As the Delta variant ripples throughout the world, moviegoing is starting to see another decline after just starting back up earlier this summer. While that’s also due to the prevalence of streaming opportunities for viewers inclined to stay at home, concern over the mutant strain have likely also affected box office performance. For one, “The Suicide Squad,” while also available day-and-date on HBO Max, fell below expectations this weekend.
Earlier this month, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced a sweeping mandate to require proof of Covid-19 vaccinations for patrons attending indoor activities like gyms and restaurants — and that will include movie theaters, as well. As the National Association of Theater Owners told The Hollywood Reporter, exhibitors are open to the idea of requiring proof of vaccination throughout the rest of the country.
“In order for the exhibition industry to fully recover, we need more people to be vaccinated. It’s pure science. The rates of shots had went quite well for a while in the U.S. and then they dropped off. We need them to keep going,” National Association of Theatre Owners president John Fithian said in the THR interview. NATO represents all the major exhibition chains in the United States.
The new program to curb the spread of the virus in NYC doesn’t take full effect until September 13, but already Los Angeles (the other biggest moviegoing market in the United States) officials are weighing similar options.
Fithian added, “Don’t get me wrong. There are going to be some lost ticket sales in the short term. Working through how we implement it and how we deal with the economics are challenges, but we’re not going to oppose it, because people need to get vaccinated.”
Per THR’s findings, “Moviegoing comfort levels have dropped dramatically in recent weeks in the U.S. as delta variant cases increase, according to the National Research Group. The comfort level was at a pandemic-era best 81 percent on July 11; as of Monday, it was 67 percent. The impact is being felt at the box office.”
Still, how this will effect children under 12 remains up in the air.
“We’re not going to exclude those under 12,” de Blasio said last week. “We want them to be safe, we want them to be careful. The whole purpose of doing this is to give people the ultimate incentive to get vaccinated if they’re eligible.”
“That’s good news,” said Fithian. “But there are other issues. If you’ve had COVID recently, and you’re therefore immune for now, does that qualify? There are a bunch of implementation questions. We want to make sure that it’s executed fairly.”