“Who knows when the fuck it’s gonna come out?”
That’s a quote from Maisie Williams, the New Mutants star who has no idea when The New Mutants is going to hit theaters… presuming 20th Century Fox’s long-delayed X-Men spinoff is still slated for a theatrical release. Williams’ co-stars, Anya Taylor-Joy and Charlie Heaton, are in the dark too, and I wouldn’t be surprised if director Josh Boone is as well. That’s because the project has been in limbo since last summer, when the Disney-Fox merger became all but a sure thing, and New Mutants was destined to become someone else’s problem. That’s how Fox has treated it, and that’s what it seems to have become for Disney, which has five options from what I can tell.
Option 1: Release New Mutants, as is, into theaters, and hope for the best. I totally understand why Disney may not want to sink a ton of marketing dollars into this film, since they didn’t make it and have no real creative attachment to the film. Having said that, New Mutants wasn’t terribly expensive, so Disney wouldn’t necessarily have to do that to recoup costs. They could simply cut their losses and dump it over Labor Day weekend, one of the slowest weekends at the box office, to be sure, but one that would nonetheless fulfill certain contractual obligations regarding a theatrical release. See, I’m told a streaming release would require Boone and the cast to amend their contracts and sign off on a new deal, and to my knowledge, that option has not been presented to any of them… at least not yet, anyway. However, I imagine they’d all be happy to amend their deals to accommodate a streaming release, if only to finally put the project behind them and move on with the rest of their careers.
Option 2: Release New Mutants, as is, on Hulu. Disney owns 60% of Hulu, which best I can tell, has never had a name-brand film debut on its platform. New Mutants could potentially drive new subscriptions from movie fans who have never really had much of a reason to subscribe to the streaming service. It’s still unclear how Disney plans to use Hulu compared to its fully-owned upcoming service Disney+, but if Hulu becomes Disney’s preferred destination for edgier, more adult fare like, say, the Alien/Predator/Die Hard franchises — or cast-offs it doesn’t want associated with the Disney brand — then Hulu makes a lot of sense for New Mutants.
Option 3: Release New Mutants, as is, on Disney+. I just said that the X-Men spinoff could drive new subscriptions for Hulu, but it could also do the same for Disney+, though I imagine most people will subscribe to the latter because of the Star Wars series The Mandalorian, several new Marvel series and its endless library of animated films and TV shows. Still, with all due respect to the Anna Kendrick–Bill Hader Christmas movie Noelle, I don’t think that film is going to move the needle much for Disney+, which could make a major splash if it was the only place you could find New Mutants. I just think it’s a matter of whether all the X-Men movies will live alongside their proper MCU counterparts on the Disney+ platform, or whether they’ll be banished to Hulu like relics of another time.
Option 4: Don’t release New Mutants at all. Ever. This possibility seems very unlikely to me. If the Disney-Fox merger never happened, I’d say this would be impossible. There’s no way Fox would just eat tens of millions of dollars. But Disney? Well, they actually could… and who knows, they actually might! Maybe they just want to wipe the X-Men slate clean for Kevin Feige after Dark Phoenix hits theaters in June. But I doubt it. It’s just not a good look in terms of talent relations. Hundreds and hundreds of people worked on New Mutants and that work deserves to be seen. It’s not like the film is supposed to be some uber-embarrassment. Boone’s first cut scored higher with test audiences than the first cut of Dark Phoenix did. It’s just that Dark Phoenix, with its mega-budget and A-list stars, was a higher priority for Fox, and so the studio’s resources were spent fixing that summer blockbuster rather than the lower-budget genre film full of young stars. I’d give this option better odds if Fox hadn’t released that first (and only) trailer back in October 2017. If that had never been released, I could see Disney sweeping New Mutants under the rug and forgetting it ever existed, but a trailer is a promise of sorts to the audience, and promises are meant to be kept, even if they’re hard.
Option 5: Spend the money to fix New Mutants and go from there. Forget about distribution for a second. Is the film salvageable? My sources say yes, it is, particularly given its budget and built-in fanbase. This isn’t a Fantastic Four-type situation. Boone was simply never given a chance to do the reshoots Fox wanted, but if Disney were to dip into its future Endgame profits and spend another $5 million or $10 million to “fix” New Mutants, wouldn’t that be worth it? It seems like a small price to pay given the potential upside, and I mean that in terms of both box office and new subscribers to Hulu or Disney+. It’s not like New Mutants is destined to fade away into obscurity. Based on how often we’re asked about it here at Collider, I’d peg this film for an opening weekend of at least $20 million. Sure, scheduling could be tricky, particularly with Taylor-Joy working non-stop and Boone moving on to The Stand at CBS All Access, but with an extra week or two of shooting and a bump in the VFX budget, New Mutants could probably wind up being better than half the X-Men movies. People are hungry for alternate takes on the comic book movie genre and based on that trailer, New Mutants looks like an interesting deviation from most superhero origin stories. Boone has never been fired from the project, so I hope Disney gives him a chance to complete his movie, but even if the studio ends up bringing in another director, I think the actors — and especially the fans — deserve to see this film finished.
Like everyone mentioned by name in this story, we’ll have to wait and see what happens to New Mutants. Boone had set out to make an R-rated horror movie, only to be instructed to turn New Mutants a PG-13 YA movie, and when he delivered on that front, Fox executives changed their minds and wanted him to make the film “scarier” after seeing It make a killing at the box office despite its R-rating. It just sounds like no one was really on the same page throughout this production, which is a shame, because this is one comic book property that really stood out and piqued my interest. I have no choice but to keep the faith here and root for Dark Phoenix to work, which just might be enough to goose Disney to save New Mutants. The studio wound up seeing the light with the James Gunn–Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 situation. Let’s hope they’re willing to do the right thing here, because to throw New Mutants on the scrapheap of history would be an act of villainy worthy of Magneto himself.