The Quorum

Delta variant may shrink box office by more than 25%.

Oh crap. Just when it seemed the theatrical world was returning to something resembling pre-pandemic norms, along comes the Delta variant. At The Quorum, we wanted to know how the surge in Covid cases was impacting intent to go to the theater. As it turns out, we should brace ourselves for more downward pressure over the next few weeks.

First, we asked people about their theater-going behaviors over the past few months. Respondents were sorted into two groups:

Frequent filmgoers – people who have been to a theater several times during the pandemic

Casual filmgoers – people who have been to the movies once or twice during the pandemic

We then asked them if the rise in the Delta variant meant they would be less likely to go to a theater or if it would have no impact at all.

Across all respondents, 26% said they would be less likely to go to see a movie in a theater. But when we drill down into those two groups, the numbers change dramatically.

As you can see above, among frequent filmgoers, only 14% said the Delta variant would make them go less often. But when we look at the casual filmgoers, it’s a very different story. Among this group, nearly half (45%) said they would be less likely to go to a theater.

So, let’s do some rough, back-of-napkin math here. Let’s suppose that hypothetical MOVIE X had opened to $100M pre-pandemic. What would that film look like in our post-pandemic world? First, we know that about 83% of theaters are open, so the ceiling for MOVIE X today would drop to $83M.

Second, we know that 26% of filmgoers would be less likely to return to theaters with the rise of the Delta variant. Suddenly that 83% drops to $61M. That’s a sizable drop.

Of course, this rough estimate would only apply to films playing exclusively in theaters. If the Delta variant continues its disruption, the real winners maybe Warner Bros. and Disney – the two studios that have embraced day-and-date releases. If people feel nervous about going to a theater, it will be the films that open simultaneously at home that are likely to come out ahead.

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