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The New Mutants Ignores the Pandemic, Opens in Theaters Only

Seems like a bad idea, guys.

Maisie Williams as Rahne Sinclair / Wolfsbane in The New Mutants (2019)

After three years of delays, reshoots, and studio shake-ups, Fox’s The New Mutants is finally coming to theaters this Friday.

There’s just one problem: that whole coronavirus global pandemic thingy that’s kept theaters closed across the country. As of early August, 36 states have opened their movie theaters, with capacity caps, social distancing rules, and face mask requirements that vary per region. Five states (California, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York, plus D.C.) have yet to reopen.

But even though many theaters have reopened, experts still warn that sitting in a closed room breathing the same air as strangers might not be the safest thing to do. While some experts say that the risk may be low if the theaters and film-goers follow appropriate protocols, others think going to the movies is too risky, especially as cases spike across the country.

Former Detroit city health commissioner, physician and epidemiologist Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said of movie-going, “It’s just about the last thing I’d do right now,” adding “Short of renting out an entire theater, which is obviously not an option for most of us, there is no scenario in which going to a movie theater is a good idea.”

Disney/20th Century Studios are so committed to opening the film in theaters, that they will not make it available for purchase on Disney+. And in a shockingly unprecedented move during a global pandemic, they will not be giving journalists access to a digital screener of the film.

This decision has led several critics to refuse to review the film in protest. The A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd wrote the following:

“The A.V. Club won’t be reviewing it, however. At least not this week, and probably not for many afterwards. A few days ago, we reached out to Disney and were informed by representatives of the studio that they would not be providing press with either an advance screening of the film or a digital review link. In other words, the only way critics will be able to see The New Mutants is if they buy a ticket and go to a theater, just like everyone else. In normal times, that’s exactly what we’d do: Studios will sometimes decline to screen a movie in advance of its public premiere—often, it must be said, when they’re afraid that reviews will be negative enough to hurt attendance. (Maybe The New Mutants is a train wreck. Or maybe Disney just thinks it is.)

We are, in fact, adopting the official policy of only reviewing films our writers can safely watch, whether in a socially distanced press screening or with a digital screener. And yes, that applies to all our writers, even those willing to take the risk for an assignment, because we’re not willing to monetize that risk, either.”

Many reviewers and artists agreed with Dowd:

This honestly reads like Disney trying to bury the film: releasing it only in theaters, in the middle of a pandemic, with zero reviews. It’s a tough break for all who worked on the film, who likely would have much rather watched the film on Hulu or VOD.

(via The A.V. Club, image: 20th Century Fox/Marvel Entertainment)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.