In the biggest sign yet that Hollywood’s fall plans are being altered by the coronavirus surge driven by the delta variant, Sony Pictures on Thursday delayed the release of the big-budget sequel “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”
Instead of opening in theaters Sept. 24, the “Venom” sequel will now debut Oct. 15. The film, starring Tom Hardy, had already been delayed numerous times during earlier stages of the pandemic.
But after constant turmoil, the fall movie calendar has stayed relatively calm until recently. Last week, Paramount Pictures postponed the release of “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” citing the delta variant.
What “Venom” and “Clifford” have in common is that they’re planned as theater-only releases. Sony doesn’t have a major streaming platform the way Disney and Warner Bros. do. Those studios have been relaying partly on subscription boosts or digital rentals to offset lost box office. The original “Venom” earned $856 million globally in 2018.
After ramping-up ticket sales, the box office has turned south in recent weeks. After Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” underperformed in late July, Warner Bros.’ “The Suicide Squad”opened with an underwhelming $26.2 million last weekend. Analysts have said the delta variant is keeping many moviegoers home.
But the “Venom” delay — relatively short compared to the postponements of last year — also suggests the film industry is banking on the current surge fading quickly. This weekend, Disney will release the 20th Century Fox production “Free Guy,” with Ryan Reynolds, only in theaters.