Don’t let there be carnage. At least not quite yet.
In a first since the avalanche of movie delays last year, 2022 now has its first major postponement since studios began launching their shelved 2021 titles earlier this summer. Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the upcoming comic book sequel about, has been bumped from its current release date of September 24, 2021. A follow-up to the surprise 2018 hit (about a Spider-Man-ish antihero with violent tendencies) is now scheduled to open three weeks later on October 15.
While the pause is brief, it’s also telling.
With recent big-budget tentpoles like Jungle Cruise and The Suicide Squad opening below expectations, the North American box office has started to trend in the wrong direction. It’s a sharp turn following the positive ramp-up seen in May, June, and early July.
The culprit: the Delta variant, the latest, more contagious version of the COVID-19 virus. The surge of this new strain has tracked directly with the slow but steady decline of the theatrical audience. In a recent industry poll, 67% of moviegoers said they’re “very or somewhat comfortable” with going to their local multiplex. That’s a 14% drop in consumer confidence from just one month ago.
With many states now considering mask mandates and other COVID-related protocols (andsome states / local municipalities already implementing) , Sony Pictures made the determination that September would be too soon to see the level of theater attendance they would need to open Venom 2 at a healthy margin.
Sony is also weighing options for its animated sequel Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, either to delay it from its October 1 date or perhaps sell it to a streaming platform and forego theatrical altogether.
The big question: will this be an anomaly, or will it be the first domino to fall in a series of new delays? The fact that Venom 2 has repositioned itself to mid-October could, in itself, cause other studios to rethink how the remainder of the 2021 theatrical landscape looks from a profitability standpoint.
Most prominent: Daniel Craig‘s James Bond swan song No Time to Die and Warner Bros’ big sci-fi epic Dune, which are scheduled to hit theaters on October 8 and 22 respectively. Both movies were expecting to have at least two weeks of breathing space between other major studio releases. Now, October will see three potential blockbusters open on three consecutive weeks. That may be too much for the current market to bear, especially during the fall when school is back in session.
The most likely title to be scared off? The Last Duel, the medieval epic starring and co-written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. It’s directed by Ridley Scott and also stars Adam Driver. Currently slated for October 15 (i.e. Venom 2‘s new date), the film’s distributor Twentieth Century Studios may calculate that October’s theatrical real estate is too crowded for their would-be Oscar contender.