The release dates for much-anticipated Hollywood blockbuster "Mulan" and spy drama "Tenet" have been pushed back again due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Posters of upcoming Hollywood blockbuster "Mulan" and spy drama "Tenet." [Images courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros.]

Disney's upcoming epic fantasy war drama "Mulan" based on the legendary Chinese heroine has been postponed until Aug. 21, The Walt Disney Studios announced Friday.

The live-action film set in China was first scheduled to hit U.S. theaters on March 27 but was later rescheduled to July 24 due to the pandemic.

"While the pandemic has changed our release plans for 'Mulan' and we will continue to be flexible as conditions require, it has not changed our belief in the power of this film and its message of hope and perseverance," Alan Horn, co-chairman and chief creative officer, and Alan Bergman, co-chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement.

"Director Niki Caro and our cast and crew have created a beautiful, epic, and moving film that is everything the cinematic experience should be, and that's where we believe it belongs — on the world stage and the big screen for audiences around the globe to enjoy together," the statement read.

"Mulan," which cost US$200 million to make, stars Liu Yifei in the title role following a year-long global casting, with Gong Li as a powerful and dangerous witch, Donnie Yen as an army commander, and Jet Li as the emperor of China.

The film is an adaptation of Disney's 1998 animated classic of the same name. According to folk legend, Mulan lived during a tumultuous era in Chinese history more than 1,400 years ago. She disguised herself as a man to serve in the army in place of her aged father and fight for her country.

The announcement came just one day after Warner Bros. decided to delay the theatrical release of Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" for the second time. The film, which also cost US$200 million to make, was pushed back from July 31 to Aug. 12.

"Warner Bros. is committed to bringing 'Tenet' to audiences in theaters, on the big screen, when exhibitors are ready and public health officials say it's time," the company said in a statement.

"In this moment what we need to be is flexible, and we are not treating this as a traditional movie release. We are choosing to open the movie mid-week to allow audiences to discover the film in their own time, and we plan to play longer, over an extended play period far beyond the norm, to develop a very different yet successful release strategy," the statement continued.

The 10th anniversary re-release of Nolan's "Inception" has also been delayed. The film will arrive in theaters on July 31 instead of July 17, Warner Bros. said.

Nolan, who has called the espionage action epic "Tenent" the "biggest film" of his career, is a huge proponent of the big screen experience. The movie stars John David Washington and Robert Pattinson as detectives who can manipulate time to solve cases and carry out top secret missions.

Both "Mulan" and "Tenet" long shouldered the industry's hopes of helping welcome back moviegoers to the theaters this summer after monthslong closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But cases of the coronavirus have not slowed in the U.S., rather, a number of U.S. states saw an uptick in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, while epidemiologists voice more concerns over the safety of movie theaters. The delays of both movies cast a shadow over theaters' reopening plans, and announce a probable death for this year's summer film season. In previous years, the summer has traditionally provided audiences with mega-blockbusters such as "The Lion King," "The Dark Knight" and "Transformers."

Hollywood studios have delayed nearly all their big-budget movies in the United States and other countries as theaters were shut down in an effort to combat the novel coronavirus.

Because it's a Chinese story, "Mulan" is expected to strongly resonate in China. Meanwhile, "Tenet" director Nolan also has a big fanbase in China, which is why Warner Bros. originally planned to re-release several of his past hits such as "Inception" and "Interstellar" to warm up China's struggling market.

However, although Chinese movie theaters have in principle been allowed to reopen since May, no theaters have done so, partially due to lingering concerns about a second wave of the pandemic, and partially because major film producers are hesitant to present their new potential blockbusters in this particular period as a sacrifice. Now, Beijing's new outbreak has pushed back the actual reopening date indefinitely.

As the crisis continues into the foreseeable future, it has already caused survival problems for many in the film industry, especially small and medium-sized theaters and movie companies in China, and of course around the world.