Prepare For More Movie Release Changes As Studios React To Delta Variant

Things have to get worse before they get better, or so we keep saying as COVID-19 cases continue to surge. Hopes have been high for the past few months, as the world inched closer to normalcy, but the numbers don't lie. The contagious Delta variant is causing a spike in the number of coronavirus cases, and the idea of continuing pre-pandemic activities gets less appealing by the day. This is bad news for pretty much everyone — including movie theaters and studio executives, who are quickly losing their audiences.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, recent polls show moviegoing comfort levels have taken a turn for the worst. Having reached a pandemic-era high of 81% in early July, the numbers proceeded to drop at a consistent rate, to a low 64%. Studios have kept a close eye on the results, which spell out concern for theatrical release in general, and especially those targeted at younger demographics. Studio executives are already revealing just how worrisome they find the numbers with one exec telling THR, "If I knew six weeks ago what I know now, I would have moved everything as far out as early next year."

Studios Are Already Making Big Moves

Some execs are already acting on these concerns. Late last month, Paramount caught many off guard by pulling Clifford: The Big Red Dog from their release calendar. The movie was previously set for a September 17 release, leaving a small gap for COVID-19 numbers to ideally lessen. But in reality, things are trending for the worst, in large part because many people still refuse to get vaccinated. As for Clifford's target audience of younger children, kids under 12 are ineligible for the vaccination, making parents all the more nervous about family outings. Crowded movie theaters are less than ideal with cases still rising and many people getting more and more comfortable going mask-less.

Paramount isn't the only studio making moves — Sony recently delayed the release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage from September 24 to August 15. On top of that is speculation that the film could be pushed back even further, to early next year. In a more drastic move, Sony also sold Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania to Amazon. While that sale grants the studio more room in their release calendar, the delay allows them an extra few weeks to see how things trend before making a decision on Venom's release.

Are There More Delays to Come?

By now, you're probably starting to get déjà vu. This is the same process that kickstarted early last year when coronavirus cases were first on the rise and stay-at-home orders settling into place. Movies, especially long-awaited tentpoles, opted to shift releases a bit down the line, then further as COVID-19 cases started to rise. In fact, some of the very same titles whose initial delay was big news just a year ago may end up pushed back once more.

Where some biggies like F9 and Black Widow managed to premiere in theaters earlier this summer, MGM's No Time To Die is currently scheduled for October 8, 2021. Other titles include Top Gun: Maverick, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and Marvel's The Eternals, all of which are currently slated for November releases.

If anything's clear, it's that things aren't getting back to normal quite yet. (And if we want them to, getting vaccinated should be on the top of the to-do list.)