Hollywood monitoring coronavirus as industry speculates on global cost

Facebook and Twitter to skip SXSW later this month.

By Jeremy Kay 3 Mar 2020

Hollywood monitoring coronavirus as industry speculates on global cost

SXSW, Miami International Film Festival and CinemaCon were insisting last night their shows would go on despite ongoing fears over coronavirus as one report suggested global box office could take a $5bn hit in 2020.

Facebook and Twitter will not attend SXSW later this month after implementing global travel bans, and the detrimental impact has already been felt in production and distribution circles.

Studios have effected considerable schedule changes that reflect concern over a virus that may not have reached pandemic levels, but has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people, mostly in China, with fatalities and infection rates climbing, especially in Italy, South Korea and Japan.

Both Disney and Eon have cancelled the Chinese premieres of Mulan and No Time To Die. In the case of the latter, James Bond fans have called upon the film’s producers to push back the release date from April to summer.

Paramount has said its global box office champion Sonic The Hedgehog will release at a later date in the world’s second largest box office market. Similarly the family film remains undated in Japan, the world’s third largest market, while box office in South Korea, the fifth largest market, saw the likes of 1917 and new release The Invisible Man take hits over the weekend.

Some 70,000 theatres in China are closed for the foreseeable future and box office over Chinese New Year – a period spanning January 24 to February 23 – plummeted from $1.8bn to $4m. By the end of February lost theatrical revenue in China could reach $2bn, and insiders say potential global losses could reach $5bn this year.

Multiplex sites in South Korea and Italy have begun to close, including those containing Imax screens in northern Italy, and Daegu in South Korea.

Production has inevitably been hit. Netflix is searching for alternative locations to the Italian leg of the shoot on Dwayne Johnson action thriller Red Notice, which continues to shoot for now in Atlanta, Georgia, where the bulk of production is taking place. Paramount has put on hold plans for the three-week production leg of Mission: Impossible 7 in Venice. More announcements like this seem likely to follow.

The chief Insurance companies that work with Hollywood are weighing up the possible cost of stalled or cancelled shoots and whether such occurrences could lead to a pay-out. Industry chatter about “lock-downs” on sets have so far not been borne out.

In any event, these are more likely to take place on TV shows. After Amazon Studios reportedly implemented a global travel ban for employees, insiders are questioning how this could affect the Lord Of The Rings prequel series set to film in New Zealand. It is already the most expensive TV shoot in history, and Amazon Studios had not commented at time of writing.

After a no-show by Chinese professionals at the recent EFM in Germany and the decision to move back Filmart from its traditional March berth to August, the industry is asking itself which events will be next. On Monday it emerged that Thessaloniki Documentary Festival was being pushed back from this month possibly until late May.

At the Hollywood studios, the official line on Monday was “wait and see” as decision-makers continued to monitor the situation. At time of writing every studio previously scheduled to attend CinemaCon in early April will go.

The larger independent companies are also monitoring the situation. They all operate or work closely with sales operations that rely on robust relations with international buyers and need strong distribution results in order to thrive.

At time of writing the film sector remained highly cautious but hopeful given the slow-down of coronavirus in China. However as of Monday night there had been six deaths in the US and more than 100 cases of infection, giving rise to a potentially volatile and changeable situation.

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