The recent box office success of Free Guy may help to avoid more release date delays. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the release dates of major tentpole movies have been delayed and shuffled. Free Guy, starring Ryan Reynolds as a bank teller (and a ton of other cameos) who realizes he’s an NPC in an open-world video game, was initially set to be released in July of 2020 but was delayed until last week’s release. Free Guy is among many films that have had their original release dates changed, including No Time To Die, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, The King’s Man, Black Adam, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and many others.
Although most tentpole releases have tentative release dates, the rise of the Covid Delta variant has generated fear among studio executives that these dates may change once more. These fears were compounded by the recent underperformance of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, which failed to meet box office expectations. The lackluster performance of this film led to speculation – and fear – that major releases like Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which was just recently delayed, and Marvel’s Eternals, may have to be delayed again.
Free Guy, however, according to THR, may have quelled some of this fear among studio executives due to its strong opening weekend box office numbers. The movie pulled in $28.4 million, which greatly exceeded expectations. Analysts suggest several factors can account for Free Guy’s success, notably the movie’s exclusive theatrical release. Another factor is that males under the age of 35, an influential demographic of movie-goers, are generally less concerned with the Delta variant and are more likely to continue going to the movies. Considering that other big movies due out this year also rely on this demographic – Venom: Let There Be Carnage, for example – executives may avoid further release delays.
What is even more significant about Free Guy’s success is that the film isn’t based on any pre-existing IP, and nor is it a sequel, both factors that tend to increase the likelihood of a box office success. Considering most of the blockbusters films set to release later this year are either based on pre-existing IP or are sequels to other films (or both), it’s likely that these films can also perform similarly well. No Time To Die, for example, is a sequel based on pre-existing IP and stands a decent chance of being able to perform at the box office, primarily since it also targets the males under 35 demographic.
Although Free Guy‘s success seems to have positively impacted the confidence of studio executives, it remains to be seen what will happen with the Covid Delta variant. With vaccination rates climbing, it’s possible movies like Venom: Let There Be Carnage can premiere on their currently scheduled release dates (No Time To Die may not have a choice) and still generate substantial box office numbers. However, it’s also entirely possible that the surge in Delta variant cases gets worse, and major tentpole releases will be delayed further, perhaps into early 2022. Right now, it’s a waiting game.