Impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on cinema

The sign on the door of a closed Regal movie theater in New York City, March 2020

The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic has had a substantial impact on the film industry, mirroring its impacts across all arts sectors. Across the world and to varying degrees, cinemas and movie theaters have been closed, festivals have been cancelled or postponed, and film releases have been moved to future dates or delayed indefinitely. As cinemas and movie theaters closed, the global box office dropped by billions of dollars, streaming became more popular, and the stock of film exhibitors dropped dramatically. Many blockbusters originally scheduled to be released between March and November were postponed or canceled around the world, with film productions also halted.

The Chinese film industry had lost US$2 billion by March 2020, having closed all its cinemas during the Lunar New Year period that sustains the industry across Asia. The United States saw its lowest box office weekend since 1998 between March 13–15. After this, the US box office stopped reporting until June.

Box office

A Brooklyn cinema announcing its showings in February 2020; A Quiet Place Part II's release was subsequently postponed.

In early March 2020, it was predicted that the global box office could lose US$5 billion as a result of the pandemic.[1][2]

Countries that are pandemic hot-spots have closed or restricted cinemas and movie theaters, negatively affecting film revenue. Attendance has also been lower in other regions. Following the pandemic in mainland China, 70,000 cinemas were closed in January 2020. In the first two months of 2020, China's box office was down to US$3.9 million, compared to US$2.148 billion in the first two months of 2019.[3] Later, as a result of the pandemic in Italy, on March 8, 2020 the Italian government ordered all cinemas to be closed, for up to a month. Before the closure, box office tracking estimated a 94% drop for the weekend of March 6–8 compared to the same period the previous year.[4] Because of the growing pandemic in France, cinemas are operating at half capacity, leaving strategic seats unavailable to reduce proximity in the screens,[5] a move followed days later by the Irish and Northern Irish cinema chain Omniplex Cinemas.[6] On March 12, Qatar also closed all cinemas,[7] as the US did on March 17,[8] and the UK on March 20.[9]

Percentage box office losses (outside of mainland China) for January to March 3, 2020 are: 70–75% in Italy, 60% in South Korea, 35% in Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Singapore, and 30% in Taiwan.[10] The Los Angeles box office, a key movie market and local economic backbone, was projected to fall by 20% in April 2020 compared to its 2019 figures, based on the state of emergency declared in the county at the start of March 2020.[10] Despite the state of emergency, as single screens within movie theaters do not hold more than 1,000 people, they were granted an exemption from the ban on mass public gatherings in California. A National Association of Theatre Owners representative for California and Nevada announced that theaters would stay open; historically, movie theaters have remained open during other similar emergencies.[11] However, a survey of Americans over the opening March weekend showed support for closing movie theaters.[5] On March 15, Deadline reported that over 100 movie theaters in the US had closed, some due to local rulings and others because of an inability to keep them open with no demand;[12] on March 17, with national restrictions to social gatherings, cinemas across the United States closed.[8] However, drive-in theaters, where customers stay in their own cars, were not closed, and quickly grew in popularity again.[13]

The opening March weekend saw a dramatically lower box office than the same weekend in 2019. The 2019 opening March weekend saw the release of Captain Marvel, which alone earned over US$153 million domestically that weekend, compared to the 2020 weekend's biggest film, Onward, with around US$39 million.[14][15] The next weekend saw the lowest total US box office intake since the October 30–November 1, 1998 weekend, with lower percentage drops than the weekend after 9/11, at US$55.3 million.[12] Onward itself saw the biggest weekend-to-weekend drop of any Pixar film, making $10.5 million, though was still the weekend's biggest film and the only one to make over $10 million.[12] On March 19, Walt Disney Studios and Universal Pictures announced that they would no longer report box office figures.[16]

On March 26, after local transmission of the virus had dropped to 0% in China, movie theaters there began to re-open, with reports that 250–500 theaters were opening, but the next day authorities closed again all movie theaters in the country.[17][18]

Scheduling

Awards

Two award ceremonies were held after the coronavirus became widespread: the 45th César Awards on February 28, and the 43rd Japan Academy Film Prize on March 6. The Japanese Academy Prize ceremony went ahead on March 6. However, the ceremony was conducted without any guests or journalists.[19] The 14th Seiyu Awards cancelled its live ceremony scheduled for March 7 in Tokyo and instead broadcast the winners on Nippon Cultural Broadcasting's internet radio program.[20] The 40th Golden Raspberry Awards were initially intended to take place as planned on March 14.[21] However, it was ultimately cancelled. The ceremony's winners were announced on the Razzies YouTube channel on March 16.[22]

The International Indian Film Academy Awards, planned to take place on March 27, was canceled,[2] while the Italian Academy's David di Donatello ceremony has been postponed from April 3 to May 8.[23] The American Film Institute's lifetime achievement ceremony to honor Julie Andrews was pushed back from April to the summer.[24] The Royal Television Society Programme Awards in London is to be held with only nominees and the RTS representatives attending.[23] The 2020 Platino Awards were also postponed.[25]

Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards were postponed after previously being scheduled for March 22, 2020; a spokesperson said the company "will have further information about a new date in the future".[26]

Festivals

Multiple festivals and events have been cancelled or postponed. Postponements include the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, set to begin on March 5 and rescheduled for June 2020;[27] the Beijing International Film Festival, planned for April 2020 and postponed indefinitely;[28] the Prague International Film Festival, moved from late March to sometime later in 2020; the Bentonville Film Festival, set for April 29 – May 2 and moved to August;[23] the Istanbul International Film Festival set for April 10 to 21 and postponed to a later date in 2020;[29] and Tribeca Film Festival also postponed its 2020 edition.[7] The Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival, a two-week festival in March, experienced low attendance during its first week and postponed its second week to August 2020.[30] The 20th Beverly Hills Film Festival scheduled from April 1 to 15 is postponed indefinitely.[31] The 38th Fajr International Film Festival, scheduled for April 16-24 in Tehran, has been postponed, with plans to organize the event in late spring.[32] The 2020 Metro Manila Summer Film Festival, originally scheduled for April 11 to 21, was also postponed after the decision to place Metro Manila under community quarantine was announced.[33]

Canceled events include the Swiss International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights, planned for early March;[27] the Red Sea International Film Festival, which was to be held for the first time in March 2020;[2] the March 2020 South by Southwest (SXSW), which would have included film screenings;[34] the 2020 BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival;[35] Nickelodeon's 2020 Slimefest festival;[36][37] the Disney+ European launch press event;[27] Fox Broadcasting Company's upfronts and program presentations; Qumra, the Doha Film Institute's international directors' conference; Hong Kong Filmart, a large film market event; the National Association of Theatre Owners' CinemaCon 2020;[38] and Lille's Series Mania television festival.[23] The 22nd edition of Ebertfest and the 44th edition of the Cleveland International Film Festival are cancelled.[39][40] New Jersey's global film festival, Garden State Film Festival, scheduled for March 25 to 29, cancelled their in-person Asbury Park-based festival, however will be proceeding with the original schedule in a real-time live-streaming online format.[41]

The 2020 Cannes Film Festival sent out invitations on March 6, despite France implementing limits on public gatherings beyond its scheduled dates; the Cannes Television Festivals Canneseries and MIPTV chose not to run, however, with Canneseries rescheduling for October and MIPTV canceling its event.[2][42] On March 19, the Festival de Cannes announced that it cannot be held on the scheduled dates, from May 12 to 23. Several options are considered in order to preserve its running, the main one being a simple postponement, in Cannes, until the end of June-beginning of July, 2020.[43] Cannes' main venue has been converted into a temporary homeless shelter.[44]

Some festivals, including Tribeca, SXSW, ReelAbilities, TCM Classic Film Festival, and the Greenwich International Film Festival have created new online progamming in lieu of having an in-person festival.[45]

Within the industry, it is suggested that after the pandemic is contained and major events reschedule, the less-important business events and festivals may be more permanently removed from industry calendars, to allow more important events to happen, because they may be deemed unnecessary if no great effect is felt by their cancellations, and to ease finances of the industry as it enters a recession brought about by coronavirus-caused losses.[46]

Films

Theatrical releases

(top row L to R) Daniel Craig, Liu Yifei, Scarlett Johansson and (bottom row L to R) Gal Gadot, John Krasinski, and Tom Cruise, the stars of No Time to Die, Mulan, Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984, A Quiet Place II, and Top Gun: Maverick have had their film releases affected.

On January 22, the Chinese blockbuster Lost in Russia canceled its theatrical release and was sent to streaming platforms. It was made available to watch for free, a move said to encourage people to watch it and so stay at home. The next day, all theaters in China were closed. On January 31, Enter the Fat Dragon also premiered online.[47] Lost in Russia was streamed by 180 million accounts in the first three days after its release; China's highest-grossing film (and the highest-grossing non-English film ever) was 2017's Wolf Warrior 2, which had sold a total of 159 million tickets worldwide.[48] At the beginning of February, American films set to premiere in China over February and March were officially canceled.[47] Chinese media companies began making more films free online through January.[49] Asian markets also saw Chinese and Hong Kong film distributors cancel exports over the Lunar New Year holiday, including for the films Vanguard, Detective Chinatown 3, The Rescue, and Legend of Deification; Taiwanese film Do You Love Me As I Love You had its Asian release moved to April.[50] Cinemas in Asian countries without public restrictions have been increasing hygiene measures, with the spokesperson for one chain saying that they added more hand sanitizer dispensers, performed temperature checks on staff and moviegoers, cleaned facilities more frequently, and displayed public health warnings on the movie screens.[50] The Lunar New Year holiday is a large market for film releases across Asia, but was stunted in 2020 as the outbreak began rapidly spreading over this period.[50]

At the start of March, the James Bond film No Time to Die, which was scheduled to premiere in March 2020 and to wide release in April 2020, was postponed to November.[51] No Time to Die was the first film to change its planned release outside of China because of the coronavirus outbreak, and has opened discussions of dramatic implications on the film economy: many other productions had avoided scheduling releases at the same time as the 25th Bond film, and its new November date is in the busy holiday release period, leading to low box office intake in March/April and uncertain intake in November.[14] However, the postponement could reportedly generate more publicity for the film, and is also taking the familiar November release slot of the past two Bond films.[52] It has also been suggested that other high-profile films will follow and postpone releases, creating a similar effect.[14][51] Several other films soon followed in postponing their releases worldwide: the heavily-promoted Polish slasher film W lesie dziś nie zaśnie nikt (Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight) was postponed from March 13 to some point in the future when the situation had settled,[53] and the political documentary Slay the Dragon had its theatrical release moved from March 13 to April 3.[23]

Peter Rabbit 2 was initially scheduled to be released in the UK and the US in late March and early April respectively, but due to uncertainty over the outbreak, the film was postponed to early August.[54] Sony Pictures, the film's production company, said that the changes internationally were because of coronavirus fears, with the US release moved in sync over worries of pirate copies and because the rival children's film DreamWorks/Universal's Trolls World Tour had moved its release date earlier, to the same weekend Peter Rabbit 2 was initially planned to release on.[55] Trolls World Tour's forward rescheduling takes it to what would have been No Time to Die's weekend (both are distributed by Universal), and leaves it as the biggest film in April.[56]

Other major films have postponed releases in certain countries. The Disney/Pixar film Onward, released on the opening March weekend, was not opened in the areas most affected by the coronavirus outbreak; while cinemas were closed in China, it also chose not to open in South Korea, Italy or Japan.[57] Other March 2020 releases A Quiet Place Part II and Mulan postponed their releases in affected areas, too. This prompted worry that, should March film openings underperform, blockbusters set for release in May (specifically Disney/Marvel's Black Widow and Universal's F9) would move their dates later in the calendar.[10][2] Mulan not opening in China, where it aimed to make most of its money, was particularly concerning,[58] especially with the possibility that pirate copies will appear and prevent Chinese people from going to see it in cinemas when it is released.[5] Comparatively, A Quiet Place Part II had not anticipated a large Chinese draw, as the box office for the first A Quiet Place in the country was only 10% of its total.[2]

On March 12, 2020, it was announced that the global release of A Quiet Place Part II would be delayed, based on widespread advice and policies against large gatherings.[59] On the same day, the release of Indian film Sooryavanshi, which was initially scheduled to release on March 24, was postponed indefinitely,[60][61] and the release of F9 was pushed to April 2, 2021.[62] Mulan's March 12 London premiere went ahead without a red carpet,[62] and on March 13 it was announced that the film's wide release will be postponed; Disney also postponed the releases of Antlers and The New Mutants, but not Black Widow.[63] This is speculated to be because the other films are standalone, while moving Black Widow – the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Four – would affect the development and distribution of the future Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Marvel Disney+ works, with Disney holding off on an early postponement announcement until March 17, when they postponed Black Widow and their other May releases, The Personal History of David Copperfield and The Woman in the Window.[64][65] Though it had earlier been speculated that Black Widow would be able to take Marvel's November release date planned for The Eternals,[10] it was not initially given a new date.

Warner Bros. followed Disney by announcing the postponement of the rest of their upcoming catalog on March 24; Wonder Woman 1984 was pushed to August 14, 2020 with Scoob!, In the Heights, and Malignant being delayed indefinitely.[66] Prior to this, on March 19, Universal and Illumination announced that Minions: The Rise of Gru had been pulled from its intended release date of July 3, 2020, not only due to the pandemic but also due to the temporary closing of its French Illumination Mac Guff animation studio in response to the pandemic, which would leave the film's animation to be unfinished on its original date.[67] On April 1, 2020, the film was re-scheduled for July 2, 2021, a year after its original date.[68]

Early home media releases

The 2019 film Frozen II was originally planned to be released on Disney+ on June 26, 2020, before it was moved up to March 15. Disney CEO Bob Chapek explained that this was because of the film's "powerful themes of perseverance and the importance of family, messages that are incredibly relevant".[69][70] On March 16, 2020, Universal announced that The Invisible Man, The Hunt, Emma – all films in theaters at the time – would be available on demand as early as March 20 at a suggested price of US$19.99 each. Trolls World Tour will receive the same treatment, being available both in theaters and on demand upon its release on April 10 in the United States and April 20 internationally.[71] After suffering poor box office since its release at the start of March, Onward was made available to purchase digitally on March 21, and was added to Disney+ on April 3.[72] Announced on March 20, Sonic the Hedgehog is also planning to have an early release to video on demand, on March 31.[73][74] On March 16, Warner Bros. announced that Birds of Prey would be released early to video on demand on March 24.[75] On April 3, Disney announced that Artemis Fowl, a film adaptation of the 2001 book of the same name, would move straight to Disney+ on a currently unknown date, skipping a theatrical release entirely.[76]

Productions

Film productions in the key outbreak zones (predominantly China, South Korea, and Italy) have changed their schedules, changed location, or have shut down completely. Sony Pictures closed its offices in London, Paris, and Poland after an employee was thought to have been exposed to the virus.[2] The Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA have canceled all in-person meetings.[23] The Hengdian World Studios in Dongyang, China, has closed indefinitely.[49] The Filipino movie studios Star Cinema, Regal Entertainment and Cinema One Originals also suspended shooting of their films, effective March 15, the same day as a quarantine in Metro Manila and Cainta, Rizal was enacted.[77]

Several Chinese and Hong Kong films have stopped production, including Blossoms, the upcoming film directed by Wong Kar-wai, which was scheduled to shoot in Shanghai;[78] Jia Zhangke's next film, which was planning to begin filming in China in April, but has been put on hold until at least next spring, with Zhangke saying he might even rewrite the script;[78] and Polar Rescue, a Donnie Yen film, which shut down production until the end of the year.[49]

One of the first big production shutdowns was that of Mission: Impossible 7, which was filming in Venice, Italy when the crew was sent home and the sets left behind.[1] After actor Tom Hanks became infected with the coronavirus, the Elvis Presley biopic he was working on in Queensland, Australia was shut down, with everyone on the production put into quarantine. Production company Warner Bros. began working with the Australian public health services to identify other people who may have been in contact with Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, who had been performing at venues including the Sydney Opera House shortly before both were tested positive.[79] The Marvel Studios film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which was also shooting in Australia, had its first unit production temporarily suspended on March 12, 2020 due to director Destin Daniel Cretton self-isolating himself while awaiting results for a coronavirus test, which came back negative.[80][81]

Impacted productions

Suspended

Delayed

Theatrical releases delayed or cancelled

Several films that have had their theatrical releases cancelled, resulting in an alternative method of release, as well as films with delayed releases.[106][107]

Cancelled

Delayed

FilmOriginal release dateNew release date or action taken
AntebellumApril 24, 2020TBA/TBD[113]
AntlersApril 17, 2020TBA/TBD[114]
Black WidowMay 1, 2020November 6, 2020[108]
Blithe SpiritMay 1, 2020September 4, 2020[115]
BloodshotMarch 13, 2020Delayed in China.[116]
Blue StoryMarch 20, 2020TBA/TBD[117]
Bob's Burgers: The MovieJuly 17, 2020April 9, 2021[108]
CandymanJune 12, 2020September 25, 2020[118]
The ClimbMarch 27, 2020July 17, 2020[119]
Crayon Shin-chan: Crash! Rakuga Kingdom and Almost Four HeroesApril 24, 2020TBA/TBD[120]
Detective Chinatown 3January 24, 2020TBA/TBD[50]
Detective Conan: The Scarlet BulletApril 17, 2020TBA/TBD[120]
Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution KizunaMarch 25, 2020Delayed in the United States.[121]
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessMay 7, 2021November 5, 2021[108]
Doraemon: Nobita's New DinosaurMarch 6, 2020August 7, 2020[122] (Replacing Stand by Me Doraemon 2, released on later date)
Dream HorseApril 17, 2020September 4, 2020
The EternalsNovember 6, 2020February 12, 2021[108]
F9May 22, 2020April 2, 2021[123]
Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel III. spring song
May 7, 2020Delayed in the United States and Canada.[124]
Free GuyJuly 3, 2020December 11, 2020[125]
The French DispatchJuly 24, 2020October 16, 2020[125]
Ghostbusters: AfterlifeJuly 10, 2020March 5, 2021[125]
Grand BlueMay 29, 2020TBA/TBD[126]
GreyhoundJune 12, 2020TBA/TBD[127]
Indiana Jones 5July 9, 2021July 29, 2022[108]
In the HeightsJune 26, 2020TBA/TBD[128]
Jungle CruiseJuly 24, 2020July 30, 2021[108]
Koko-di Koko-daMarch 27, 2020TBA/TBD[129]
Legend of DeificationJanuary 25, 2020TBA/TBD[50]
Majo Minarai o SagashiteMay 15, 2020TBA/TBD[130]
MalignantAugust 14, 2020TBA/TBD[128]
Minions: The Rise of GruJuly 3, 2020July 2, 2021[68] (Replacing Sing 2, released on later date)
MorbiusJuly 31, 2020March 19, 2021[127]
MulanMarch 27, 2020July 24, 2020[108]
My SpyMarch 13, 2020April 17, 2020[131]
The New MutantsApril 3, 2020TBA/TBD[63]
No Time to DieApril 2, 2020November 25, 2020[51]
OnwardMarch 6, 2020Delayed in Italy, Japan, New Zealand until June 4, 2020 and South Korea[57]
Our LadiesApril 24, 2020September 11, 2020[132]
The Personal History of David CopperfieldMay 8, 2020TBA/TBD[133]
Peter Rabbit 2: The RunawayApril 3, 2020January 15, 2021[127]
Pretty Cure Miracle Leap: A Wonderful Day with EveryoneMarch 20, 2020May 16, 2020[134][135]
Princess PrincipalApril 10, 2020TBA/TBD[136]
A Quiet Place Part IIMarch 20, 2020September 4, 2020[137]
Recorder: The Marion Stokes ProjectApril 17, 2020Delayed in the United Kingdom until September 17, 2020[138]
The RescueJanuary 25, 2020TBA/TBD[50]
RunMay 8, 2020TBA/TBD[139]
Scoob!May 15, 2020TBA/TBD[128]
The Secret GardenApril 3, 2020August 14, 2020[140]
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsFebruary 12, 2021May 7, 2021[108]
Shimajirō & the Sky Flying ShipFebruary 28, 2020TBA/TBD[141]
Sing 2July 2, 2021December 22, 2021[68]
Slay the DragonMarch 13, 2020April 3, 2020[23]
Sonic the HedgehogFebruary 14, 2020Delayed in China[116] and Japan[142] until further notice
SooryavanshiMarch 24, 2020TBA/TBD[60]
SpiralMay 15, 2020TBA/TBD[113]
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the RunMay 22, 2020July 31, 2020[137]
Stand by Me Doraemon 2August 7, 2020TBA/TBD[122]
Thor: Love and ThunderNovember 5, 2021February 18, 2022[108][b]
The Tomorrow WarDecember 25, 2020TBA/TBD[137]
Top Gun: MaverickJune 26, 2020December 23, 2020[137]
Ultraman Taiga The MovieMarch 6, 2020TBA/TBD[143]
UnchartedMarch 5, 2021October 8, 2021[125]
VanguardJanuary 25, 2020TBA/TBD[50]
The Woman in the WindowMay 15, 2020TBA/TBD[133]
Wonder Woman 1984June 5, 2020August 14, 2020[128]

Exhibitors

The Cineworld cinema at New Mersey Shopping Park in March 2020, operating as normal. Cineworld particularly suffered during the pandemic.

The stock of exhibitors, companies that own and finance showing films in cinemas and theaters, began and continued falling even as the global stock market rebounded. Mid-week on March 4, 2020, Cinemark fell by 0.53% and AMC by 3.5%.[144] That day, No Time to Die had its release postponed; by March 6, AMC's shares had fallen by 30% over two weeks. Between March 4 and 6, Cineworld's shares fell 20%,[2] and fell another 24% on March 12.[145] The falls result from a combination of AMC closing selected cinemas in Italy[144] and the lack of confidence in the market created by No Time to Die moving its release date; other new releases on its original opening weekend will not be as much of a draw for moviegoers and could result in financial losses for the chains showing them.[10] The in-theater advertising company National CineMedia also reported stock falling, by 1.25% on March 4.[144] By March 12, Cinemark, AMC and National CineMedia stocks had all fallen by over 35% since the beginning of the month.[146] Cineworld, which is the second biggest cinema chain in the world, warned on March 12, when multiple films pushed back their releases, that extended disruption and continuing falling stock could cause the company to collapse.[145][147] Some film distributors have created new partnerships with small movie theaters and art houses to provide a portion of online streaming sales, including Kino Lorber, Film Movement, Music Box Films, and Oscilloscope Labs.[45]

The BBC noted that popularity of streaming services could increase, especially if more people are isolated at home,[52] with The Guardian suggesting that non-blockbuster films may be sent to streaming more quickly than anticipated after release, to catch this market.[2] One popular movie to stream was 2011's Contagion, which moved up from being the 270th most-watched Warner Bros. film in December 2019 to become its 2nd most-watched film in 2020 (by March)[2][148] and entered the top 10 on ITunes movie rentals,[149] said to be because of the similarities its story bears to the outbreak.[2][148][149] The stock of Netflix increased in 2020 by March 12. The platform had released its original docu-series Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak at the end of January 2020.[48] Disney+ went live in India on March 11, eighteen days before it was set to, though Disney's shares had fallen by 23% on March 9.[48]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Except in the Philippines, where the film had already gone to theaters on January 29, 2020, before the COVID-19 arrival in the country[109]
  2. ^ As part of the future MCU, the initial delay of Black Widow forced Love and Thunder to be pushed back, too.

References

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  3. ^ Clark, Travis (March 3, 2020). "China's box office is down nearly $2 billion as movie theaters remain closed amid coronavirus concerns". Business Insider. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
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