explained during the call.

Right now, summer 2020 isn't as promising as it once was. With Marvel's Black Widow delayed until early November, at this point, blockbuster season will be defined by Christopher Nolan's mysterious Tenet (July 17), Nikki Caro's live-action Mulan remake (July 24), and Patty Jenkins' highly anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 (August 14).

In particular, Tenet (an espionage flick with some kind of genre slant) may be the real indicator of whether theaters see any kind of success this summer. There's still a chance that Warner Bros. may decide to postpone the film's release if social distancing measures are going as strong by the onset of summer as they are now.

In late March, AMC Theaters announced hopes to restart operations in mid-June. As of last week, it seems likely that the chain will file for bankruptcy.

And finally, that long-discussed, oft-promised, frequently stalled small-screen adaptation of the classic puzzle adventure PC game Myst has taken one giant leap forward after landing a writer. Per Deadline, Village Roadshow Entertainment Group has hired Ashley Edward Miller (X-Men: First Class) to write the pilot and serve as showrunner for the adapted series.

Village Roadshow will develop and produce alongside the game’s original co-creator, Rand Miller, and his youngest brother, Ryan Miller, along with filmmakers Isaac Testerman and Yale Rice.

Released in 1993, Myst is a first-person graphic adventure video game following the Stranger, who uses a book to travel and explore a mysterious island (the eponymous Myst). It was the best-selling PC game of all time until 2002, and spawned multiple sequels.

Village Roadshow bought the film and TV rights for the point-and-click Myst series last year after Legendary tried — and failed — to develop the property as a series (even with Hulu showing interest).

Village Roadshow is looking to develop both scripted and unscripted content for film and television with an eye for creating a shared universe based on the source material.