Sony has officially pushed Venom: Let There Be Carnage from September 24 to October 15. The move is little surprise in terms of rising Covid infections related to the Delta variant, but it’s still… unfortunate news. The Tom Hardy/Michelle Williams/Woody Harrelson/Naomie Harris sequel, helmed by Andy Serkis, was the unofficial post-summer kick-off flick, during which many of the films willfully held back until after summer were supposed to get their chance to shine. While I don’t think we can entirely blame the soft-ish openings of Space Jam: A New Legacy, Snake Eyes, Jungle Cruise and The Suicide Squad on Covid, rising infections (mostly) among the unvaccinated is certainly a variable.
The irony is that the Covid situation began to deteriorate right as Hollywood was about to unleash the comparative biggies. Godzilla Vs. Kong may have given us all false hope in terms of what was possible in the conventional summer movie season. However, the “plan” was for May and June to mostly be dominated by horror flicks (A Quiet Place part II, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It) and smaller franchise flicks (Cruella, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and Peter Rabbit 2) before Universal’s F9 implicitly opened the floodgates in late June.
Alas, Covid came back with a vengeance just in time to put a dent in the potential for a slew of July/August biggies. Again, Snake Eyes was always DOA and I’d have always bet against (metaphorically speaking) the likes of Space Jam 2, Suicide Squad 2 and Free Guy (a star-driven, high-concept original which absolutely would have been a hit in a less IP-driven time). The films offered up this summer were generally must-release films (Black Widow had to come out lest the Disney+ television schedule be disrupted), horror franchise flicks (like Don’t Breathe 2 and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions) and coin-toss biggies (Jungle Cruise) which were never sure things.
As soon as Paramount swapped Top Gun: Maverick for G.I. Joe Origins, well, that’s what was up. Thanks to goodwill over the first Venom and two winning trailers, Venom: Let There Be Carnage was a “safe” bet in normal times to mostly avoid the “folks were only curious the first time” sequel curse. Sony obviously agrees, as they are moving it by a few weeks in the hopes of not getting kneecapped by the current normal. Whether A) we’ll see films moving a few weeks at a time like we saw with Tenet last year or B) if Venom 2 will kick off a slew of release date changes is to be seen. There are rumblings that Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (due October 1) could move or go straight to Netflix.
That would be unfortunate, as the previous Hotel Transylvania films have earned $1.306 billion on a combined $240 million budget. There’s little reason not to assume that the fourth installment (even sans Adam Sandler) wouldn’t be a hit in normal circumstances. Sony has a handful of biggies (Venom 2, Hotel Transylvania 4, which could go straight to Netflix, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Spider-Man: No Way Home) with no day-and-date streaming or PVOD backstop. So, without getting too optimistic, Venom 2 may not kick off a slew of additional delays outside of Sony.
Paramount has just Paw Patrol next week and Jackass Forever on October 22, with Top Gun: Maverick (their next tentpole) dropping three months from now just before Thanksgiving. Universal has MGM’s Candyman and Blumhouse’s Halloween Kills in October but won’t have a “tentpole” until Illumination’s Sing 2 in Christmas. Disney has the option of offering Premier Access for Shang-Chi, Eternals and Encanto if they so choose, while Warner Bros. is expected to stay the course due to the “in theaters and HBO Max” deal for 2021.
That said, the new Venom 2 date puts it both right on top of Halloween Kills (which can easily move somewhere else in October) and one week away from Dune. Poor, long-suffering Dune, which lost its ideal date (December 18, 2020) due to Covid, was chased off October 1, 2021 by Hotel Transylvania 4 and now sits right between Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Marvel’s Eternals. Offhand, if Hotel Transylvania 4 really does move or get sent to streaming, I’d consider sending Dune back to October 1. Or, if Spider-Man: No Way Home ditches Christmas, push Matrix 4 into 2022 and let Dune be the year-end fantasy biggie again.
We’ll see how this plays out. The first Venom earned $214 million domestic from an $80 million debut in October 2018, and it earned $269 million in China for an $854 million global cume on a $90 million budget. At this point, the $460 million cume of Godzilla Vs. Kong may continue to be a high-water mark or impossible benchmark. And no, I don’t know if this means No Time to Die (another huge release without any streaming/PVOD safety nets) is going to get moved again. At this rate, I may never get to write my “Why Naomie Harris is an undervalued blockbuster utility player” post.