Deadpool 2 has changed its release date, and all signs point towards it being because of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Fox have made some major adjustments to their X-Men slate, pushing New Mutants and Gambit back substantially but also moving the untitled Deadpool sequel two weeks earlier from June 1 to May 18. Out these three, the Merc with a Mouth’s shift would seem the most minor – New Mutants has moved ten months and Gambit has lost its third director – but it’s actually the most significant.
Deadpool 2 releases in the middle of one of the most overloaded summer seasons ever. Originally it was set to come out between Solo and Oceans Eight, now it comes just two weeks after all-but-definite year box office winner Avengers: Infinity War and a week before the Star Wars standalone. This is probably insignificant to the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (who will probably have made $1 billion worldwide before Wade Wilson drops his first f-bomb), but it has a big impact on everyone’s favorite smuggler/scoundrel. Or, rather, how we perceive it.
To be clear, Solo is the underdog in this situation. It may come from a franchise that in the past three years has turned in three $1 billion hits and dominated the cultural discussion, yet the long-term apathy about a prequel for a character who doesn’t need one, major behind-the-scenes issues, and still-to-begin marketing have left it adrift. Sandwiched competition from Avengers and Deadpool sealed the deal. Now, though, Solo has a free, two-week run after its release before the next competition (Oceans) with the biggest thorn in its side now set to be on its second weekend of release when it opens. But is this actually a good thing?
Deadpool 2 Certainly Moved Because Of Solo
There are multiple explanations for why Deadpool 2 moved from early-June to mid-May, with differing theories on how it will impact the film’s box office, but it all comes back to Solo in one way or another.
The first possibility is that Deadpool 2 is scared of the ongoing impact of Solo; that Star Wars‘ second-week will in some way hurt its opening. A less hyped Star Wars movie is still a Star Wars movie, after all. This franchise has mass appeal and, pertinent for this discussion, good legs – even though they tend to drop a massive percentage/amount, the second, third and fourth weekends are still highly competitive (The Force Awakens sold the tenth highest number of tickets in 2016) – which may only be truer of what could be the franchise’s closest approximation to a sleeper hit. Due to the aforementioned skepticism of the film, there’s unlikely to be the same rush to the theater on Thursday night. But if the movie is as good as the initial faith in Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay suggests, it’s one that will generate positive word-of-mouth, something that would have rolled directly into Deadpool 2. Thus, moving it a week before allows for a strong opening (Infinity War will be on its third weekend).
The other way to look at it is more nuanced. The original Deadpool really grew over time, following up a big opening with four weeks at the top and six in the top 3. Wade Wilson himself had legs, and while the sequel is sure to come faster out the gate thanks to audience expectation (which would play into the prior opening discussion), a similar long-term run must be expected here, at least by Fox. If Solo is such a questionable prospect, then they, in theory, stand a strong chance against it on Deadpool‘s second weekend. That does raise the question of why Ocean’s Eight would be deemed a greater threat, although the approach of The Incredibles 2, a differently-targeted but nevertheless similar superhero spoof, the week after could have played a part.
Quite clearly, the implications of the move vary wildly. One suggests Solo is stiff competition that the sequel to 2016’s breakout hit swerved from, while another has it in Deadpool 2’s crosshairs. Either way, Solo was a movie that Deadpool 2 was conscious of and shifted because of.
Was The Deadpool 2 Date Change Influenced By Disney?
Of course, this isn’t as simple as two studios in a battle for Memorial Day and its surrounding weekends. The distributors of Solo and Deadpool 2 are currently in the middle of one of the biggest deals in Hollywood history, with Disney buying the majority of 21st Century Fox. A key part of that purchase is the return of the X-Men to the MCU, a move that has potential long-term ramifications for Deadpool. At present, the deal is still pending and won’t be finalized (should it be approved) until much later this year, so for now both companies are operating in a state of flux and, ergo, business as usual. Indeed, Fox hasn’t slowed development on its threatened X-movies.
That connection, though, will immediately lead to questions of Disney involvement in this. After all, while there are behind-the-scenes concerns that led to New Mutants and Gambit moving about, there’s nothing immediately easy to explain Deadpool 2‘s move. Have Disney made some sort of play, forcing Fox to sacrifice their film for the Star Wars brand? Or do Fox know something that we don’t – is Solo a better movie than the surrounding discussion suggests? Frankly, that’s far too conspiratory and assumes a deeper relationship between the two companies than is currently established. However, that only leads us to a more serious conclusion.
Deadpool 2’s Move Will Hurt Solo
It would only make sense that Fox has moved Deadpool 2 at its own discretion to improve its box office. This is business. And so, the converse question is posed: will the change hurt Solo? It’s hard to go too deep given how far we are out from the pair – there’s no tracking nor a sense of how good or what their audience approval will be – but at this point, any gain for Wade is directly to Han’s detriment. Whereas the period between Infinity War and Solo was originally empty, leaving a break time for theaters that could build up hunger for a new tentpole, Deadpool now absorbs that, serving as a distraction for casual audiences.
All of this hinges on how the marketing for the pair goes over the next two months (and whether Disney chooses to move Star Wars in reaction), but for now it seems like Fox have played a blinder, pivoting around Solo for Deadpool 2‘s gain.