MGM has delayed “Respect,” the Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, by seven months from Jan. 15 to Aug. 11 in the latest shuffle of a major title amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The studio also announced Tuesday that it has removed “Tomb Raider 2,” starring Alicia Vikander, from its March 19 release date.
“Respect,” titled after Franklin’s 1967 hit, had originally been scheduled to be released in August of this year but was shifted at the start of the pandemic to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Hudson, who won a supporting actress Oscar for “Dreamgirls,” was personally selected for the role by Franklin before Franklin died in 2018 at the age of 76.
Franklin won 17 Grammys, starting with “Respect” in 1968 and “Chain of Fools” in 1969. The film, directed by Liesl Tommy, also stars Forest Whitaker as C.L. Franklin, Marlon Wayans as Ted White, Mary J. Blige as Dinah Washington and Tituss Burgess as Rev. Dr. James Cleveland.
Stage director Tommy boarded the film earlier last year. Tommy received six Tony Award nominations for her play “Eclipsed” in 2016, including best director. Callie Khouri, who wrote “Thelma & Louise” and is the creator of “Nashville,” wrote the screenplay for “Respect,” which follows the rise of Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church choir to a superstar.
Tradecraft’s Scott Bernstein, who produced “Straight Outta Compton,” and Harvey Mason Jr., who has written and produced songs for both Franklin and Hudson, are serving as producers on the movie.
Moviegoing has been subdued in recent months. Liam Neeson’s thriller “Honest Thief” repeated last weekend as the winner of a subdued domestic box office with $2.4 million at 2,502 locations.
The New York City, Los Angles and San Francisco markets remained closed due to the pandemic along with the Regal Cinemas chain, which shuttered its 536 U.S. locations on Oct. 8. Even though about 85% of U.S. markets are open, Comscore reports that only 49% of movie theater locations are open. In addition, other U.S. theaters are operating with reduced hours and at reduced capacity with social distancing restrictions.
Christoper Nolan’s “Tenet” has seen domestic results top $52 million in two months. The international results have been respectable with nearly $290 million, but the film’s modest domestic performance signaled a reluctance by many U.S. moviegoers to return to multiplexes amid the ongoing pandemic. Major studios have been delaying virtually every other high-profile release as a result.
During the past week, three more high profile titles — MGM’s “Legally Blonde 3,” Universal’s “Candyman” and Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” — have been delayed. Only a few major studio movies remain on the 2020 calendar with Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman 1984” scheduled for Dec. 25.
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