The Delta variant has thrown a monkey wrench into the recovery of the film industry. Until recently, it seemed that a return to moviegoing was well on its way, with studios delivering a steady flow of major new releases and box office grosses climbing back from their pandemic lows.
Major international film festivals had been held once again in New York, and Cannes with in-person attendance, and studios were holding star-studded premieres to promote new releases such as Jungle Cruise and Stillwater.
However, progress on the rollout of vaccines has slowed, as many have remained unconvinced of its life-saving benefits. The highly infectious Delta variant of the virus has taken hold, increasing the risk of infections, especially among unvaccinated populations. As a result, many health authorities have renewed their recommendations to mask up when spending time indoors, even for those vaccinated.
Exhibitors are worried that these new developments will dampen enthusiasm from moviegoers to return to theatres. If it does, studios may once again push back theatrical release dates for their upcoming movies, as they did regularly during the height of the pandemic. While this outcome is not certain, it is being discussed again.
Thankfully, these worries were somewhat alleviated by an encouraging $34M performance at the box office for the opening weekend of Disney’s Jungle Cruise. At the very least, COVID’s Delta variant has introduced a degree of uncertainty in what had been expected as a steady road to recovery.