The last thing theatrical needs as it heads into the lucrative holiday season is the emergence of the Omicron variant. While some early reports are encouraging (less severe illness, vaccination with the booster is effective), others are not (much more contagious).
One thing we’ve noticed over the past 16 months is that interest in upcoming releases rises and falls inversely with COVID cases. The chart below shows the number of US COVID cases by month (red) and the average interest score for all films polled during that month (blue).
During the Pre-Vaccine era, interest scores dropped during the 2020 winter surge. With the arrival of vaccines in February, interest scores rose while COVID cases dropped. Once the Delta variant arrived in July, interest dropped as COVID cases started to climb.
Interest during the Delta variant era bottomed out in August as the number of COVID cases reached its late summer peak. Today, Omicron arrives with interest scores on the rise.
As we sit on the cusp of an expected winter surge and the spread of this new variant, we will be watching closely to see if interest scores begin to drop.
While it’s great that we’re entering the holiday season with interest on the rise, an early poll shows that the Omicron variant is creating some hesitation. The Quorum polled 433 current filmgoers to see how Omicron impacts their feelings about going to the theater.
As the chart below shows, just over half of current filmgoers (51%) said they would continue to go to the theater, but they are closely watching Omicron. Should the new variant take hold or prove disruptive, this group is most likely to decrease their theater-going.
Among the other half, 24% of the respondents say they are unfazed by Omicron and will continue to go to the theater as often as they are currently, while 26% say they will be going to the theater less often.
This survey with a relatively small sample is nothing more than a quick reading of the room. But this is something that we will continue to track over the next few weeks.
In a perfect world, we will learn that Omicron is less severe and that current vaccines are effective. In a perfect world, interest scores for upcoming films will continue to rise. And in a perfect world, theatrical will continue to grow during this holiday season and throughout 2022.
While we wait and see, The Quorum will be here collecting data points along the way.