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The real reason New Mutants has been delayed four times

Even considering all the upheaval caused by the ongoing pandemic of the novel coronavirus, no one Hollywood project in recent memory has suffered more setbacks than the X-Men spin-off The New Mutants. Some of the delays can certainly be attributed to the current unpredictable state of the industry, but others predate even COVID-19.

New Mutants has been in production since before Disney even finalized its 2019 acquisition of Fox, a move that finally brought the X-Men franchise home to Marvel Studios. The horror-tinged outing from director Josh Boone concerns a new generation of mutants being held at a secret facility. Armed with a dark spin on the typical superhero formula, the cast includes Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things) — an exciting ensemble of young actors who have gotten significantly less young since production wrapped. The film was shot way back in 2017, so fans have been anticipating this release for over three years at this point.

At the time of filming, New Mutants had a planned theatrical release scheduled for April 13, 2018. That aspirational date obviously wasn't met, and Disney has subsequently delayed the film so many times that fans were beginning to suspect it might skip its theatrical window altogether and head straight to streaming on Disney+. Even though that no longer appears to be the case, it's still an epic cluster-snikt that merits some unpacking.

Behold, a tale of woe and release date angst to rival any comparable superhero project — the saga of The New Mutants.

New Mutants went into production with a bold vision

Fresh off the success of the teen drama The Fault In Our Stars, writer-director Josh Boone was ready to step into the big leagues and take on a superhero film. Back in 2014, when New Mutants was originally envisioned, Fox was still its own freestanding entity, and the X-Men franchise remained totally independent of the MCU.

While Boone got to work on the screenplay with the help of screenwriter Knate Lee, the X-Men movies experienced a rejuvenation at Fox. 2014's Days of Future Past earned accolades from both viewers and critics, while standalone films like Deadpool and Logan demonstrated the untold range of the franchise. Suddenly, Marvel movies could be raunchy R-rated comedies or dark meditations on the tragedy of aging. New Mutants was always going to be geared toward a younger audience, but Boone clearly took the success of the studio's sibling films as carte blanche to put his own identifiable mark on the project.

Boone set out to craft a true horror film from the raw X-Men material, describing his vision for New Mutants as "Stephen King meets John Huges" in an interview with EW. Talk about disturbing. Principal photography on the project ended on September 16th, 2017, with Fox prepping the film for that first ill-fated 2018 release.

The first cut of New Mutants needed a little help

At first, post-production seemed like smooth sailing, with test audiences apparently responding positively to Boone's first cut. According to Bloody Disgusting, insiders began expecting that the film would prove as successful as Deadpool, which had already earned the studio big bucks. The problem reportedly was that Boone had been butting heads with Fox executives throughout the process over how far to push the movie's horror elements — a conflict that continued as the team attempted to lock down the tone in editing. 

But then, the popularity of the New Mutants trailer that debuted with 2017's IT made it clear that maybe there was something to Boone's vision of a more classic horror vibe after all. The studio wanted him to go back and make the movie more like the scarefest promised by the trailer — something that didn't actually seem possible with the compromises made during photography. Thus began the first round of studio dithering that led New Mutants to where it sits today.

Fox ordered reshoots to amp up the horror elements, and pushed the release date back from April of 2018 to February 22, 2019. Why so far? In addition to the reshoots, Fox didn't want to crowd the summer release of another big X-Men movie, Deadpool 2. The delay certainly served the latter film. Deadpool 2 became the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, but while Ryan Reynolds was raking in the box office receipts, New Mutants foundered.

Scheduling conflicts and the Disney-Fox merger thwarted New Mutants

Just a few months after the announcement of the February 2019 release date, another scheduling conflict pushed New Mutants back again. Concerned that Boone's film might interfere with the planned February release of mainline X-Men movie Dark Phoenix, Disney decided to once again defer the spinoff, pushing its release date back to August 2, 2019. This release date seemed destined to come through — New Mutants would benefit from the summer box office surge, and Dark Phoenix would get to keep its winter territory clear. This change was also intended to accommodate the reshoots on New Mutants, plans for which turned out to be more extensive than Fox originally envisioned.

The hope was that New Mutants could turn into something totally distinct within the X-Men universe, a project even more akin to Logan and Deadpool, which had more or less proven the experimental model to Fox. This new creative demand ultimately required about half the movie to be reshot.

Then came an ominous report from The Hollywood Reporter that, by March of 2019, these reshoots still had not taken place. Apparently, the entire project had become tangled up in the details of Fox's ongoing merger with Disney.

Disney had new plans for the New Mutants

It became obvious in the wake of its massive takeover of Fox that Disney planned to incorporate the X-Men franchise into its own MCU. Execs at Disney saw this move as a kind of repatriation for the marquee Marvel property, but it left both Dark Phoenix and New Mutants hanging in the lurch. Moreover, Disney was justifiably concerned by all the delays and reshoots on the latter film. There was reportedly some grumbling at the highest levels that the movie might never be ready for primetime.

At this point, with the ordered reshoots still unfinished, it became clear New Mutants was never going to make its August 9th release date. Disney announced that the film had once again been pushed, this time to April 3, 2020, a challenging slot sandwiched between award season and summer. Unfortunately, the miserable performance and reception of Dark Phoenix in June 2019 left a bad taste in Disney's mouth regarding all of Fox's legacy X-Men projects.

Disney execs started looking at New Mutants with a much more critical eye. Some were reportedly underwhelmed with Boone's work, and fans worried they might see yet another delay — or worse, a total cancellation. As it turns out, fans were right to be concerned, though not for the reason they thought.

Mutants can't stop an industry shutdown

Having already survived reshoot orders, scheduling conflicts, a merger, and The Dark Phoenix, New Mutants appeared to be cruising toward its April release date (without the major reshoots ever actually happening, by the way). Then the novel coronavirus brought the entire industry to a screeching halt, and like so many other 2020 would-be blockbusters, Boone's film got pushed yet again to accommodate closed theaters and shifting schedules.

On March 12, 2020, Disney removed New Mutants from its schedule entirely, to the dismay of patient fans. Many began to assume that the Mouse House intended to punt New Mutants over to Disney+ for a streaming-only release, as with Artemis Fowl. Fortunately for proponents of the traditional movie-going experience, Disney finally announced a new release plan for the film — one that includes a traditional theatrical window. 

According to the official announcement, New Mutants is now headed to theaters for the tail end of the summer season, on August 28, 2020. Fans should proceed with cautious optimism until then.