'Clifford' Delayed Due To COVID Spike: Will Other Major Releases Follow The Big Red Dog's Lead?

Honestly, when writing for The Playlist, I didn’t think I’d ever have to cover a film about an oversized red dog as much as I have already. But alas, that’s what happens when the Toronto International Film Festival showcases the upcoming family film, “Clifford the Big Red Dog” as one of its world premieres. And now, it appears ‘Clifford’ might be a bit of a canary in the coal mine, as Paramount is looking to delay the release of the film for fear of COVID issues. Sorry, folks, but we this red canine might be a sign of things to come.

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According to Deadline, Paramount has pulled “Clifford the Big Red Dog” from its upcoming fall release slate. Originally, the film was expected to debut at this year’s TIFF and then show up in theaters on September 22. Unfortunately, Paramount is reportedly scared of the rise in COVID cases due to the Delta variant and the studio believes parents might not be keen on taking their families to cinemas to see ‘Clifford.’

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Obviously, studios are going to do what they believe is the financial responsible thing to do, and if there are concerns that ‘Clifford’ won’t be the start of a new family film franchise (which are always in high-demand), you’re gonna get a delay. And though TIFF has yet to confirm, it appears that ‘Clifford’ isn’t going to be making its debut at the festival, as there are no mentions of the film on the official festival website. That being said, as Deadline pointed out, the Canadian distribution rights are owned by eOne and could still move ahead without Paramount.

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But ‘Clifford’ aside, this delay does start to raise alarms for the rest of the industry. Remember last spring when films started to delay due to the initial wave of COVID, it was a domino effect that eventually led to the shutdown of cinemas for a full year. Of course, the new rise in COVID cases might not be as terrible as that situation, but Hollywood studios are very much a trend-following crowd. So, if Paramount makes the first move, what’s to stop other studios from following suit and delaying more and more films?

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One big difference between the first wave of delays in 2020 and what is happening is 2021 is that there is a bigger infrastructure for releasing films on streaming services. We already know WB is doing that with all of its films this year, releasing day and date with theaters and HBO Max. So, the studio will likely keep that going, even if COVID cases rise. Disney has shown a willingness to send blockbusters to Disney+ over the last several months with “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Cruella,” “Black Widow,” and “Jungle Cruise” all doing a hybrid streaming/theatrical release. That said, Marvel Studios is releasing “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” exclusively in theaters in September. Perhaps, the box office issues of “Black Widow” and the rise in COVID cases could lead to a change of plans?

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It’s far too early to know if that will happen, or if any other films will be delayed/shifted to streaming. However, you better believe cinema owners around the world are going to see what happens next. And if the schedule starts to crumble again, we’ll be looking at “Clifford the Big Red Dog” as the first.