The date that is supposed to live in infamy is May 21, 2021.
This is the date upon which two fanatic camps of Keanu supporters will stream into the streets and purchase movie tickets for (currently) two competing behemoths of cinema (while wearing black suits and/or post apocalyptic potato-sack shirts); namely John Wick 4 and The Matrix 4. Lionsgate and Warner Bros. will be heading to the mat, like a modern day Clubber Lang vs. Rocky Balboa in a theatrical release date version of Rocky III: The Good Sequel.
But that’s not really the story.
The story here, is that all the hullabaloo about these two movies going head to head on that future weekend…is that these movies are not going to go head to head on that future weekend.
You have our word for it. We are willing to bet real money and put it where our virtual mouths are. Why?
The way studios date movies is that they utilize a service called Rentrak, which is an industry software program that is only available to distributors and studios for dating films, tallying box office and revealing their release plans. All the studios have access to this information, so it’s important that the minute a studio has a date in mind for a film, they date it inside the Rentrak system which then pushes out across the industry so that all companies have a sense of what the landscape looks like over a certain period of time. When studios are looking for the right window, they always consult this data and this schedule to decide if they’ll be splitting an audience or owning a weekend in a certain category since the other releases are in completely different genres.
That’s why, if this was a story about John Wick 4 going up against Playmobil 2 or The Matrix 4 going up against the prequel to Something’s Gotta Give (when everyone was younger and far more attractive looking), this wouldn’t be a story at all.
Sometimes, two studios pick a date without being aware of each other drawing that line in the sand, and what you have here today (read: chaos on social media) springs up. But we are willing to bet the collective social media sphere and entertainment industry that this will not hold. One of the two companies will blink and as George Costanza once said…step off.
Step off George. Step…off.
But why, you ask. Why would either studio step off a date if they felt it was the right date for their movie? If Lionsgate really believes in May 21st, then why should they give Warner Bros. the weekend? If Warner Bros. truly believes that The Matrix 4 is going to deliver in a way that May 21st is the D-Day of the latest film in the quadrilogy, then why give it up to a CGI-free action movie about a man and his dog?
Promotion and publicity. That’s why.
Any studio with a major star knows this: if you have a big star and you want them to promote your hundred million dollar plus movie on television, in print, on radio, and in a variety of online ways, the last thing you want to do is share them. The nightmare that is sharing stars over the course of two movies releasing at the same time is not something any studio marketing department wants to contend with. Getting Keanu an appearance on The Tonight Show, then having to negotiate with the other studio which movie gets “the clip” on the program; who’s paying for hair and grooming, who’s paying for the air fare, are they going in 50/50 on the accommodations? What if one studio doesn’t think The Ellen DeGeneres Show is right for The Matrix 4 but it is for John Wick 4? Who makes the call? With one celebrity, you have limited hours, which means you have to give up things and let the other studio have it.
That isn’t something anyone wants to do.
And when you’re a studio who releases films internationally, like these folks, you’re also contending with a schedule of sending your talent abroad, like our friends at Sony Pictures have been doing lately with the cast of Jumanji: The Next Level. Can you imagine if The Rock had another movie releasing that same weekend?
Never gonna happen.
So, today’s announcement that the pure adrenaline of pure-action John Wick and the questionable one-half creator-driven Matrix 4 would share the same date in the year 2021, when perhaps the World won’t even be around? Not the story. The fact that someone will blink and find a new date?
Now that’s the story.
Bookmark this post and ask Siri to point you to it around May of 2020. About a year out. That’s right about the time someone’s gonna step off.
We’re sure of it.