Hollywood must make tough choices on when and how to release new films as Delta variant rises

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Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson star in “Reminiscence.” The movie comes out this weekend and is part of the WarnerMedia 2021 film slate that opens in theaters and streams on HBO Max the same day. Photo by Warner Bros.

Late summer and early fall was supposed to be the big return to movie theaters. But with the Delta variant on the rise, Hollywood is in a tough spot. Studios have to decide to put their big movies in theaters, knowing not as many people will come, or sell films to a streaming service and lose out on box office revenue. 

Sony had already moved the release date of its “Venom” sequel, and just shifted it again, from September to October. With “Hotel Transylvania 4,” Sony dropped the theatrical release altogether and sold it to Amazon for streaming. 

One film to keep an eye on is “No Time to Die,” the newest James Bond film. MGM pushed the release date multiple times throughout 2020, and now it’s scheduled to come out Oct 8, 2021, in the U.S. It’s possible the studio will push it again if case numbers continue to rise, but at some point MGM will just have to release the film because there are major marketing costs that come into play every time the release date is changed.  

In some ways, the continued hesitancy to go to the movies makes WarnerMedia look smart in deciding to stream all its 2021 films on HBO Max the same day they open in theaters. However, the studio has faced heavy costs for going that route as well, especially with a movie like “Reminiscence,” which opens this weekend. Based on all the bad reviews, the film likely would have been a flop, but the studio still had to pay star Hugh Jackman as if it had been a hit.



Kaitlin Parker